Spoonflower Fat Quarter Sale Announced

I’m all packed up for my last teaching travel date for 2012. My studio is clean, swept, and the sewing table is cleared off. When I get home, I have two baby gifts to make and I want to plan my holiday sewing before (drum roll) the Spoonflower fat quarter sale starts next week. They just announced it: The annual two-for-one fat quarter sale starts Thursday, October 25th, 2013 (8am EST) and ends Wednesday, October 31st (10pm EST).

Donna Kallner’s Bananafana fabric collection on Spoonflower

The Bananafana collection above is one I designed this summer for a baby gift (fingers crossed that bun stays in the oven a few more weeks). Having no idea what colors or designs to use, I went to my niece-in-law’s Pinterest boards and found yellow and gray. Gotta love Pinterest for that. Before holiday making starts, I’d sure like to know if there’s a Pinterest equivalent for teenage boys.

Donna Kallner & Mary Sue Fenner

Back to Spoonflower. Mary Sue Fenner and I both taught for the Michigan League of Handweavers in August. I sold a bunch of my Spoonflower proofing swatches from the old color profile while I was there. Then in September at the Sievers Gathering, Mary Sue hands me a bag with this awesome collage vest made from my Spoonflower fabric!

Vest pattern is Vogue 8777

Mary Sue made the vest from t-shirt fabric with the cotton fabrics collaged on as raw edge applique. It’s very comfy and the shaping in the back was really flattering on everyone who tried it on. And it’s totally my style! I ordered the pattern as soon as I got home from Sievers.

But that will have to wait. Baby gifts first!

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Tray Chic Digital Fabric

One of my favorite things to do is to transform family memories into fabric designs. The August 28 deadline for Spoonflower’s Zig-zag Cheater Quilt contest was the incentive I needed to turn one of my dad’s woodworking projects into fabric I’ll use in his Christmas gift.

My fabric design “I Could Have Danced All Night Chevron Cheater Quilt” — vote in this week’s Spoonflower fabric design contest here

The idea came as I was doing the kind of cleaning I do only when my mother is going to visit. Instead of washing windows, though, I had just enough time to get from the idea stage to a completed fabric design before my folks arrived for a summer visit.

The tray Dad made

I took a photo of the tray Dad made for Mom years ago. It came to live in my house when they downsized to a smaller place in Florida. Dad loves to do this kind of woodworking — what he calls “patterns that look complicated but are really simple.”

The printed fabric — http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/1380286

Using Gimp, I turned the photo into a design sized to fit on one yard of Kona cotton. The contest rules stipulate that the piece should be printed to look like patchwork or applique so you can skip the piecework and just quilt and bind the fabric to make a finished quilt. I may add piping on the edge (that’s the dark brown line at the top of the photo). The finished size should be just about right for taking to outdoor concerts and to the beach.

And yes, that’s the actual, printed fabric on my design wall. I finished the design and got the fabric ordered at 1:26 am on the day my parents arrived for their visit. Spoonflower had it printed and shipped it 2-1/2 days later. It arrived in Tuesday’s mail so I could show it to my folks before they left. Thank you, Spoonflower!

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Color Scheming

Change is a good thing. If only we could convince it to arrive on a more convenient schedule.

Spoonflower, the digital textile printer I use, announced this spring that they were changing their color profile. They gave designers special pricing and a reasonable window of opportunity to “swatch” fabrics, so we could see how the colors of our designs would print after the change. Unfortunately, that window was open while I was preparing for and teaching out-of-town workshops.

I managed to proof most of my fabrics once at the special price, and did some color palette tests. Across the color spectrum, I had significant shifts in the way fabrics print now compared to before. Reds, for example, shifted dramatically. Blah.

So most of my fabrics have been swatched again (not at the special price) to make sure my corrections were, well, correct. As usual, I’ve learned a lot from this.

First, no amount of calibration seems to get my monitor to display the way some colors now print. What looks blue on my screen can print purple. That’s why we print proofs on fabric swatches instead of relying on the monitor alone.

Second, the angle of my monitor makes a huge difference. This thread on the Spoonflower Flickr discussion board introduced me to that notion, as well as to Colorzilla.com. I’m always grateful to the generous designers who share their knowledge on the boards.

Finally, I’ve learned it’s OK to not weed anything. Not. One. Thing. No weeding whatsoever. And the world did not stop rotating on its axis.

