Thursday, May 15, 2014

A busy month!

Since I last posted, we have moved to Sonora! Very lovely forested location, deer and turkeys wandering by all the time, but still close to grocery stores and the like. Despite the move I've still managed to keep entering the weekly contests, so I have a few to catch up on.

First, the theme was lilies. I combined actual lilies and fleur-de-lis. The colors I got from the list of prize winning varieties of lilies from Wikipedia, collected on a board here. The background is the same pattern as I used for the bark on my bonsai trees, and the leafy pattern on the fleur-de-lis is the "kelp" pattern I've used for a few things.

Lily and fleur de lis color study

I got 32 votes for this and finished right at the top of the bottom third. There were several entries in this one I really, really liked: a riotous combination of lily-named flowers with other vegetation, one in the style of William Morris, and a bright, stylized take.

Then there was another contest to make a floral design, but in a black-and-white line-art style, such that it could be used like a coloring book page. The idea being, you could use it as colorable wallpaper. I pondered trying to do something inspired by ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) but beyond making a board with some of the stuff I liked best I couldn't get that idea to gel. I just combined my eight favorite flowers: honeysuckle, jasmine, orange blossoms, fuchsia, lavender, California poppies, borage, and snapdragons (Side note: since some people tag bonsai as ikebana, I discovered that you can make some of these into bonsai, which made me hyperventilate a little to be honest)

My favorite blooms

This entry got 47 votes and came in right in the middle. The design I could most see myself using as coloring book wallpaper was this one, and the design I liked most on its own was this more graphic one.

Continuing the plant theme, there was also a contest for terrariums. This was one of those themes I found intimidating, as it's easy to imagine all kinds of amazing, lush illustrations on the topic, but hard to execute them. So I took a very graphic, subdued take. I had fun looking up neat terrariums on Pinterest, though. I based the colors and proportions on this very tiny spice jar terrarium. The textures I used here were the isometric dots and lines I originally made for my school papers and the lattice (all of which can also be seen here), plus the knit I've used quite often.

Moss Terrariums

This entry did not catch on, got 12 votes, and finished in the bottom 10. My favorite was this one.

For the contest closest to Earth Day, the challenge was to make a 1-yard pattern for a reusable tote bag. The bag itself didn't necessarily need to be Earth Day-themed, but I decided to use a couple of my existing designs that are nature themed, and combined them together with this tote pattern that I liked. This uses the "kelp" mentioned above in two color combinations, the "star" pattern in two more, the meerkats I drew for my son, and the map pattern, which is one of my most popular. (I pulled the other fabric colors from the map design.)

Meerkat Tote Kit

My tote did pretty well, getting 132 votes and just squeaking into the top quartile. My favorites were this bright one in modern colors and this more serene, mid-century-ish take.

There was actually another holiday-related cut-and-sew challenge. Another tea towel, but this one with one of "Mom's" recipes on it, in honor of Mother's day. I knew immediately that I would adapt my mother's banana bread recipe (which she got from my paternal grandmother). And for fun I drew it as a diagram instead of writing out the recipe (plus this is really how I think of the recipe in my head). The colors are the same as the last time I combined family lore with a towel. The blue/green background patterns are, yet again, my "kelp" and the "knit" both mentioned previously. The brown texture in the border was one I put together for the "anti-Valentine's" faux-cross-stitch.

Banana Bread Diagram Recipe Towel

I got my hopes up pretty high for this one, as it gained a lot of "likes" through the week - enough to make it my second-most-liked design ever (behind Baby's Book of Computer Science, of course). But even so it ended up with 84 votes, and just above the median. The entry I could most likely see using as an actual kitchen towel was this one, which combined an actual old hand-written recipe card with some textures from hand-me-down cookbooks.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Things that get wet: small and large

The latest contests were for galoshes and whales. For the whales contest, we had to use these colors:

Color by COLOURlovers

Which annoyed many people on the forums as being very un-whale-like (and not having a lot of contrast). I discovered that these colors were actually a subset of the twelfth-most-popular color combination ever on all of ColourLovers:

Color by COLOURlovers

So it seems that they simply picked a well-loved combo without thinking how challenging it would be for a fabric contest. OR, as the forum conspiracy theorists would have it, they deliberately picked a challenging combo to reduce the number of contest entries! (Mainly because voting can be a very tiresome activity when the number of entries creeps up much past 150 - I would love to see a chart showing number of entries vs. number of people who voted to see if there is a noticeable effect)

In any case, I did my best to work with (rather than against) the colors and did dreamy whales floating in clouds.

Candy Whales in Minty Skies

The first time I put it all together, I had placed the clouds randomly, hidden them, and then drawn the whales. By sheer chance nearly every whale had a cloud right over its face and it made my nose itch to look at. So I had to shift things around but I'm happy with it now. (The background pattern is the lavender again, by the way)

This came just into the top half of the entries, with 58 votes. My favorite entry was this, which I want to make into a Hawaiian-style shirt (or maybe a sundress).

