Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest

For the first time ever I’ve decided to enter the annual Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest which this year has the theme of a Botanical Sketchbook.  I thought it would be fun to share how I went about creating the design for my entry and share more of an insight into how I work (just like I did in a previous post From Sketch To Collection) but first I feel I have to get on my soapbox and talk about the ‘underworld’ of design competitions.  I normally like to keep it light here on the blog but it’s something that’s bugged me for a while and I feel needs saying, not just for me but for my fellow designers and any aspiring designers.  If you’d prefer to skip my little rant then just scroll down to the next paragraph but here goes….

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

Rant Warning!! As a rule I don’t tend to enter surface pattern design competitions anymore because I feel they can often exploit designers or people trying to get into the Surface Pattern Design industry.  It’s rare that they genuinely benefit the designer and can often be a way for a company to gain brand new designs for their products, for very little effort on their part and quite often, for no, or very little, financial commitment from them and little or no real financial reward for the designer. Having said that, there are still occasionally some reputable companies and competitions that do offer a genuine reward for all the hard work the designer puts in and one of those is the Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest.  The winning designer will be offered a contract to design a fabric collection for Moda Fabrics, a $1000 advance against royalties, and a Wacom professional digital drawing tablet.  Now that to me is a fair honest prize don’t you agree?  It’s not just offering a few yards of fabric with your design on it, or simply just the prestige of seeing your design on products in the shop, it’s real financial reward for the hard work it actually takes to be a Surface Pattern Designer.  Yes we love what we do and are extremely passionate about it but it doesn’t mean we can or should do things for nothing.  We deserve to be paid for our work just like any other profession.  Phew, ok, now I’ve got that off my chest, we can get on with the good stuff….lots of sketchbook pages and designs…..happy days!

Back to the good stuff – how I developed my design
The brief for this years Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest was to create designs reminiscent of those found in a botanical sketchbook, which to be honest sounded right up my street!  I knew straight away that my design probably wouldn’t be just like the traditional botanical drawings as I do like to put my own style on it but I certainly wanted the design to be very inspired by botanical sketchbooks as I love drawing flowers, leaves, plants and basically most things organic!  Spoonflower already had their own Pinterest board which you could use for inspiration but I also began looking for my own inspirational imagery and started pinning it to my Botanical board.  I love the fresh colours and simplicity of some of these images but I also love the detail too.

Rebecca Stoner Pinterest Botanical Inspiration

I decided I wanted to use a combination of watercolour and line drawing to begin my design development so I started by painting different flower heads and leaves.

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

I really liked the pinks, lilacs and aquas mixed with the grassy greens so felt I was already some of the way there with the colour palette I wanted to go with.  I love the delicate, gestural effect of watercolour but I also wanted to incorporate some line drawing and detail too.  After all, the brief was Botanical Sketchbook and they are all about the detail!  So I started creating some line work for the flower heads and leaves I’d already painted using my fineliners.

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

Next it was time to combine all my development paintings and drawings and start building the design.  I took them into Photoshop first to clean them up and then moved them over to Illustrator where I live traced each motif.  For the watercolour paintings I decided it was too much to keep all the painterly detail (bolt/craft fabric is usually screen printed so you are limited to the amount of colours you can work with) so it was more about the overall shapes for these. That’s what all the hand drawn line work was for, to enhance the painted flower heads and leaves.  The design started taking shape and at first I began working on a white background which I felt was lovely and fresh….

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

…but I did feel I wanted it to ‘pop’ more especially as bolt fabric is often viewed in small thumbnails at first and needs to be able to stand out.  I also wanted all the line work and detail to stand out more so I worked up another colourway.  It’s very similar to my original but has a dark blue background, in fact, this became my entry!  So here it is, my entry into this years Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest!

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

And here’s a close up of some of the detail in the design.

Spoonflower Fabric8 Contest_Rebecca Stoner_Sketchbook

You can see my design repeated out as a fat quarter in my Spoonflower shop here, which at the moment only has this one design in it but I’m planning on filling it with lots more fabric that will be available to buy, so watch this space!

All the designs have now been submitted and the judges will pick their favourite 100 designs, which then go to a public vote to choose the top 8 designers. Those top 8 will be asked to develop 3 more designs to complete the collection and the public will then be asked to vote again for the winner!  So it’s a long way to go yet, even to be in with a small chance but you’ve got to be in it to win it!  I’m not a huge fan of public voting but with such a good prize up for grabs I’m willing to give it a go.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my design process once again and if you’d like to see more of how I work you can have look at my Working In Surface Pattern Design blog series here.
Thanks for reading,
Rebecca x





  1. says

    Such a great post! I agree with your feelings toward design competitions in general…even the ones that give a ‘decent’ prize because I wonder if the wider reason for getting submissions is to ‘fish’ for ideas or trends and then the idea of public vote is a bit like market research for them…so I do think that they get a lot more out of the entries than just the winning design they pay for! I also worry that at a certain stage in one’s career (meaning myself) should I be still entering competitions? How does that look professionally to prospective clients? Anyway I had these doubts but have still entered 2 competitions recently after a long break because the prizes are markets that I would really like to get into and also it’s really nice to do something that’s (almost) just for fun and to feel free creatively! It’s really lovely to see how you work though and the colours are GORGEOUS I really love your palette! It’s a really bright, fresh, eye catching fabric design!

