#100daysofPattern, Fabric Design, Surface Pattern

#100daysofpatterns – Week Two

I’m in week two of my #100daysofpatterns project and I’m still at it. I have a confession, I had 10 days holidays so I’m picking up where I left off, but it wasn’t all wasted time as I saw the work of Laura Slater at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, so eyes peeled for a round up post of her work as inspiration. Although I’m a few weeks behinD with my #100daysproject the same principles apply. Wake up, work on patterns, repeat.

I started this week with a bit of head scratching as this weeks prompts is ‘Thankful for’. It’s tricky because a lot of things I’m thankful for are not tangible. In the end I decided to go off piste and use the prompt ‘Fauna’ to direct this week’s project. I’ll make a tenuous connection, I have tenderly (neglected) an aloe Vvra plant since I was a student and somehow it has just flowered in the most gorgeous orange. I like big scale prints, so I’m dreaming up overlapping banana leaves and cheese plant leaves. Here’s my my mood board that got me started:

From here I set about drawing plants in my sketchbook and scanning them in. Here’s a spread from my sketchbook.


Next, I knew I needed to improve my technical skills on how to get my motifs to repeat in Adobe Illustrator. I went to SkillShare, one of the staff picks was From Abstract Handmade Marks on Paper to Seamless Surface Patterns in Illustrator taught by Attitude Creative.  Although the class didn’t teach, exactly, what I was trying to create, it walked through creating hand drawn marks, editing them in photoshop and it used the pattern tool in Illustrator to create multiple iterations and repeat patterns. The tutor’s teaching style really resonated with me, a great pace, clear instructions and constantly recapping key points, which is vital when you’re flipping between screens, multi-tasking and trying to take on information. I found her accent, really calming, which is crucial if you’re anything like me and have to rewatch sections, multiple times, without loosing your head.

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The first chapters require you to make abstract marks, experimenting with differnt media and scales to get a range of handdrawn marks to work with. It encourages me to step away from my comfort zone of fineliners and pencil, and I reached for different types of pens and indian ink. I loved the process, I found it liberating, I made tons of different lines, which are great to use in patterns and add texture. Then I generated line drawings of leaves and I created pages and pages and they kind of exploded all over my desk.


From here,the class guides you to scan your image in for optimum quality, how to set up your photoshop document, how to clean up any marks, how to select only the marks and how to prepare the file for Illustrator. Next in Illustrator, you’re walked through how to vectorise your marks, how to use the live trace function and how to use the pattern tool, first for single marks.

01 blackwhite one image

Then finally, you’re taught how to use multiple marks and add colour and extract your patterns for use in other design work.

Colour Export

It was a steep learning curve, which is why this post is a little later than planned, it soon became apparent that there was no way, at my current skill level was I going to be able draw, scan, edit and repeat a pattern in one day, when I was spending half my time stuck in Skillshare watching tutorials trying to work out the technical side. But I had plenty of line drawings and images to work from so after a day or two making all my lines and motifs, I focused on the technical side so I could play catch up. Even though there was a lot of head scratching, I feel like once I finally cracked how to make a pattern tile repeat, it was worth the ground work and now the good bit, the real creative stuff can start.

What was really interesting to me, was how the marks were created in black and colour was applied later. In week one, I had scanned water colour images in and was a little disapointed that the colour lacked vibrancy. In Illustrator you can easily add and swap colours around using the re-colour artwork tool, for this to work at it’s best, you need swatches with a collection of colours you want to use in your designs. Whilst I was designing/drawing/ sewing last week, (I can’t remember which) I watched another Skillshare tutorial by surface designer Bonnie Christie, Master Colour With The ReColour Artwork Tool.

Wow, I feel like I’ve offloaded, but I learnt a lot this week, I am loving doing a #100daysproject because it feels like it builds momentum and it’s true, ‘creativity finds you working’. I struggled with the technical side and when I was stuck in Skillshare trying to figure out how to make my patterns repeat, and I was desperate to get designing I felt overwhelmed. It was so frustrating because I couldn’t get what I wanted from my head to the page. So I took the pressure off of making one pattern a day, and just decided to show up at my computer, watch more videos, keep drawing and soon enough I got there. When you’re just starting out there is the ‘the gap’ a term coined by David Shiyang Liu’s between one’s taste and one’s skills. This beautiful video sums it up entirely, so I’d urge you to watch it if you’re creating work and in any doubt. I definitely felt stuck in ‘the gap’ this week, but that is why Skillshare really, really is great because it teaches you the skills. You can’t teach taste or style, but you can teach technical skills. Having access to artists and designers from all over the world in your bedroom is well, unbelievably liberating and democratic. I’d love to be able to study a course to retrain, but my body isn’t reliable enough to turn up on the same time consistently and nor am I in a financial position to commit to the cost.

