Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A Week in the Life of a Designer, Part 3

Welcome back, friends. In Part 1, I shared about working with the newest fabric line in the store, Milestones. In Part 2, it was all about preparing for the fabric that arrives next month, Through the Years. Today, in Part 3, I'll tell you how it all starts - the process of designing and submitting a fabric line to Moda.
But first...

Staying Organized

I keep a yearly, monthly and weekly calendar to make sure I stay on top of important tasks. I would be lost without my chalkboard where I make notes to myself and list deadlines. At a staff meeting at the store recently, we talked about which programs, ie., Collector's Club or Kit To Quilt or 20 Years of KTQ BOM will be shipping in March and what needs to be completed. I have a separate notebook for each. We discussed what kits needed to be prepared for two workshops I'll be teaching in Colorado in a few weeks, and what kits, fat quarters, etc., needed to be cut for the store when the new fabric arrives.

Are you a horizontal or vertical filer?

We also continued making plans for our upcoming KT & Friends Retreat in Bennington, KS in June, and logistics for taking our retreat on the road to Appleton, WI in August (there are still a few spots available). There are lots of kits to prep for those classes (over 400 total), notions to order (thread, glue pens, etc) plus photography, writing/editing and printing the patterns. I'm also working on finding fun giveaways for the retreats. I plan about a year ahead for special programs and events since we need to order fabric at least 6 months in advance to have adequate yardage for kits and promotions, like our KT Monthly Special.

Designing Sweet Holly

My 2020 Christmas collection, Sweet Holly, arrives at quilt shops in June. I submitted the line to Moda last May, so in total, it takes about 13-14 months for a fabric line to arrive at quilt shops. What does that entail? All through the year, I collect vintage fabric - blocks, remnants, quilt tops and quilts - looking for the perfect prints for a fabric line. It starts with a feature print. When I purchase an antique quilt top or quilt, I photocopy any of the prints I think might work in a future line. I sort the prints by season - spring, fall, Christmas - and further by motif - leaves, flowers, geometrics, dots, plaids, paisleys, etc.

These are my fabric drawers, waiting for a home in my new studio. Each drawer holds files of swatches. We moved them to our house when my office was torn down to make more room in the store last spring. Unfortunately, my new studio wasn't ready yet, so they've been sitting in our entry ever since. As you can see, a few of the drawers are waiting for a little glue and new glass fronts in Robert's workshop. I have another set of these drawers that I use for my cutting table, storing rulers, thread, notions, current UFO's, and precut leftovers in the drawers. I plan to put them back-to-back with a large cutting table over the top in my new space.


This is an example of some vintage prints from past lines in cloth and color copies (hexagons), including a stencil I found from the 1950's with the candy cane/holly motif that inspired Sweet Holly.


Here's a sneak peek at Sweet Holly. Find the free printable PDF of the


For Sweet Holly, the stencil provided the original inspiration. I reduced the size of the image and colored it in. The branches of holly were also taken from the stencil. I used Photoshop to delete some of the holly leaves from the one shown with 4 leaves to get sprigs with 1, 2 or 3 leaves, then scattered them to fill in on the feature print. A mini version of the holly motif was used to create the small holly print. The remaining prints were all reproduced from vintage fabrics. 

The next step is to convey my fabric vision so it makes sense to Moda and the fabric mill. A color palette is selected with at least three shades of each color. I use my previous fabrics as color swatches, if possible. Each print is named, ie, Winter Clover, Gift Wrap Plaid, String of Lights, Candy Dots, and Santa's Sack for Sweet Holly. I number each shade of color in my palette and use a letter for each motif. I come up with as many different color combinations for each print as possible for the palette I'm using, ie, tan dots on a red background and blue dots on a tan background. Even if the original fabric swatch is brown, it may never be made into brown KT fabric. Or, if it's a blue and white 2-color print, it may show up as a multi-color print on tan, like the tan print above. I attach an actual vintage fabric swatch or a color copy to each print page and send it off to Moda.

Our fabric design guru at Moda, Cheryl Freydburg and her assistant, Jamie Chupik, look over my idea for a fabric collection, ask questions if anything is not clear, then send it on to the mill in South Korea for strike-offs (sample swatches). In about 6 months, I get a wonderful package in the mail that is 80-100 swatches of fabric with all the color/print possibilities for the line - all the ones I requested and more. I lay them out and savor the wonderful colors and prints for a while, then get back to work. I edit the dozens of prints down to my favorite 40, making sure the line is balanced with assorted darks and tans. Most of my groups have about 25% tans and 75% darks, with more of the classic KT colors (red, blue, green) and a few less of each of the supporting colors (gold, purple, black, pumpkin, brown). At this point, my mind is in overdrive, full of ideas for quilts. It helps to have an idea of the quilt I want to make at this point, so I know I have included a good background and borders. Robert often helps with the final editing. He can ruthlessly discard a gold print I love when I need to pare the line down to only3- 4 golds. It's good to have some objectivity. I send my 40 picks back along with any notes for the mill to make adjustments. In about 3 months, actual yardage arrives at my door. Oh what a fun day! And then, the piecing begins. 