    • Rebecca says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Suzanne. I did wonder whether to post my little rant but I really think it needs saying and there needs to be far more awareness of what goes on. You bring up some really good points which I hadn’t actually thought of, about the market research and trend research. I also wonder if I should be past entering competitions too but it is such a good prize that I wanted to give it a go! I think if you’re creating work that you can use for something else (if you don’t win) and you can see it as just creating a design to a brief for your portfolio then there’s not too much harm. My other bugbear is public voting but I won’t go off on one about that today, I’ll save it for another post! Thanks for your lovely comments about my design and the colours, it’s much appreciated. I love your entry too, so will be keeping my fingers crossed for us both :-)

  2. says

    I love this design, I really hope that you win! I could see myself in a dress made from this, but I guess I’d better get sewing up some fabrics I’ve already got first lol.

    Your rant is completely justified btw x

    • Rebecca says

      Aww thanks Victoria that means a lot! Well I’m fully intending on uploading some designs to that new spoonflower shop of mine now (just got to get samples printed first) so even if I don’t win, you’ll still be able to get the fabric! I’d quite like a dress myself too….I’ll keep you posted x

  3. says

    Hi Rebecca.

    I thought this post was brilliant and, being an aspiring print designer, very inspiring on how to achieve a design from start to finish. I hope my next design collection will be as great as this one. What I wanted to ask, if you don’t mind revealing, is how you cleaned up the watery/painterly detail? I know you can index things on Photoshop but I find this method hard to use so didn’t know if you had any tips.

    I wish you all the best and don’t forget to let us all know when we can vote for you.

    Best Wishes,
    Lisa from http://lisajaynetextiles1.blogspot.co.uk

    • Rebecca says

      Hi Lisa
      Thanks so much for reading the post and taking the time to comment. I’m really glad you found it helpful. I know how I used to love (and still do!) reading about designers processes as I think we all tend to do things a little differently so I’m glad it was useful. I don’t mind sharing at all. To be completely honest, I’ve only just started incorporating watercolours into my design process and previously I’ve tended to use Illustrator much more than Photoshop so I’m still working it out myself! In this particular design, I didn’t do that much to the painted motifs in PS before live tracing them in Illustrator. I live traced them on a full colour setting and then selected each motif and merged all the individual elements/vector points to give me just a filled shape of the motif or flower. You can select the amount of colours it keeps when you trace them but as I knew the end product for this design would be screen printed fabric (so the number of colours had to be limited) I chose to not keep all the painterly detail.

      I’ve found with the watercolour paintings that I’m using in design work, one thing that really helps is painting onto smooth paper (hot pressed), rather than textured paper (cold pressed) and a bright white paper too as it means less cleaning up in PS after scanning. I’ve recently discovered Fabriano paper which I love! I find this scans in so much cleaner than other paper I’ve used as you don’t get all the marks from the paper. I then use the magic wand to select all the white background and then use the magic eraser to delete it all. I also tend to paint each motif separately, unless I’m doing a full composition, as it’s easier to then cut them out in photoshop and arrange them as I want. If I do need to clean the motifs up at all then I’ve been using the clone tool to get rid of any dirty marks that might appear on the motifs after scanning.

      Another designer that shares lots of work processes through youtube videos is ‘Anne Was Here’ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH8p84iXlO0N66joAXDSq8Q She has lots of helpful tips using PS. Also Pattern Observer blog has a PS course (I’m not sure of the cost) but it doesn’t start until January 2016. Another fellow designer Sherry London who is a PS guru is also planning a new course too so I’ll try and remember to let you know about it when it’s ready. I hope all this helps a little and I didn’t lose you along the way! Good luck with it all and do let me know how you get on.
      Rebecca x

      • says

        Hi Rebecca,

        No problem at all. I have been reading your blog for a while and followed you on Facebook for ages and felt like I really wanted to comment as your post was very inspiring. Yourself as a designer is inspiring and I hope one day I get noticed and get the chance to live of my dream of being a printed textile designer.

        I know when you use watercolours for designs you can use the index mode in Photoshop but I find it very difficult. So for instance, if I paint a blue flower in watercolours it would have hundreds of hues in it and with index you can get it down to however any colours you want. So if I chose 4 then I could have 4 different shades of blue. I hope you understand what I mean and I explained that in a nice way rather than a patronising one. I learnt this technique through a free tutorial form Pattern Observer. Would be great to know when the Sherry London course is running! Keep me informed 😀
        I am going to be working on my own projects once my freelance contract ends in September so I am trying to pick up techniques to practice so thank you for your email back explaining in more detail your methods. It is very help that you share as I know some designers are very unsure whether to expose their methods of designing or not as it is a very competitive industry. When you say you tend to paint each motif separately, do you mean at the beginning design stage with your watercolours? I never thought to change my paper so that is a good tip too. I have recently returned to live at home and, somehow over the years, I have collected a LOT of paper so need to work my way through it all.

        If you get a spare moment I would really appreciate it if you could visit my blog and online portfolio and give me any feedback on how I could improve myself. Be harsh I really don’t mind as people have been harsh about my work in the past and all feedback is helpful.

        Thank again Rebecca! You’re a star!

        Speak soon and many thanks,

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