We’re sure you know all about Spoonflower, the company that lets you design, print and sell your original fabric designs. Spoonflower has grown exponentially in just a few short years; as the Spoonflower site notes, “It was founded in May 2008 by two Internet geeks who had crafty wives but who knew nothing about textiles. The company came about because Stephen’s wife, Kim, persuaded him that being able to print her own fabric for curtains was a really cool idea.” We remember an email from Kim in 2008 telling us all about this brilliant new idea and now we see Spoonflower mentioned everywhere, from the New York Times to Martha Stewart! We’re customers too; for example, we just couldn’t pass up this tea towel calendar after featuring it in our Handmade Holidays series.
Stephen Fraser and Kim Fraser took time out of their busy schedules to join in our reflections and predictions series. Enjoy today’s interview, and be sure to check out previous interviews in the series: Katy Jones, Elizabeth Evans + Liz Evans, Tasia Pona, Kathy Miller, Amanda Jennings, Amanda Carestio. Let us know what you think too for a chance to win a gift certificate to Sew,Mama,Sew!
Sew,Mama,Sew!: Looking back at the 2011 sewing scene, what trends stand out in your mind?
Kim: In terms of popular fabric designs we saw on Spoonflower, there were a lot of beautiful ikat and zigzag or chevron prints. Various kinds of woodland elements also seemed to be popular, like foxes, mushrooms, rabbits, and owls still, too. For lack of a better word, “geek” fabrics also seem to be popping up now: science fiction, chemistry, math equations, and space, that sort of thing.
As for the quilting world, I think that there is more of a trend towards texture in quilts now. Quilters are trying out different fabric types like slubby linens and linen blends and silky voiles in combination with the standard quilting cottons. Improvisational piecing versus piecing quilts based on a pattern seems to be on the upswing, and using lots of solids in quilts is definitely big and getting bigger. I think more and more people are trying out embroidery and needlework (though I have to say I also know plenty of people who say they “hate” hand work).
Sew,Mama,Sew!: What did you make that you’re most proud of?
Kim: On a professional level, I’m pretty thrilled that Spoonflower has helped launched the professional fabric design careers of a few designers this year. Samarra Khaja and Patty Sloniger both released collections with big fabric companies, and early on in our development, we were so pleased that Bari J Ackerman and Laurie Wisbrun started out with us and moved on to full-blown fabric design careers. I can’t tell you how pleased we all are at Spoonflower to have had a hand in getting these super-talented people’s work out there where it can be seen, loved, and sewn with!
Kim’s Improv Quilt
At home, I made a small quilt earlier this year based on Malka Dubrowsky’s “Nate’s Quilt” in her wonderful book, Fresh Quilting, and was really pleased with it. I enjoyed this early foray into both improvisational piecing and wax resist dyeing of some of the fabrics I used, and it was also the first quilt I’ve ever done free-motion quilting on– A lot of challenges crammed into one small project!
Sew,Mama,Sew!: What sewn projects have you seen this year that you absolutely love?
Kim: I’m a huge fan of Sherri Lynn Wood’s improvisational and highly personal quilting. Sherri didn’t make her Mod Mood quilt this year, but I just saw it this year for the first time and was completely blown away. All those curves, and it’s completely improvisational!
Dress made by Raleigh Denim from Spoonflower silk. Photo credit: Nick Pironio.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: What was your favorite fabric collection or print?
Kim: On Spoonflower, I just love Holli Zollinger’s Copenhagen collection. I also really like a lot of the prints in Lotta Jandsdotter’s new Echo line, though I’m not quite sure what I’d make with them yet.
Just a small selection of Holli Zollinger’s fabric designs.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: Do you have a favorite sewing book or pattern from the past year to recommend?
Kim: A Field Guide to Fabric Design is Kim Kight’s really excellent new primer on designing your own fabrics. Kim’s such a wonderful writer and she lays everything out in this book so that the steps to creating your own design, from inspiration to a final print-ready file, are crystal clear. The garment sewers in the Spoonflower office are also big fans of The Colette Sewing Handbook. Sarai Mitnick has such a lovely aesthetic sensibility, and her book is both beautiful and very clearly written.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: Are there any trends you’re over and done with?
Kim: There’s a lot of grumbling in our Flickr forums at times about kawaii-style designs, and I keep wanting to be over that trend myself. I’m 40 years old and ought to be done with super-cute by now, right? But maybe since I have three young daughters at home, I can’t seem to shake a fondness for little items with cute faces.
I also feel like I should be tired of owls since there are so very many owl fabrics out there, but then I see things like this and I know I’m not quite done with that theme either:
Owl Artist Trading Cards by Hanna from iHanna’s Blog, more info here.
One thing I am over, though, is making quilts from a single fabric collection where everything matches perfectly. I think quilts and home-dec projects show so much more personality and are so much more interesting to look at when you act as a curator, combining your own fabrics and textures rather than relying on the fabric company or designer to compose the fabric palette for you.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: What are your thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate?
Stephen: Facebook has made a lot of changes this year, especially in terms of how it works as a platform to allow businesses to connect with their customers. Some of those changes have been terrific and some have been a bit frustrating. The Spoonflower Facebook page is a really important place where we connect with our community, and that page has grown a tremendous amount since the beginning of 2011. In July we actually won a social media contest sponsored by Facebook and American Express. Part of the prize was a visit to Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, where we had a chance to meet with some of the folks inside Facebook itself to get marketing tips from the experts. That was an amazing, memorable experience. But engaging with people through social media remains a process of constant experimentation for us. We started when Spoonflower first launched by using Flickr, YouTube and our Typepad blog, and later expanded to use Twitter and Facebook. Just recently we’ve launched a page on Pinterest. I’m not sure we always manage our social media relationships well, but the learning and experimentation are always a lot of fun, really.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: What do you predict for 2012?
Kim: I don’t know if this will come to pass, but I hope to see fabric companies continue to release collections on fabrics other than quilting cottons. Lots of quilters and home-dec sewists seem to be interested in branching out to garment sewing and are realizing that quilting cottons don’t really work well in lots of clothing projects. I also think we’ll start seeing more Japanese clothing sewing books translated into English and adapted for American bodies.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: Are there any bloggers, authors or designers who you think will be rising stars in 2012?
Kim: There are some very talented designers on Spoonflower, and a few are staff favorites. Among them are Holli Zollinger, Vanessa Waller, Holly Ward Bimba, Heidi Kenney, and Andrea Whalen. If these people aren’t snapped up by some big fabric companies in the very near future, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: Can you tell us anything about what to expect from you in 2012? Any projects or life-changing goals you can share?
Stephen: Within the next month or two you’ll see Spoonflower branch out into a couple of non-fabric products for the first time. We’re really excited about those, which we hope will both showcase the amazing talent of our design community in a new way and also provide another product to excite the audience of people who are not designers, but who really love design. We’ve got a lot of new ideas queued up. Ideas are something we’re never short on in our office, fortunately. Time and resources to implement them, on the other hand… Those are another question.