But wait, while the yardage was being printed, I was designing the quilts on my computer with no fabric in hand, just pictures (jpegs) of the 40 fabrics I selected. I insert the fabric picture into each piece of the block, so it looks like a real quilt. With swatches only about 5" sq., I have to "piece" the border strips on the computer, too. This is what the quilt shops see in the Moda catalog when they order the fabric. I'll talk more about that in Part 4.


I cut and pasted the candy cane motif from the fabric to create the appliques because I'm still not great at freehand drawing computer images. I'll share the "real" quilt next time.

Here are a few more of the projects for Sweet Holly that have been computer generated (we're taking pictures of the real quilts later this month). I started with several precuts for lots of scrappiness - Honey Buns, Jelly Rolls and a fat quarter bundle.

Christmas Log Cabin - Honey Bun quilt
Joy fussy cut the center log cabin square using the black candy cane motif. Then she stitched up traditional log cabin blocks from precut Honey Bun strips (1 1/2" wide). So quick and easy! She framed it with more of the black feature fabric for a dramatic finish.

Shine Bright
I was playing around last summer, designing a red/tan/blue quilt for the 4th of July and immediately saw this quilt in Christmas colors, too. Shine Bright is a strippy Jelly Roll quilt that sews up quickly for cuddling during the holidays and beyond. Instructions for a patriotic version are included.

Evergreen

In July, I'll be stitching this 72" sq. lap quilt in a sew-a-long on my blog. Watch for information later this spring. Friendship stars, half square triangles and assorted trees surround a special center star for a lovely Christmas quilt for your home. Also included in the booklet are a runner and pillow (below). 



Now, as promised, answers to your burning questions.
Lisa S -I am a huge fan of your fabrics. I don't remember the name of the line of fabric but there was a beautiful dusty blue background. I am not a fan of blue but absolutely loved that one. I have not seen it used in any other line of fabric. Do you plan on making anymore with a dusty blue ? Of topic quilt question ,, do you have a favorite historic site in your area that you like to visit ?
The dusty blue is from Wildflower Serenade I and II fabric collections from 2008-9. I loved it, too, but it didn't fit into my palette as well as I liked. Maybe someday ...  I tend to be inspired more by the changing seasons and nature, antiques, and places we visit. I also enjoy driving through some of the older, historic districts in our area.

Laurie~I love to read your blog ❤️
One thing I’ve wondered about with fabric design - about how long is the process from design idea to distribution to quilt shops?
Once I've sent in the idea, about 13-14 months. I'm assembling fabric collections now that won't be submitted for a year or two.

Joey Ritenour - I have always wondered about the design process. How big is your actual design? Do you do the design and then choose the color? How much input do you receive from Moda? Who chooses the size of the repeat in the pattern? Do you create other art in addition to fabric? I have loved your fabric for at least ten years. I really like how your designs and colors all play well together. Congratulations on 20 years!!
Most of your questions are answered above. Moda had more input when I first started designing fabric, but pretty much leaves me to my own resources now after 20 years. The size of the repeat is determined by the size of the print. That's why it's difficult to find a large print cut up in a quilt - no repeat. I've found antique fat quarters with a full repeat that can sell for as much as $250.00 each. I do not create other art besides fabric for resale. I do enjoy crafting home decor and make a little jewelry for fun in my free time.

T Holzer - I have wanted to know for quite a long time how fabric designers actually get paid. Is it per line? Per yard? How successful a line is? I'm sure glad that you have given us 20 years of fabric!!!
I think the industry standard for fabric is payment by the yard. 

sue s - 3-4 fabric lines at once! You certainly are busy. Do you ever have time just to sew for fun? 
Yes, Sue, but not often. I love making the quilts I "have to", so it's all good. In my free time, I don't quilt much. I'd rather be outside in the garden or antiquing.

If you've read this far, thanks for hanging in there with me. Comment to win the Cabin Sweet Cabin charm pattern (available in June). 



46 comments:

  1. I want to join your quilt along this summer!!

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  2. Love the insights from these posts. Thank you!

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  3. i love your fabric drawers! i would love a chance to win your cabin sweet cabin charm pattern.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your process! I have learned so much from your posts!
    Sandy A

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  5. I love your Sweet Holly fabric! One of my plans is to make log cabins Christmas quilts for each of my 5 granddaughters. They're all still quite small (ages 2-7) and I would like to give each one a quilt when they're grown and on their own. But right now, of course, I have no idea what their decor preferences will be 20 years from now. So, since we live in a log home and they spend part of Christmas with us, a Christmas quilt seems to work. And thank you for describing your design process. It's very interesting! Barb O.

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    1. A Christmas log cabin quilt seems the perfect remembrance of holidays with Grandma. Lovely!