Who knew!?

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Silly String Doodles And Digital Fabric Design

Are you feeling the need to shake things up a little at this point in the winter? I had one of those tired-of-gray days earlier this week, so I treated myself to a can of party string. It’s less than the cost of a coffee shop beverage, has no calories, makes me smile, and was the source for this new fabric design.

Silly Billy Goats Gruff fabric by Donna Kallner on Spoonflower

Here’s how I made it.

First, I shot the string on the snow out behind Bill’s shop. Then I shot the string doodles with my digital camera set on its highest resolution. Later, when I opened this image in Gimp, what jumped out at me was the goat in the center. Excuse this small inside joke for the students from my 2011 Digital Fabric class at Sievers. Quoi avec Donna et les chèvres? D’abord la chèvre est dans le jardin, maintenant, elle les voit dans la chaîne de Silly. Temps pour le chocolat!

The goat was more clear after I desaturated the image and adjusted the brightness and contrast.

I cropped the goat element from the larger image…

… cleaned up the distracting bits…

… drew in some horns, a bell and some snacky flowers…

…and set up a seamless repeat pattern. I added a couple more elements to finish it off:

These clumps of grass, drawn with the wacom tablet, are from the doodle exercises I posted daily on my Facebook page during the month of December.

The color blocks were filled from a palette I made using the Copaso color tool on colourlovers.com, where I’m donnastitches.

In the screen capture above, on the left is a photo I took of some hand-painted fabric in my studio. To make a digital palette from a photo, I upload it to Copaso and click on different parts of the image. On the right, notice the text values under the color chooser sliders? Those are color codes. I copy the HEX or RGB values into a New Palette in Gimp. Palettes are very useful when building digital fabric collections. My goal is to build about 30 limited-color palettes over the next month or so. I’m posting some of the palettes on my Facebook page, some are just going into Gimp. Wilbur, the Gimp mascot, is happy.

If you’re looking for another way to use Silly String for a winter creativity boost, here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago.

So what do you do when you need to shake things up a little? I hope you’ll share in the comments section below or on Facebook!

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Long Live Picnik

Word has been spreading that Google is killing Picnik, the popular web-based image editor it acquired not that long ago. Rats, I thought, taking this personally. I don’t really use Picnik all that often because it doesn’t support layers (like Gimp). But Spoonflower has a convenient interface with Picnik. Has had, since we were still on dial-up. Picnik is super easy to use, and super easy to demonstrate. It’s a gateway drug to Gimp and more serious Digital Fabric for some of my students. It’s beloved by my Local Color classes.

So today I looked into the matter and found some of the Picnik features are being integrated into the “Creative Kit” on Google+. I’ve been dragging my heels on Google+, even though I use Blogger, Google Docs, and I don’t know how many other Googlified thingies. But I did finally set up a Google+ profile the other day, so this morning I did a quick test.

The second image in this post is the original photo I used. The first image is what I did in Google+ with the selection of Picnik tools integrated into Creative Kit. Not everything made the move, but it’s still pretty darn good.

I found an awesome mini-tutorial by Brenda Anderson for first-time Creativity Kit users. If like me, you’re new to Google+, it’s well worth your time.

As for Spoonflower, last I checked they hadn’t decided what they’re going to do for an interface. I’m sure they’ll come up with something wonderful. But I bet it takes a whole lot of work, expense and stress on their part to “fix” something that was working so well.

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Color Questions & Floral Fears

Need a moment’s distraction from the making, wrapping, trimming, baking, shipping and ho-ho-ho-ing of the holiday season? It always seems to give others a lift when I reveal my own fears and insecurities, so consider this my holiday gift to you: I’m nervous about some of the colors and patterns I’ve used in holiday gifts.

Bill and I try to alternate on who makes the bulk of our Christmas gifts, and this is my year. What I make will be compared to his PVC marshmallow shooters, so the pressure’s on. Money is tight, so I’m trying not to buy additional materials (my studio is well-stocked, thank you very much). On top of everything else, the kids (not ours, but we love them) are at that in-between age where it would be much easier to buy them ITunes gift cards. But yikes, those come in a choice of colors and patterns, too.

(At this point, I would insert a spoiler alert if I thought there was a remote chance any of the kids would be reading my blog. We rejoice that they have other interests.)