You can sign up to 2 months free skillshare, using this link here.

For now, happy making and never stop learning.

Claire & co.



Drawing, Fabric Design, Surface Pattern, Workshop

Floral Motif Workshop with Rachel Taylor

On Saturday, 11th May, I took part in a Floral Motif Workshop led by surface pattern designer and teacher of Make It In Design Rachel Taylor at the Reloved Upholstery Studio at the Pear Mill in Stockport. The workshop came at a great time for me, in the midst of my #100daysofpattern project to learn from someone, who was desiging work to be liscenced across the globe, producing her own products and teaching students online through Make It In Design.


It was my first time visiting the Pear Mill in Stockport and it cetaintly won’t be my last. The ground floor is a Vintage Emporium will sellers filling the huge space with their array of clothes, books, household objects, furniture looking for a new home. The Pear Mill, which was built in 1913 was was the last cotton spinning mill to be built in England. Following the end of World War 1 there was a boom in cotton production, in England, but sadly that was not to last, as forigen markets in India, China and Japan increased their spinning capabilty and cotton prices fell by 38%.


The space is now let by local businness of all sorts, including Reloved upholstery . It is ran by Simione who loving breathes lives back into chairs, specialiaing in iconic Ercol designs. The large studio is crammed full of inspiration, from fabric swatch books, a library and a huge workspace with industrial sewing machines. It’s fair to say it was a great creative space to work in.

Floral Print Design workshop 01

Following initial introductions with the other course partipants, who were all women and in the majority looking to the turn their designs into a business, it was great to meet other like minded people. We listened to Rachel talk through her work and design process.  For me, the main take away from the teaching was ‘how are my lines different to anyone else’s’ and what makes my lines and in turn my work individual. If you’re working in fineliners, (FYI I swear by Micon) it’s easy for a line to look like anyone else’s line, but Rachel re-iterated the importance of finding your personal style and one way to do this is to create lines with diffrent marks and textures. From there we got stuck in, using a range of warm up techniques, left handed, eyes closed, different materials and then started to create motif’s on the flowers in front of us.  We worked in black so it’s easier to edit in greyscale in Adobe Photoshop and Illustraor.


It was great to draw a range of plants, all of which were (with permission) from Arley Hall Garden. They were a lot of show stoppers amongst them, Allium were stand out. But Rachel made a good point, these show stopper iconic flowers have been, and will continue to be inspiration for artists across the globe and through time.  One alternative is to create flower hybrids, just like it’s done by horticulturist, with stems from one plant and leaves from another for instance, to create individual designs, that still remain familiar. For anyone who has read my blog from the start,  (yep, I know that’s only you Rob) you’ll know initially I was reluctant to design florals because it’s not really my style, but I am prepared to take that all back.  I love plants, I just don’t like ditsy style prints. So it was about making floral motifs that feel like ‘my style’.


Signature style can feel elusive, but the more work you produce the more you find your voice, so I’m happy to continue to keep making stuff until it feels intuitvely my own, At the moment my best work is a combination of inks and fine liners. I want to create a solid body of work before I digitally print any samples on to fabric. I was able to ask Rachel questions about printing fashion fabrics, how to collate a collection and what were the best studios to approach within the UK.  As someone who followers a lot of home sewists online, I was familair with a lot of names mentioned and reiterated that although it can seem overwhelming, sewing, designing, illustrating all at once, all these pursuits feed into each other. So for now, i’m urged to keep up all the projects.


A rare photo of me caught in the act, happiest surrounded by plants, with a paint brush in my hand, wearing that jumpsuit I made.  (Proof it’s not just clothes I make for Instagram photos, I do actually wear them.)


At the end of the day, I had created heaps of floral motifs to scan and edit and work up into patterns on Illustrator.  But most importantly, I came away inspired, energised and filled with faith, that yep, I could do it too. When you’re creating work and putting yourself on the line, it’s all too easy for self doubt to creep in, you think ‘you’re not good enough’ ‘not talented enough’ ‘too many other people out there already’ and these moments of crisis in confidence can become crippiling. But Rachel instilled some wisdom, to make my work unique and made me feel that there is space out there for everyone, as long as you’re creating from your own authentic voice.


I’ve come full circle on my stance on floral design and now can’t get enough, I’ll be working these up into repeat patterns.  Rachel is running a drawing meet up at Arley Hall Gardens on the 3rd of August, that i’ll be going to for another day of meeting like minded people and stopping to smell the flowers. Eyes peeled for more florals to come.

