Out of My Comfort Zone – Desert Modernism Challenge

Why do I love Spoonflower so much?

As an independent designer (as well as consumer), I get a terrific way to create custom textiles for my own use, as well as to sell 20+ different types of fabrics (plus wallpaper, gift wrap and ready-made home decor items) printed with my original artwork to designers and sewists all over the world – without having to deal personally with payments and shipping!

But while the strength of working with Spoonflower is the huge marketplace it offers, it also means it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. NOTE: if you enter the Spoonflower site without going through my shop, the easiest way to find my work is to enter “bethannwilliams” (without the quotation marks 😉 ) in the search box.

To help with this, Spoonflower urges designers to enter design challenges and “Join the community of over 16,000 designers, gain visibility and share your work with over 600,000 shoppers per month.”

Spoonflower sets the challenge, and the designers have to come up with NEW work specifically for that challenge – they can’t use anything they’ve already listed in their shops.

I confess that I haven’t been paying the attention I should to the challenges…  So I almost missed this one! But I ventured out of my comfort zone and entered at the last minute.

Voting in the Desert Modernism Challenge ends on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 3 pm EDT. Anyone can vote – for my work or for any other designs you like!

Here’s is a peek at my entry:

Close-up view of my new design, Desert Dreams – 8″ swatch

Desert Dreams 6 shown as a fat quarter – Desert Modernism contest entry by Beth Ann Williams

The goal of the challenges is to increase exposure (realistically, chances of placing even in the top 50 are quite slim) and share your work with more people – whether or not they turn into customers.

If you do click through to the Desert Modernism Contest to vote, you might have to scroll for a while to find my entry – they seem to be shuffled randomly at intervals. Depending on where I’ve landed it can take what seems like forever to find me if you are on a phone; it’s a bit faster on a tablet, laptop, or pc, since you can view more designs at a time.

So many thanks in advance to any of you who are able to take the time to do so!

Adding Structure with Soft and Stable – Review & Tips

One of the really great things about sewing is that you aren’t dependent on what you can find (or afford) in the store – you can create or customize all kinds of things to your specific tastes and needs.

Lately, I’ve been on a streak of making totes, bags and purses.

Since my work (both as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing and as a quilt/textile artist and designer for my own business) requires a lot of intense focus and creativity, I find it relaxing to take a bit of a break and let someone else do the basic designing and let me have the fun of customizing to my heart’s content.

I really enjoy it when I get a chance to make something quick and (relatively) easy. And bonus points if it is functional, too!

One of the products I’ve been playing with lately is Soft and Stable from ByAnnie.

Product info from the ByAnnie.com website:

BYANNIE’S SOFT AND STABLE® OVERVIEW

ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable® is a new product which I developed to use in place of batting or other stabilizers in purses, bags, totes, home dec items, and more.

Why use ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable®?

  • Great lasting body and stability
  • Lightweight
  • Maintains shape
  • Gives a professional finish to your project
  • Easy to sew
  • Fabric can be quilted to ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable® or just sewn around the edges of the pieces — no need to quilt every 2 to 4″ as with batting
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Washer and dryer safe

My summary – I love it! But…

I am very happy with the shape, structure, and finish of bags I’ve made with Soft and Stable. They look great, hold their shape, and don’t collapse under the weight of the straps or handles – all while remaining lightweight and easy to carry.  The extra protection for the contents is pretty great, too – especially for things like a phone, tablet, laptop, sewing machine, etc. I’ve given the sewing machine travel bag I made with Soft and Stable away as a gift, but here is another great example of a well-used bag still holding its shape after a couple of years and a lot of use:

One of my favorite travel bags is this duffle, designed and made by my friend and colleague, Laura Witt. Not only did Laura use Soft and Stable to support the bag, she also inserted a strip into the shoulder strap to make the bag more comfortable to carry.