This year, most of the kids are getting quilted door knob-hanger pocket panels. I pray their mothers do not remark, “You won’t lose your charger cords if you keep them in those pockets” or some other exclamation that reveals these as the functional equivalent of gift-wrapped underwear.

In one piece, I made the pockets from patchwork blocks given to me after a friend cleaned out a relative’s estate. I overdyed them in the indigo vat to darken and unify the colors for a young man who has always loved to see how things fit together.

His brother got one of my Spoonflower fabric swatches combined with overdyed, recycled patchwork. This boy has always enjoyed helping in the garden, so it felt natural to pick patchwork that included simple floral fabrics. When his piece was done, I got nervous about the florals and used fabric markers to apply other patterns over them to make them a bit less flowery.

Seriously, what do you think? Are florals taboo for 12-year-old boys if they’re in patchwork? I still have time to make something else.

For the 11-year-old boy, I combined one of my Spoonflower fabrics overdyed to match some camouflage fabric. The camo was left over from when his big sister did her first sewing project — a drawstring “gun case” for the toy wooden shotgun Bill had made for him. I like the olive-overdyed Blue Hands fabric so well I might add that colorway to my Spoonflower collection.

For the youngest, a girl (third grade going on graduate school), I made pockets from one of my Spoonflower fabrics, a commercial batik, and a pigment-dyed muslin, to go on the indigo-dyed sheet quilt panel.

I’m half-way wishing now that I had done another version of my Red Handed fabric in a bright, clear pink/purple colorway in time for this gift. Tell me: At what age to boys start to carry wallets and girls get over pink?

Color is the hardest decision in most of the gifts I make. This year, I simplified by making most gifts from indigo-dyed fabric.

The one I’m most unsure of is for my sister. (It’s probably safe to carry on, as the dial-up connection where she’s visiting is not conducive to blog reading.) I used the colors of a place she loves — the green of the mountains and the blue of the ocean — in a soft silk-and-wool scarf to keep her warm where winter is neither green nor blue but gray and slushy. Now I’m nervous that those landscape colors look good on the fabric (and on the landscape) but won’t go with anything she actually wears in the winter.

With just a week to got before gifts are opened and fears put to rest one way or the other, I still have a few more gifts to finish over the weekend to get in the mail by Monday. I’m sure you have a list of your own to deal with, so I thank you for listening to my color questions and floral fears.

Would anyone care to remind that class that it’s the thought that counts, or share other words of wisdom?

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Piecing, Harmony, And The Comfort Zone

There’s a tricky balance between a) pushing yourself outside your current comfort zone and b) having everything fall apart. I’ve been testing that balance for the past year. I call it my Year of Living Dangerously or YOLD. At times it seems like I’m dancing down a yellow brick road, and at other times like I’m asleep in a field of poppies. Welcome to Oz, where I’m about to tear away the curtain and reveal the reality behind one of my artistic fears. I hope this story helps you find courage, too (or at least a medal that says “Courage”), and a nudge to explore the boundaries of your own comfort zone.

This year marked my 10th anniversary as a full-time, self-employed fiber artist. Ten years in, it’s reasonable to expect some things to change. Challenging economic conditions effect what people are able to spend on workshops. Social media that didn’t exist a decade ago has altered the way information is exchanged. And technology presents new opportunities inside the studio and outside it.

So a little over a year ago, I made a list of objectives for my YOLD. It included some stuff that was especially scary for someone who, at that time, was still on dial-up and had never seen a Facebook page. Except for “post something on You Tube,” I’ve done pretty well with that list and my comfort zone in the digital world is much greater than it was a year ago.

To balance all the time I knew I would be spending at the computer, another major category of YOLD objectives was to spend time working with my hands in unfamiliar ways. I took a one-day blacksmithing class. I bought a spinning wheel and took a 5-day spinning workshop. I’ve been making friends with my sewing machine.

And this week (drum roll please), I made a pieced table runner. That may have been the scariest task of all.

Table runner made with 3 of my Spoonflower fabric designs

Maybe piecing isn’t scary for you, but I’ve successfully resisted it for half a century. I love when other people cut perfectly good fabric into small bits and sew it together again. But I got the idea at an early age (might have been 7th grade home ec) that my seams would never be straight enough. That my measuring and cutting would never be accurate enough. That I am lacking the precision gene it takes to piece.(Ahem. This is the scary personal revelation.) That my piecing might not be perfect. And if it can’t be perfect, why try in the first place?