All for now

Claire & Co.


#100daysofPattern, Fabric Design, Surface Pattern


Since I started sewing, by default I started becoming more and more interested in textiles and surface pattern. Right at the start of this blog I experimented with surface design, but I was put off because I felt print design meant Laura Ashley style flowers, and I don’t often wear florals, so I thought it just wasn’t for me. But the more I started sewing and started to define my style more, I still had a niggiling itch to design my own fabric for both interiors and garments to make something that was truly mine.

The problem was and still is, is that surface pattern is a huge topic and producing professional looking repeats seemed like a huge and impossible task. So I wanted a project to get my teeth into and to break it down into small manageable chunks. But most importantly, I just wanted to stop thinking I wanted to make repeat patterns and actually start.

Along came the #100dayproject, established 6 years ago it is a free art project that takes place online. Every spring, thousands of people from all around the world commit to 100 days of exploring their creativity. Anyone can join (yes, that means you!). The idea is simple: choose a project, do it everyday for 100 days, and share your process on Instagram with the hashtag #The100DayProject.


Simple, but the plot thickened, as I knew I wanted to produce surface patterns, but as it stood I had 100 days of blank sheets of A4 pages in front of me, the thought of it was panic inducing. So I began to search the hashtag, #100daysofpatterns and found 10, 048 posts (at time of researching), connecting me to like minded individuals and I saw some inspiring work. Diving deeper I came across an archived blog post on Make It Design by Rachel Taylor. It outlined new design themes for each week, for 15 weeks, to provide prompts and inspiration to the Make It In Design students and pattern community online for #100daysofpattern.

Bingo! I had my project, with enough parametres to keep me accountable, but enough freedom in the prompts to take it in the direction of my own style. So below are the prompts for each week. Every week I’ll be sharing my inspirations and my 7 days of pattern design and hopefully at the end of the 100 days I’ll have a feel for pattern design, how it works, if I like it as much as I think I will and hopefully get some products made up in my own pattern designs.

Let me know if you’re doing your own #100daysproject. I hope this project is the kick start of inspiration I’m looking for at the moment. I decided to share my progress every week so keep your eyes peeled over the coming months for regular updates. I’ve also decided to do a personal challenge of 100 days of yoga alongside my creative challenge in a hope a healthy mind and body helps kick start the creativity. Now to start gathering inspiration.

Claire & co.


DIY, Fabric Design, Journal

Shibori & Indigo Dyeing

Indigo is amongst the oldest dyes for textiles and printing, it’s synonymous blue tones can be spotted across the globe and seen throughout ancient history. Much of the indigo used today is synthetic and most commonly used in denim. The more I learnt about the production of clothes and the dyeing process of fabrics, the more I became increasingly interested in natural dyeing. My interest was primarily for selfish reasons, I don’t want to expose my skin to chemicals, but secondly from an environmental perspective it just makes sense to use natural dye.

I welcomed the chance to give this ancient technique a try at the  Shibori Natural Dyeing Workshop at Stitched Up Co-operative . The process is messy and complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing, so I was pleased to have my hand held through it with the help of the lovely Claire from Stitched Up. Claire had already prepared the Dye vat, maintaining an Indigo Dye Vat is a labour of love, it required regular feeding of fructose and needs to be kept at a certain temperature, it requires the same commitment as a sourdough starter. So I’m glad I didn’t just embark on this project in the garage at home.

Indigo 01

I was introduced to Shibori for the first time, it’s a Japanese method of folding, binding and bunching fabric before it is exposed to the dye, leaving behind the negative space. There are endless possibilities of patterns depending on how you fold your fabric or what you use to create the relief. Here are a few examples to give you an idea.

Indigo 10

To begin the dyeing process you start by folding and binding your fabric. This examples below shows how the fabric is first folder and pegged together to create the relief.

Indigo 02

Next you submerge your fabric into boiled water, this allows the fabric to be fully porous and removes any oxygen from the dye, which can spoil the chemical balance in the dye vat.

Indigo 03

Then you’re ready to dye, indigo can stain your nails and hands so it’s best to wear rubber gloves. Carefully submerge your fabric into the dye without causing too many bubbles, again as the oxygen can alter the PH of the vat. Gently massage the fabric, especially near the edges of your binding to ensure the dye seeps right to the edges. Leave the fabric in the vat for three minutes, before removing carefully, again avoiding any drips or bubbles. You’ll be surprised as when you remove your fabric it is a yellow-green colour, the magic happens during the washing process.

