I love vintage fabric, don’t you? The novelty prints used in the 40s and 50s are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, so it’s no surprise that they are highly coveted! Owning original fabrics that feature these sought after designs can set you back over two hundred pounds these days, so I decided to give designing my own vintage inspired fabrics a go.
In the past couple of years I have created designs ranging from feedsack inspired florals, to novelty western prints, and sell them through a website called Spoonflower.
I upload my designs and then decide how I would like them to repeat when printed on fabric. Then I order samples to make sure I’m happy with the colours and the overall appearance, and voila! - my design can be purchased and printed onto a range of fabrics that Spoonflower offer! I can’t explain the excitement I felt when I received my first design samples and saw my prints come to life on fabric!
Since then I’ve become addicted, and every time I see a gorgeous print on an original vintage garment, I have to try and recreate it. Of course, I'm not always successful. Sometimes I don’t get them exactly the same, but I prefer to put my own stamp on my designs, and often create prints in a few different colour ways to give variety.
Take for instance this dress that I recently came across on Pinterest. (I think the dress was originally for sale on Instagram, but I don’t recall the name of the seller. If you do, please let me know so that I can credit them). Mexican and South Western novelty prints are some of my favourites, and this was no exception! The print makes an otherwise simple dress so eye catching! I fell in love with it straight away and I was like ‘I have to recreate that!’ And so that's what I did.
I set about trying to recreate the design elements that make the print so special; the sombreros, maracas etc. I use quite a basic design program - my skills on adobe illustrator are very rusty - so it took me quite a few attempts to get the shapes the way I wanted. Sombreros and maracas are harder to recreate than they look! Nine or ten edits later, I finally had something that was resembling the original print on the dress.
Then I started working on the background elements. I used a preset template to create my background swirls and then added some cactus for that extra nod to the South West! Next was arranging the layout and matching up the colours. I wanted to make sure that the colours were as near to the original shades to give the fabric that authentic feel.
And above is the finished design, which I was really pleased with. As you can see, it is not identical to the original print, but it definitely has a strong influence. And as I mentioned earlier, I did this design in several other colourways that were all inspired by other vintage Mexican prints I'd seen.
I now think that the design on the right is my favourite out of all four. I just love how the pink, green and navy pop on the aqua background. I'd love to know which one is your favourite?
Of course, now I had my design finished, I had to upload it to Spoonflower to see how it translated and what repeat I preferred. I went for a basic repeat, and this is how it looks on fabric.
Fortunately, when I ordered my samples, I didn't have to adjust the colours on any of them as I got them right first time! Phew! Half of the work is the colour correcting when a design doesn't look the way you imagined. I've been lucky to only have this happen to me a couple of times.
Another important part of the design process is coming up with a name for my prints. I decided to call this one 'Fiesta!'. A fitting title because the design features a party of different colours and is reminiscent of a Mexican party with guitar music and maracas and dancing!
If you’d like to purchase any of my ‘Fiesta!’ designs, you can find them here!