When I recognize this kind of fear in a student, I pull up my Gentle, Supportive Instructor pants and together we get past the field of poppies. When it’s only Me, Myself and I, I just blows it off. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other things I could do besides piecing. But this time, Me and Myself got together to chant, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” It wasn’t three-part harmony, but it worked.

Quite frankly, a couple of pieced table runners isn’t going to send my work in a new direction any more than a blacksmithing class did. So what’s the point?

The point is, I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone, which is more limited by perfectionism than anything else. I made something that wasn’t perfect, and learned from it. My comfort zone is now a bit larger. And when the next big challenge comes in my other work, I’ll remember that courage isn’t the absence of fear but the willingness to take a risk anyway.

So what’s at the edges of your comfort zone?

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Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Two Bags Full Of Ideas

Here’s the update on the bag I introduced last week, and another recycling project.

The Indigo/Walnut Tote
Last week while I was giving the indigo vat a workout, I overdyed a tote bag I started last summer. I was cleaning up after a slapdash experiment to use a Rubbermaid bin as a solar oven for Mason jar dyeing. There was a bit of walnut dye left in the bottom of a jar. I think there might have been some vinegar or something else in there too (did I mention I didn’t take notes?). Anyway, I didn’t want to put that liquid back in the walnut dye container. So I scruched up a pre-made canvas tote bag and shoved it into the jar. No scouring or presoaking. You can see it didn’t dye evenly (just the way I like it). 

Walnut dye on canvas tote bag

I took it out of the jar a couple days later, hung it up to dry, and it’s been oxidizing since. As a lazy dyer, I’m a big fan of oxidizing — except when it happens to stains in my wardrobe because I didn’t wash them out right away.

Last week, I finally washed the bag. After rinsing it, I kept it damp. Then it went into the indigo vat. Here’s what it looked like after oxidizing this time (a quicker and more dramatic process with indigo).

Walnut dye then indigo after rinsing

My walnut dye has been “saddened” with a bit of iron, and I love the way it warms the indigo.

Over the weekend I added a couple of outside pockets to this bag.

Pocket fabric is my Doodle Leaf design from Spoonflower

Now I need some advice: Is this guy-ish enough for a college-age man who shops at the farmers market to appreciate as a Christmas gift?

The Doorknob Bag
While cleaning this fall, I ran across another natural dye experiment from a few years ago. This week, I used it to make a bag to hang on the doorknob in my studio. My fantasy intention is to tuck receipts, packing slips and other documents that need to go into the office here instead of scattering them amongst the debris on my work table.


The fabric is huck toweling I stained with tea and turmeric, then mineral printed with vinegar and nails. For the bag, I also used a woolen necktie I from the thrift shop and a swatch of my Spoonflower fabric.

The bag is a bit wide for a doorknob hanger because I wanted it to fit a notepad as well as receipts. So it doesn’t flop on the knob, I snipped the ends off a couple of electrical cable ties and threaded them into a casings at the rim.

I used the necktie for the hanger and edging and a flap over the top. As I was working on it, I wanted to keep the necktie-iness with that little tab at the lower left. Naturally, that break in the line is the first thing my eye goes to and it’s annoying me, but probably not enough to change it.

While working on this bag, I tried to remember why I never did any more dying on huck toweling. I love this stuff with or without traditional huck darning embroidery.

So now I’m thinking of other ways I might use huck toweling. Feel free to chime in!

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Being The Boss Of Me

Swatch sampler — designs by Donna Kallner
Spoonflower has free shipping on orders through 8 am Tuesday

Technically, while I am self-employed I’m not really the boss of me: That would be a guy at the bank that holds the paper on our house, as Michael Perry says. On a day-to-day basis, though,  I’m the one making the do-do to-do list that keeps me on track. This week, all bets are off. It’s play time.

I’ve been a good girl this month, and got a bunch of non-studio stuff done. My web site needed work in a big way, and I would love to get your feedback on the makeover (hit the comment button below this post). It’s been workshop proposal time (I still have dates available, hint hint, but I’m caught up with those for now. My winter studio class series is scheduled. There are no yellow sticky notes on the bathroom mirror to herald impending deadlines.