Indigo 04Indigo 05

Then to start the washing process, in cold water move the fabric vigorously, this time you want to create as many bubbles as possible, this process helps sets the dye so ensure you are thorough with the washing process, otherwise your dye won’t be fixed and the colour will disappear in the washing machine. We washed the fabric in three buckets of fresh water, moving from one bucket to the next, from just dyed to nearly ready, ensured the water stayed as clean as possible. The fresh water buckets were changed regularly to avoid cross contamination.

Indigo 06Indigo 07

Once washed the fabric will be blue, depending on the depth of blue you requires, determines how many times you need to repeat the ‘dye/wash’ process. The example below has just been dyed once.

Indigo 09

After the demonstration, we had a go ourselves, the best way to determine what works is  simply to get stuck in. I started by clamping these circles, then I used pegs and then I wrapped thread round my fabric to create a water effect.

Indigo Dye Sample 1Indigo Dye Sample 2Indigo Dye Sample 3

I really enjoyed the process and found it instantly satisfying. I love the tones that indigo produces and find it very calming. We just experimented with small squares of fabric, but still I wanted to use them in some way, so I managed to make a cushion cover and used fabric scraps to fill it. I also decided to frame a piece of indigo to put in our bedroom. Indigo is an aesthetic that I really love and I can definetely get behind the natural dyeing process. There seem to be a few brands across the globe doing interesting things with Indigo.

Indigo Cushion

Indigo Frame

Stitched Up are running another Natural Dyeing Shibori Workshop next month and there was talk of a ‘Vat-urday’ event where you could drop in and use the Vat and dye your own cloth on a drop-in basis, i’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for that. In my sketchbook I recorded the process in a hope to cement the new information. Who knows perhaps next summer I’ll get a pet vat of my own on the go.

Dye Workshop Sketchbook Page

All for now.

Claire & co.




Fabric Design, Surface Pattern

Exploring Floral Print Design

When I embarked on my journey designing repeat patterns with fabric in mind, instinctively I started drawing flowers.  It’s hardly surprising as blooms have dominated British Print Design historically since William Morris and have been turned into signature styles by household names of Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston.


  1. St James’s wallpaper, designed by William Morris, manufactured by Jeffrey & Co., 1881, England. Achieved in the V&A.
  2. Laura Ashley Hermione Charcoal Floral Curtain Fabric 
  3. Cath Kidston Devonshire Rose


My venture into print design coincided with the arrival of  Elle Flowers on the doormat, an exclusive collaboration between Funny how flowers do thatELLE decoration and Elle resulting in a 76 page print publication celebrating every part of the stem just in time for Spring.


I was immediately inspired and set to work devouring the magazine from cover to cover, pulling out images and colours that jumped out at me. I was drawn to single line illustrations, vibrant yellows and delicate foliage, as well as particular flowers’ stories of origin and the cultural significance of plants like how Jasmine is used in Indian weddings.

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In contrast to the dainty white florets, I was drawn to the vibrant and geometric shape of the Tropical Birds of Paradise. The flower has a distinctive beak like stem and a contrasting palette of vivid colours, including orange, magenta and purple, which makes for a pretty eye catching colour combination.

Birds of Paradise

I made my first attempt at repeat patterns by using an analogue approach I’d picked up from a SkillShare class by Julia Rothman.  I was pretty happy with the end result, the single line drawings are a reflection of my illustration style and the scale of the print is unapologetic and refreshingly modern in comparison to smaller ditsy vintage prints. I imagined it would work on interiors textiles and even as a bold wallpaper.

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After using a photocopier to make this makeshift wallpaper and leaving it for a few days to settle into our box fresh white flat, my heart dropped.

I just didn’t like it and florals didn’t feel very true to my style.

I consciously avoid floral prints in our living space, to keep the gender balance even though I generally make all the design choices because ‘It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just you’re just so much better at that stuff than me’.  In fact, when we moved and I had exhausted all the options of off-the-shelf textiles, (that weren’t covered in flowers or out of our budget) I pledged to take up sewing just to find blinds and cushions that were suited to our style. When I started teaching myself how to sew from Tilly and the Buttons and started searching for dress making fabrics I found so many floral prints.

There are a gluttony of gorgeous floral designs available, which led me down a rabbit hole of online fabric shops and caused me to discover American Riffle Paper Co. 

  1. Riffle Paper Co. Lively Floral 
  2. Riffle Paper Co, Herb Garden 
  3. Riffle Paper Co, Black Forest 


But somehow florals didn’t feel very true to my style, or light a fire in my belly with excitement.  So although it was fitting to start my print design journey looking at florals due to the historical context, and I’ll never say never… but for now I just wanted to look elsewhere for my inspiration and started looking in my wardrobe and on the high street.

All for now.

Claire & Co.