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  6. Amazing quilts and love the Sweet Holly fabric. Love how you keep everything in order and guess schedules are important...thanks Lynn

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  7. Evergreen is beautiful. Looking forward to seeing the pattern and the new fabrics at my LQS!

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  8. Love your fabrics and your tree designs! Thank you for the chance to win!

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  9. I love log cabin quilts. I have yet to make one for myself. That Evergreen pattern is adorable with all of the pine trees in the border.

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  10. Oh my...what a fun job, and you do it so well! The storage drawers are to die for! The new line is definitely a winner.

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  11. Wow I really didn't know it took so long to get fabric to the quilt shops, so much work but so worth it! Really love that even though you get your inspiration from vintage fabrics you stay true to your colors and make them your own! Love the trees in your Evergreen pattern and runner, can't wait for the sew along! Thanks for a chance to win!
    Carmen

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  12. I am really glad you hung in there for 20 years and sincerely hope for another 20. I love your fabrics and appreciate all the effort you put in creating them.

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  13. I love the log cabin quilt with the candy canes...so cute! I would like to make it as one of my holiday projects. Your fabrics are just right for me!! Thank your for sharing your life and for doing such beautiful work.

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  14. This is all so interesting! Obviously, there is much, much more to the process than I ever dreamed. I appreciate all the hard work that goes into creating a fabric line, and I appreciate the creativity and inspiration behind it, as well. I looked for a link to your mention of a "booklet" relating to the patterns for Sweet Holly but couldn't find it. Will those patterns be available for sale? Thanks for keeping on! Love your work and, particularly, your fabric!

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    1. Yes. Sweet Holly ships in June so patterns will be on our website in May. Glad you like them!

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  15. This has been so interesting. I love your fabric, but have always wondered how designs become fabric. I hope I can join your quilt along. I have a stash of Kansas Troubles that I love to work with.

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  16. I'm amazed at all the planning and preparation that you do to bring us your lovely fabric. Thank you!

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  17. Thanks for sharing the creative process behind your beautiful fabric!! I love the new patterns!! And fabric!!

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  18. Thank you for this behind-the-scenes look at fabric design. I have always marveled at the creativity and artwork involved in dreaming up new designs for fabric!

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  19. Thanks for sharing the planning and development process. I never really gave it too much thought about how much work the designers put into their fabric lines. Now when I go to a shop to purchase fabric I will have a different perceptive knowing how much planning, creativity and love goes into each new design.

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    1. Cheryl, Thanks! It's alot of work, but also the best job ever.

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  20. I loved this post, thanks for all the information. I will see you in August!!!

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  21. I've very much enjoyed reading about your work and inspiration for your fabric lines!

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  22. I enjoy reading your blog. I'm hoping we can get to your shop this summer.

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  23. It's very interesting to read about the fabric design process. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with my sister to the shop in Bennington last fall. I'm hoping to try the layered technique with the books and fabric I bought on that visit very soon!

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  24. Love all our fabrics. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how you design your fabric.

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  25. Wow, what a process. I think your next line is very strong but look forward to Sweet Holly ~ love the simple log cabin with the candy cane in the middle! Something I've been wondering about~ since so much fabric is made in South Korea, I hope the large outbreak of coronavirus there won't interfere with production. Also big outbreak in Italy and wondered about production of Aurifil threads. Yikes!

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    1. Great question. One I can't answer. Hope the virus is contained soon.

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  26. Thank you for the insight into designing a fabric line. I never would have guessed that the entire process takes more than a year. It must be very difficult to predict trends that far in advance.

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  27. I am really loving reading about the process of design! Very fun posts - Thank you!

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  28. I'm totally in love with Shine Bright! I will make this one for my Dad to use in his chair!

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  29. Thank you for answering my questions. If you get paid by the yard...I’ve paid for a chunk of your studio! I love what you create. I’ve thought about shifting the colors in my home to brighter and more contemporary, but I love the comfort colors of nature. Keep designing!!

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  30. Love your fabric! Looking forward to taking a class with you when you're in Co!

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  31. This is a really interesting series of posts. Thank you for your insight. I’ve wondered a lot about this process.

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  32. I've enjoyed watching your career evolve since the 'old days' with Gayla. I've always loved your colors. Like Lisa S. I would also like to see some more dusty blue. Can you think of blue as sky--that goes with all seasons? Looking forward to seeing the new fabric lines in the stores. I love seeing your antiques displayed with your quilts.

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  33. Thank you, Lynne, for your dedication to all aspects of the art of quilting. I love your fabric lines and now appreciate them even more! I belong to the Collector's Club and Kit to Quilt. I'm looking forward to my next package in the mail. It always makes my day. You rock!

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  34. Love, love, love your new Christmas group! Thanks for a chance to win the project.

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  35. Thank you for taking the time to explain and answer questions about the process. Interesting and informative.

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  36. I have been wanting to make a Log Cabin quilt and I like it that you use Honey Buns for it. The table topper with trees is so nice - love it!

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