But I don’t always find it as straightforward to use as is sometimes implied…    Continue Reading…

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Review, Part 2

As anyone who sews or quilts can tell you, individual patterns have gotten more and more expensive over the years, especially if you like to seek out and support independent designers. Being able to download patterns and save them as pdfs can help (as opposed to buying printed patterns, with or without paying additional for shipping), but it’s still enough to make you think twice – especially when there is actually a lot of free content (albeit of varying quality) out there.

Here are the factors I consider when thinking about buying a commercial pattern:

  • Clarity – Are the instructions well-written and all measurements accurate? Are the photos and/or illustrations clear and to the point?
  • Value – Am I likely to use this pattern more than once? Can I envision it made up in different colorways or fabric styles?
  • Versatility – Does the pattern offer more than one option? (e.g. different sizes, embellishment possibilities, or optional design elements that can be mixed or matched)
  • Giftability – Is it a design that is likely to appeal to multiple generations (e.g. Would my mom like it? My kids?)

I mentally award bonus points if the pattern gets my own creative juices flowing with lots of possibilities for additional customizations of my own.  🙂

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead (see my previous post for more details) ticks all of these boxes.

In fact, I think it’s one of my favorite commercial tote patterns!

Here is my latest version of the 241 Tote:

The 241 tote – pattern by Noodlehead, adapted by Beth Ann Williams; fabrics from Changing Seasons Collection by Beth Ann Williams at Spoonflower.com

As you can see, I’ve made some changes in the original pattern!

Continue Reading…

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Review, Part I

Did you ever experience a breathless moment in time when you looked up and knew in that brief instant that THIS was THE ONE? 

Ok, let’s get our minds back on track here… I don’t know what you are thinking about, but I’m talking about tote bags. 😉

I love totebags. Cute little purses just don’t have enough room for me to haul all of my necessities around – especially since those necessities usually include a least a few file folders and maybe even a yellow pad. I’m always on the lookout for ideas for new totes – be it different fabric combinations, different bells & whistles (zippers, hardware, pockets, etc.), or different shapes.

What captured my attention about the 241 Tote (2-for-1, get it?) pattern from Noodlehead was the unusual shape and fun side pockets.

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead (photo from pattern page)

Continue Reading…

December Wrap-Up & Link Love

What a month! Not only is late November through December extra-busy with the holidays AND one of the most demanding times of the year for my day job as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing, but our plumbing saga continued with more water in the basement, where my studio is located. Needless to say, my creative plans for the month had to be adjusted.

But I’m happy to say that I did manage to squeeze in at least a little sewing fun.

Below are 3 of my December projects, plus links to the free patterns I used. All 3 patterns are keepers for me – ones I’m sure I’ll use again. 

Scandiavian Star Ornaments

I was first introduced to these folded & woven fabric ornaments through a delightful instragram post by misterdomestic linking to this tutorial on his YouTube channel.

I also found a handy photo tutorial by Anna Curtiss.

Stow-Away Shopping Bag

I resized the free pattern from Moments Designs (pattern download offered through Craftsy) to make giftable shopping totes that fold into their own snap pouches for storage. I enlarged the pouch slightly because I used heavier fabric than was used in the original pattern. The instructions are terrific, with step-by-step photos for every step. 

Bohemian Bag

Continue Reading…

Adventures with Spoonflower – Changing Seasons

Note: if My Spoonflower Shop links aren’t working (the system has seemed overloaded at times recently) you can also find me at Spoonflower.com and Roostery.com by searching on “bethannwilliams”)

In my last post, I shared the origins of my Around the World and Back Again collection.

This time, I’d like to share a bit of the inspiration behind the designs in my collection Changing Seasons.

For several years, my dear friend June Mears Driedger and I co-hosted Storytelling in Fiber retreats at the Hermitage in Three Rivers, Michigan. Beyond the joys, inspiration and precious companionship of being around other creative women, one of the many things I enjoyed about our time there was private contemplative time in the woods. Sometimes I would walk the little labyrinth path, sometimes I would just walk slowly and commune with nature, and sometimes I would snap photos with my phone of anything that caught my eye.

These photos became the foundational inspiration behind Changing Seasons, particularly this shot:

Photo taken by Beth Ann Williams at the Hermitage in Three Rivers, MI.

You can see the influence of sunlight filtering through the outstretched branches, and of the colors and textures of tree trunks, branches, twigs, leaves, moss and sky in the 8″ swatches below.

To me, there is also a sacred quality to many of these designs, although that was not my conscious intent. Continue Reading…

Adventures with Spoonflower – Around the World and Back Again

Note: if My Spoonflower Shop links aren’t working (the system has seemed overloaded at times recently) you can also find me at Spoonflower.com and Roostery.com by searching on “bethannwilliams”)

I haven’t been posting lately, but I HAVE been creating. 🙂

Working on designs for a couple of new fabric collections has made me reflect a bit on previous work. Today I thought it would be fun to revisit the first fabric designs I ever uploaded to my shop on Spoonflower.com.

Around the World and Back Again

This is what I titled my first fabric collection. The original inspiration behind this entire collection is one of my journal quilts, At the Gates of Midnight. The title of the quilt comes from a phrase I once read that stuck with me – “Even at the gates of midnight, still dreaming of the dawn…”

At the Gates of Midnight, journal quilt/art quilt, (C) Beth Ann Williams

Around the World and Back Again is a reference to my personal life, visiting and/or living in 17 countries by the time I graduated college. Most of the fabrics in the center of this quilt are from Africa. In addition to the personal associations, I  love the strong graphic quality, vivid colors, and high internal contrast common to many of these fabrics.

I used bits and pieces of the quilt as starting points to create new designs. As I was developing the collection, I also tried to keep in mind practical considerations such as having a variety of colors, values, and scales. And though I have a definite fondness for working with radial symmetry, I also included a few stripes and simpler all-over patterns as well. Continue Reading…

My Adventures with Spoonflower

Sadly, the repairs, unpacking, and setting up again of my basement studio has yet to be finished, which has really been cramping my creative style…

However, Spoonflower is having a fantastic half price sale on fat quarters (all fat quarters – not just mine!) now through midnight on Nov. 8, 2018 – which also reminded me that this might be a good time to reflect on how I got started working with Spoonflower.

Some background information…

Way back when my books with Martingale & Co. started coming out (early 2000s), I was approached at the International Quilt Market (the big industry-wide trade show in Houston, TX, immediately preceding the International Quilt Festival) by a couple of different fabric companies about having my own line(s) of fabric. Initially, I was thrilled! But when I did some checking around and talked to other authors about their experiences working with these or similar companies, my balloon deflated in a hurry.  The companies who had contacted me seemed to fall into one of two camps: (1) they wanted to use a “celebrity” name to sell the fabric, but the “celebrity designer” had very little actual input on the designs, if at all; or (2) the “celebrity” was allowed more input, but the form that took most often was receiving a packet of samples in the mail and having very tight windows (sometimes as little as 24 hours) to make any decisions/comments/suggestions and mail the packet back again.  

Please note – this was at least 15 years ago, and most likely did not represent the fabric industry as a whole, just those particular companies.  I have no idea what the process is like now for current authors/designers. 🙂

Neither of those options appealed to me at all.  But the seed of interest had been planted.

A number of years later, a friend asked me if I was familiar with a new company called Spoonflower. I did some investigating, and was delighted to find a fantastic site for independent designers to create, showcase, and sell their work.

After a near-catastrophic neurological event in 2009 and series of surgical interventions in 2010 created radical new physical limitations and challenges, I had to expand my ideas about what living a creative life meant to me and devise new ways of expressing myself. (Creativity has always been the best emotional therapy for me, too!)

I first set up my online Spoonflower studio in 2011. I found the entire process absorbing, rewarding, and sometimes frustrating, too.  At that time, I wasn’t completely happy with how washed out or muddy many of my designs looked when digitally printed on the basic cotton. 

