Are you on Tumblr? I’m pretty late to the game, but I thought it would be fun to start one for Cotton & Flax. I’ll use it to archive all my photos of patterns, both the ones I create and the ones I encounter out in the world. You’re welcome to follow me at cottonandflax.tumblr.com!
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I post a lot of photos of patterns I encounter out in the world. Here are a few shots from my summer outings, all which feature awesomely bold patterns.
From top left, clockwise: My cat Frida, lounging with my Bookhou purse and an Ikea pillow // My Bookhou purse and Keiko‘s Shelter bag // My friend Nina in an art installation in Hayes Valley // Some Falconwright pouches, spotted at Poketo.
Cotton & Flax is a line of handmade textiles, all of which are sewn and printed by hand. I take great pride in this fact, because I am all too familiar with the long hours and specialized skills required to complete a project like this without outsourcing any part of the production. But I find that people often ask me, “What does ‘printed by hand’ really mean?” I’d love to share some insights into what hand-printing textiles is all about.
My textiles begin their lives as simple, natural fabrics, like linen or cotton, which are all prewashed. The process of designing a pattern takes a long time, as my patterns often start in my sketch book, then go through several revisions before I land on the final design. Even my pattern designs are made by hand, often using pen and ink, or a hand carved stamp which I will use to create a repeat pattern.
After I finalize a pattern design, I use a transparency of that design to create a silkscreen, which I can use to reproduce larger repeat patterns onto my fabrics. In large textile factories, these screens can be big, sometimes up to 5 feet across (you can see some in the Marimekko factory video I featured a while back). Since I work in a small studio space, I had to get a bit creative on how to print my fabrics. I don’t print the full width of the bolt of fabric, since that would require a much larger workspace. Rather, I print smaller sections cut to the exact size of my pillows and tea towels, so there is very little (often no) waste fabric when I begin the sewing process.
The printing itself is my favorite part of the process. I have so many fond memories of printing over the years, and have come to love the small details that are unique to this process: the smell of the ink; the squeak of the silkscreen squeegee as it pulls across the screen, flooding it with ink; the subtle pop of the screen as it pulls away from the fabric after a successful ink impression has been made. I hope to share more about the details of printmaking processes soon, I hope you’ll find them as charming as I do.
But the best part of hand-printed fabric is the tactile quality it provides, and the bold opaque quality that the ink imparts on the fabric. To date, I have yet to see a piece of digitally printed fabric that can compete with a silkscreen fabric’s boldness and quality of line. Hand-printed fabric requires a level of physical labor that isn’t required of digital printmaking, but I find that the extra effort creates a striking product that is rich in tradition and history.
August was a busy month at Cotton & Flax! As I prepare for the launch of the Fall/Winter line later this month, I have been working diligently to create a new set of patterns to add to the Cotton & Flax collection. You may have seen me posting some in progress shots of my patterns on Instagram (I’m
@erin_dollar (edit: make that @cottonandflax) in case you want to follow me!). When I am developing patterns, I spend a lot of time drawing in my sketchbook, creating hand carved stamps to try out new shapes, and scanning and editing those patterns in Photoshop.
In the next couple weeks, I hope to share a little video showing some of my drawing process for these patterns, but until then, I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek into how these patterns come to life.
This is the last of the linen fabric I’ll be printing for the 2011/2012 line of patterned textiles. Sad to see some of these colors go, but excited to start printing on the next batch of colorful linen. Hoping to have these last ones printed this week, I’ll be sure to post photos of the finished products.
I love linen for so many reasons (durability, how it gets softer with age…) but the beauty of woven linen fabric always makes me swoon at this magnification. So rustic, yet comfortable at the same time. It’s a joy to work with such wonderful materials.
Today is my boyfriend’s birthday, and I spent a few minutes earlier this week hand stamping some plain brown wrapping paper with this triangle design (which some of you may recognize as the Zelda triforce symbol). I used a small stamp I hand carved from a piece of printing linoleum, and a regular old stamp pad from the office supply store. It’s not a very complicated project, but I hope to do a DIY post here on the blog sometime soon. (UPDATE – I posted a DIY for this project here!)