So this week, I get to spend in the studio playing and possibly making some holiday gifts. I try to use gift projects to explore technique, sample products, and use up stuff I already have.

I’ll be using my Spoonflower swatch samplers to make some small projects. I need to get images posted on Spoonflower to show the fabric designs I have for sale “in action.” I don’t think it will spoil anyone’s Christmas surprise to get that done. Just in case, I invoke gift amnesia: My family knows what that means.

I already got started on a few things. For one project, I used Dharma pigment dye to alter a fat quarter of one of my black-and-white Spoonflower designs. I like to have neutral fabrics stashed so I can color them as needed for the project. Dharma’s pigment dye produces a mottled, stone-washed look I like and it couldn’t be easier to use.

Since the dye was already out, I mixed a bit more and used my gloved hand to brush it onto pre-quilted fabric left over from a play day with my sister-in-law last spring.

A while back I got a few gift bags made from the other stuff we painted that weekend.

And this week, I want to get some aprons made for the fire department auxiliary to wear at the community open house in a December. It’s a small department and an even smaller auxiliary. I got a design done this weekend for an image transfer, now just need to sew up three aprons to iron it onto.

While we’re being thankful for things this week, let’s give thanks for these people: 72 percent of firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers like my husband. He spent Sunday evening at a traffic accident and Saturday morning on a backcountry evacuation for a hunter who fell from his tree stand.

Hopefully, I won’t be seeing those guys this week when I get out my heat gun. I have an idea…

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Supply And Demand

Any true magazine junkie will understand why I would pick up an old copy of Guitar World from the share table at the library (no, I don’t play), or haul away the unsold periodicals from a garage sale. You also know that nothing feeds an addiction like the excuse, “it’s research”. This explains a number of lost hours at newsstands and a whole expense category in our accounting system.

Recently I bought a copy of Mark Lipinski’s Fabric Trends For Quilters. I felt like a poseur, because I’m not a “real” quilter. Real quilters piece and organize their fabric neatly by color, right? But it was research, and I’m an avid learner.

Here’s what I found particularly fascinating. In Mark’s editor’s letter he writes that all of the fabrics featured in Fabric Trends are currently on their way to shops, and photos of actual quilts:

have been traded out for computer-generated designs, but that compromise means you can now actually make the quilts you see.

So here are the thoughts that swirled around in my head while I stitches this week.

  • Making projects that exactly match the pictures in a book or magazine isn’t my style, but I can appreciate why people do it.
  • How much is tied up in inventory in my local fabric shop? Yikes! And yet what they probably hear the most about is what they don’t have in stock.
  • How long can a manufacturer afford to warehouse and sell last season’s fabrics (or book titles, in the case of publishers) when it’s no longer the newest / latest / bestest thing?

And finally:

  • How long will it be before print-on-demand technology changes all of this? 

One day, will I be able to walk into my local fabric shop for needles and thread, browse racks of fabrics that reflect the current trends, then step up to a kiosk to reorder fabric from a year or two before? In the store, so the store owner who answers my dumb curious questions gets some benefit from the sale?

I am totally in love with Spoonflower, and have my own designs for sale there. You can upload your own designs or pick one from another designer and choose the type of fabric. Spoonflower will print the design, and it comes to you in the mail. But will this option kill the desire to buy fabric in person? No more than methadone alone eliminates the desire for other addictive substances. No more than e-readers will eliminate books you can flip through with pages you can dog-ear.

Stop. Rethread. Make a cup of tea. Resume stitching and pondering.

Earlier this month as I was working on the redesign of my web site, I debated what to do with my bibliographies. Some of my old favorite books are out of print, and some of my new favorites won’t stay in print for long, it seems. Perhaps in another decade, print-on-demand technology will make it possible for another generation of artists to obtain some of these titles without waiting for the yard sale that will begin shortly after my funeral. Perhaps it will be possible for me to get a copy of Toshiko Horiuchi’s From A Line without hocking the car. I can’t see any possibility, though, that the option of obtaining old titles would keep me from wanting new ones, too. That includes magazines as well as books.

For what it’s worth, I moved an abbreviated bibliography to this page here on Two Red Threads.

As for the rest of it, I’m curious about how you would use today’s print on demand technology to shape the world of tomorrow. What are your thoughts?

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