Over the next few years, two things happened: (1) I learned how to adjust my digital files in order to improve my results and (2) Spoonflower seemed to continually improve their digital printing technology – offering better inks, clearer images, higher quality textiles and a much wider range of base fabrics.

I most often buy the Kona Cotton Ultra for quilting, bags & totes, although the Organic Cotton Sateen has a beautiful sheen and smooth hand I really enjoy. The Poly Crepe de Chine makes BEAUTIFUL scarves. I have been super happy with the Silky Faille and Perfomance Pique, too.

Progress! The fabric on the left was printed in 2012 and the fabric on the right in 2018 – significantly clearer and brighter.

I decided earlier this year that one of my goals for 2018 was to work diligently on developing distinct fabric  collections. I also determined to spend more time thinking about/showing how these distinctive textiles might be used. 

Sample bags made from fabrics from my Around the World and Back Again collection – these are slightly older versions of my designs (fabrics printed 2012-2014), but I think they’re still fun.

You can read more about Spoonflower’s eco-friendly production system here.

Here’s how the process works on my end: Continue Reading…

Fun with Paints – Acrylic Pours

I am very grateful to note that the dryer, hot water tank, chimney and furnace I mentioned in my last post have all been repaired and/or replaced.  Yay!

But my sewing machines, fabrics, and tools have yet to be unpacked and sorted out.  (They will be soon – I just haven’t had time!) Meanwhile, I have been in some serious need of quick creative therapy…

Happily, I came back from my recent trip to New York to see my sister all jazzed up and inspired by her very patient and very inspiring hands-on demo of acrylic pours. I love messing around with paint, but this technique was new to me. In retrospect, I kind of wish we had gotten the paints out at the beginning of the visit instead of detouring into the art room at 10:30 pm the night before we were to leave first thing in the morning, but sometimes things just happen that way. And honestly, there’s nothing we did during our visit that I would have wanted to miss; so on second thought, I’m tickled pink about my late-night introduction to acrylic pours – even though I did come home with paint on my favorite robe 🙂

Also happily, when we popped into Michaels after our trip, acrylic paints and packaged sets of 10″ x 10″ canvases were on a huge sale, and I had another stackable coupon on my phone for an additional 20% of the entire purchase. I took it as a sign and loaded up on inexpensive materials I wouldn’t worry about using up.

The basic concept Amy showed me was very simple. We mixed individual small plastic cups of white acrylic paint and a few additional colors with an extender to make them flow more easily, added just a bit of silicone, and then filled a larger plastic cup with a layer of thinned white paint, then a color, then white, and so on. Then we placed a canvas on top of the cup and flipped the whole thing over, pulling the cup away to allow the paint to spread out over the canvas. This is very messy, so plenty of newspaper, paper towels and plastic garbage bags were extremely helpful. She also lined a large box with plastic to contain the paint that ran off the edges of the canvases. 

Supplies I purchased for my experimentation. I also picked up a couple of cheap vinyl tablecloths to cover my worktable and floor, as well as thin plastic gloves. 

But it’s also surprisingly complex! Continue Reading…

Quilts on the Grand 2018

So I’ve been offline for a bit, for both good and not-so-good reasons. First, the good – John and I took a WONDERFUL trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. While we were there, we were also able to get together with my parents and with my brother and sister-in-law and their amazing kiddos. So lots and lots of fun all around!

But what a different story when we got home… we first found the dryer broken (unfortunate, but not so bad), then drips in the basement (somewhat alarming), then standing water in the basement (red alert!).  The hot water heater had sprung several leaks, couldn’t be repaired and had to be replaced; and then the technician let us know that our furnace also needs to be replaced asap, as well as the chimney (fire hazard). Whew!

Since my studio is downstairs (along with the dryer, water heater, furnace and chimney), and everything had to be packed up and/or pushed to one side in each of the large rooms downstairs in order to mop up water and create space for the repair crews to work, my creative activities will be a bit curtailed for the immediate future.

But a very bright spot in the midst of all this – the biennial Quilts on the Grand show put on by the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids, MI. Continue Reading…