How Fabric Is Designed
Start the Process
From start to finish, creating a fabric collection takes at least four months, though some collections can be in development for a year or more. The entire cycle occurs twice a year at a minimum, and often more, as fabric companies prepare for spring and fall markets where they introduce their new collections to shop owners. Design director Alice Kennedy of Timeless Treasures Fabrics shared the process of developing the Berkeley collection with American Patchwork & Quilting.
The most popular fabric patterns are ones that answer quilters' demands. At Timeless Treasures, they usually include a blue collection. Black and white teamed with another strong color-yellow, kiwi, or poppy-also do well. And then there are the timeless themes: holiday (Christmas and winter in traditional and novelty); nautical; traditional florals; kids; music; safari; and pets.
A 1960s quilted and hand-embroidered dress Alice found at the Brooklyn Flea Market, a weekly event she routinely attends, provided Alice the inspiration for the Berkeley. Excited about her discovery, she brought the dress to the Timeless Treasures' creative team and the process to develop a new fabric collection began.
Experiment with Prints
Alice worked with a graphic designer to experiment with the scale, prints, and size of original print. The printout is reduced 50% from the original dress. Although the quilted dress inspired the collection, it did not become the main print. There are mainstays in each fabric collection, says Alice, that are incorporated to give a quilter the necessary design elements to make a beautiful quilt, including:
- a fabric in a stripe and a dot
- one or two fabrics in tone-on-tones to help hold together the collection (and the quilt that comes out of it)
- an accent fabric to bring out secondary color and help to balance the colors of the overall collection
While there is no set number of fabric patterns in a given collection, Timeless Treasures typically does eight or nine prints.
Build a Story
Paint chips, threads, and photos inspired the design team as they developed a second color story for the Berkeley fabric collection.
Mix and Match
Alice and the designers also came up with the companion patterns for the Berkeley collection. These small- and medium- size prints complement the focal print of the collection. The Berkeley collection features one focal print and six coordinates in two colorways. This paisley companion print went through several colorations before deep purple won out.
One of Berkeley's companion prints was inspired by another vintage fabric, a white ground with blue, green, and orange flowers. Multiple color variations were then developed to coordinate with the pink focal print. From these options, the creative team chose the final version of the print.
Once the initial designs were completed, they were sent to the fabric mill for a "strikeoff," a small piece of fabric printed to show the actual colors. Alice and the design team tweaked the color and sent the changes to the mill for a second round.
Usually the colors are final by the third round of strikeoffs. When final colors are achieved, a production sample is requested. The production sample must be approved before any samples can be made to show fabric retailers. Here is the final sample of the Berkeley collection in the pink colorway.
The second colorway of the Berkeley collection goes through the same step-by-step colorations, size and scale variations, and modifications as the pink grouping. Here is the final sample of the blue colorway of the Berkeley collection.
Shop for Inspiration
Each fabric collection begins with a unique concept. In addition to her own hunting and gathering forays, Alice has ongoing relationships with antique swatch dealers, who bring her samples from time to time. Alice also finds much of her inspiration on the local level from vintage clothing stores such as What Goes Around Comes Around in SoHo, a few blocks from the Timeless Treasures office. Here, she looks at a dress for inspiration.
When it comes to her own tastes, Alice favors fabrics from the 1960s and early '70s. "They were funky and free-spirited, and they looked back to '20s and other eras, too," Alice says. Alice used a polyester velvet swatch from the '60s to create Poppy, another line for Timeless Treasures.
Travel for Inspiration
Vintage scarves from well-known clothing designers Christian Dior and Yves St. Laurent can also provide inspiration for quilting fabric. Alice draws inspiration from her travels to India to research batiks, Paris to attend the biannual home decor trade show Maison et Objet, and Japan to discover color trends.
Where to Look
"I am always looking at the world around me, what's in stores," Alice says, "trying to absorb what's going on." She just launched her own website and blog at alicekennedydesign.com And she likes to frequent a few favorites to keep up with creative peers. On her short list: