Behind the Scenes: My Design Process for Fandangle

Today I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of my fabric design process for Fandangle. The line includes 6 designs in multiple colorways so I’ll take you through the design process of 3 of them. (When my first line, Modern Marks came out, I shared a bit of my process along with some some of the rejects, and that got a lot of interest. Read about  that here.)

Fandangle Fabric

Click here to get yardage and bundles of Fandangle, while supplies last.

For Fandangle, I knew that I wanted it to coordinate with Modern Marks, but still stand on its own as a separate collection. In fact, as I was working on the line, I scattered some of the in-process paper swatches onto my Modern Marks Rainbow Taffy quilt, just to make sure they’d look good together:

Fandangle and Modern Marks

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the orange, yellow and green tone on tones are not the final versions I ended up with. Read more about those “rejects” below!

Whenever I design a line, I start with a concept and a rough color palette. When inspiration strikes, I can see what I want in my head, but the hard part is technically getting that into the computer to form a proper repeat. Fortunately, I work with a fabulous stylist and graphic designer at Benartex who can help translate my ideas into reality. I thought it would be fun to walk you through the design process of three of the prints so you can see how they evolved.

Evolution of Baubles and Bits

This print was the hardest to finalize and the one that took the most work. I knew I wanted to create a fun, funky medallion that would almost read as a floral. So we started with the basic medallion shape. You’ll notice that colors and designs change quite a bit during the process. First I finalize the shapes, and then the colors. So any in-process and designs and hues are always just placeholders.

First Try:

Second Try:

Baubles and Bits in Process

Third Try:

Final Design:

Baubles and Bits final design

Isn’t it fun to see how it evolves? Of course there were a lot of intermediate steps in between each image involving more sketches, lots of cutting and pasting, and the painstaking decisions to add or remove colors that didn’t work. Did you notice that I cut the purple? It just didn’t work this time around (although we were able to work in some nice pink and lilac). But don’t worry, purple will work its way into my fabrics in the future – I promise!!

Multiply these design and color changes by each print and color in the line and you can see what an involved process fabric design can be!

Triangle Trinkets Design Process

This print was a lot quicker to finalize. It began with a simple line-drawing sketch of my arrowheads quilting design in several different arrangements.

Original Concept:

Triangles sketches

Then we put the designs into the computer and tried different color groupings and design layouts to see what worked. The teal colorway was one of my favorites, but I thought the stripe arrangement below was too directional.

Good Color, Bad Layout:

Final Design:

Once the design was finalized, we recolored them in a dozen different colors that coordinated with the rest of the prints. It was hard to narrow it down to the final three colors I included in the line, but sadly, I knew I couldn’t include them all!

Fandangle fabric -Triangle Trinkets

Paper Cuts – the Tone on Tone Blender

This print was one I felt strongly about from the beginning. I knew exactly what I wanted but it took awhile to get there. Again, I started with a simple pen and ink sketch on paper, inspired by another one of my favorite free motion designs – jagged stipple.

Design Sketch:

The design team at Benartex wasn’t so sure it would translate well as a design, so we tried a couple other things first that I ultimately rejected. First of all, we revisited the boxes print from Modern Marks with a different take on the design.

Boxes Blender:

Boxes blender

Nice, but nope, that wasn’t it. It turned out very nice but was too close in concept to the boxes design from Modern Marks.

Loops and Strings:

blender loops

We tried something that looked like loops and strings, again based on one of my free-motion quilting designs. This print would have worked well, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

Jagged Design – First Try:

Blender print

Finally, they were willing to let me try the jagged, edgy design that I really wanted with this line. The first iteration was a little too dense for my taste, so we spaced it out to give the design a little more breathing room.

Final Tone on Tone Design:

Paper Cuts design from Fandangle

It was worth all of the time and effort we put into this print! After the design and scale were finalized, the hardest part was naming it. “Jagged Stipple” didn’t really go with the other design names inspired by the idea of ornamentation and embellishment.

So I finally renamed it “Paper Cuts” because that sounded cutesy and crafty. The irregular jagged lines reminded me of small cuttings of paper. I almost named the print “scherenschnitte” which literally means “scissor cuts” but I knew people would have a hard time trying to pronounce that word it, let alone spell it, LOL!!

Fandangle Quilt Patterns

Fandangle Quilt PatternsClick here to get PDF versions of the Fandangle Quilt Patterns
Click here to get print versions of the Fandangle Quilt Patterns

Of course, once the prints were finalized as digital images, it took me nearly as long to come up with quilt patterns to showcase the fabrics effectively. Designing quilt patterns is a very similar process for me as fabric design: I start with an initial sketch, and tweak it until it feels right. All of this work was finalized before I even received fabrics to work with. It’s a long process for sure, but I enjoy every minute of it!

Fandangle Finalized

Fandangle fabric by Christa Watson for Benartex Contempo

I hope you enjoyed seeing this peek behind the curtain of how one designer’s process evolves. I know it’s different for each and every fabric designer, but so far this process has worked very well for me. I went through a similar process described above for all six prints in the line, but it was worth it to create a collection I love!

In fact, as I write this, I’m developing additional concepts, sketches, colorways, and ideas for future fabric lines. I’m starting to get the hang of how things works which each new collection I create, and it’s been such an incredible journey. As long as you all continue to love them as much as I do, I’ll have more to share in the coming months – so stay tuned!

9 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: My Design Process for Fandangle

  1. Kathy Howard says:

    The steps are interesting. I dabble with some designing at Spoonflower and find I put a lot of hours into each new design. Some work and some don’t.

  2. Dawn says:

    When explaining your design process, you talk about “putting it into the computer”. Does this mean you are using a Benartex software program for designing the fabric? Thank you.

  3. Hedy Hahn says:

    I love seeing how you design fabrics. I buy quite a few fabric bundles and have wondered why they only have 20 different fabrics compared to 42 different fabrics, now I know why.

  4. Barbara says:

    So fascinating to see the process. Always enjoy reading about you and how you go about
    The designing of your patterns. Keep up the good work. Would so love to take a class from you.

  5. Susan says:

    I found that very interesting & enjoy seeing how designers come up with their concepts & then the finished product. Hope you are enjoying your time here in Oz. I was not able to attend AMQF this time, but do hope it was a great experience for you. Take care.

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