For the galoshes contest, I used these colors, and then arranged stomping galoshes inside giant rain drops. (I actually shrank down that same rain drop pattern and used it inside the whale design above for the clouds)

Splish Splosh Galosh Galosh

The background uses the basic linework from the interwoven knot design I made for Maren's collection. I'm pleased with how it came out but it did not make a "splash" (har-de-har) in the contest - I got 17 votes. My favorite was this ultra-cute design with bunnies.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Get some sleep, it's a school night

After the last roundup of mediocre-performing contest entries, now I have two to summarize that did a little better. First, the theme was "bedtime," with these colors:
Color by COLOURlovers

I was inspired by a "lovely rooms' tumblr, and made an orderly jumble of inviting turned-down beds. The lines are colored with a gradient of the two shades of blue. The background pattern is a smaller version of the lavender I made for Maren's collection. - thinking about being tucked into bed makes me think of my mother's lavender-scented lotion. The sheets and bedspreads are also filled in with existing patterns created for previous designs: shells, grass tufts, dots, knit, lattice, and bricks.

Time to get tucked in

This came in 48 out of 254, with 109 votes - the highest percentile placement I've had since my blue jeans entry! My favorite entry had a similar dormitory feel, but a much cuter style. I was also not the only person to think of lavender.

Next, a design for "science fair." Two of my own science fair experiments I remember the most involved growing radish sprouts in different colors of light and with different watering liquids. So I thought of framing radish sprouts with rays of light or streams of liquid, and abstracted it from there. I re-used all the patterns mentioned above, plus others in the paper patchwork, my omnipresent eucalyptus, speckles, and stars.

Radish sprouts with different treatments

This came in 67 out of 157, with 98 votes. I also uploaded a version with just the background diamonds, and no sprouts, in case anyone wants it. This contest didn't produce many designs that had standalone appeal, to my eye, but my favorites were the lunar cycle and glassware.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

History, both recent and not-so-recent

Time to give an update on how my latest contest entries have done. But one other point of news: my "Baby's Book of Computer Science" has just exceeded 100 "favorites"! (In fact, 105 at the time I'm writing this.) Nothing else is even close - 22 for the painters' eggs, 21 for the ghosts, and a bunch in the teens. On to the more recent ones!

First, the theme was "history of Jazz." I'm not a big fan of the genre, but took a stab at it anyway. According to Wikipedia, the principle characteristics of jazz are polyrhythms, swung notes, syncopation, blue notes, and improvisation. Also, much of it carries on from African musical traditions, many from the Congo River region, so I wanted to tie in a little of that for the "history" part of the theme. I looked at textile designs from the cultures in that part of the world, and found this one, from Kuba culture, that called to me. I took the inner checked sections and adapted them into ovals.

I used the inner grids to represent notes, which are offset in different ways to represent they polyrhythms, swung notes, and syncopation. And of course some colored blue for the blue notes. The improvisation is represented by the links between the ovals, letting you take varying paths all around the design.

I had no idea what colors to use, so I looked around for jazz-inspired schemes until I found this one I liked:
Color by COLOURlovers

And it all came together like so:

Jazz Principles Kuba Cloth

This came in the bottom fifth, with 24 votes. My favorite was the one inspired by kente cloth.

Next the inspiration was "gemstones and geodes." This was another one like Great Barrier Reef that I found intimidating. I realized I had a design already that contained some gemstones - rubies and pearls in my literal computer languages. So I took just those elements and made them a coordinating design.

Rubies and Pearls

This came in juuuust above the bottom third, with 33 votes. My favorite entries were the pebbles, turquoise, and retro graphic jewels.

And finally, in honor of International Women's Day, we had to do a design inspired by inspirational women - leaders, scientists, etc. BUT, it had to be a toile. Hmm. For subject matter, I picked up something from my own family history. During WWII, my grandmother was one of many students who worked as a "civilian computer" for the US Army. (Big thanks to my dad for supplying more information about this!) She had to analyze pictures that had been taken of blinking lights on bombs dropped out of planes, extracting data that would eventually allow bombing tables to be calculated. Nowadays, this kind of thing would of course be done in a fraction of the time on an (electronic) computer.

However, these civilian computer projects were in fact a key step towards the development of modern computers, and some of the women who worked there went on to be the first programmers of ENIAC. (Among them: Adele Goldstine, who wrote the world's first computer manual, and Betty Holberton, who was responsible for the classic beige color of all our computer cases for so many years) It was nice to learn that women had key roles in so many milestones like this. As a computer programmer today, it sometimes feels a little odd to be one of the few women in the engineering department. Finding out things like this remind me - I'm not an anomaly!

So for the toile, I honored those young wartime computers who set the foundation for all that.

WW2 Civilian Computer Toile

I collected a board of 40's daywear to try to get a feel for the clothes (and hair!), including pictures of women working as computers or operating ENIAC. The lettering is inspired by the look of contemporary typewriters, such as used for the ENIAC manual. The colors are also supposed to be forties-ish - forest green on pink.

This came in, again, in the bottom fifth, with 37 votes. My favorite, for having both good subject matter, visual appeal, and fits in the "rules" of being a toile, was probably the blue one with many different female scientists.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Yes, I know it's not until tomorrow, but not only did my husband and I already exchanged our presents, the Valentine's-associated contest at Spoonflower ended today. Actually, the theme of the contest was Anti-Valentine's Day, and in addition had to be faux cross stitch.

I spotted some early entries, before I started mine, which were pretty impressive: one that fully embraced the cross stitch format, and one that brought candy hearts into the mix - and both exhibiting exhilarating levels of unromantic snark. So I decided to take a different strategy. Rather than say something negative about the usual sentiments of the holiday, I wanted to say something positive about something that was the opposite any those sentiments. I looked around for quotes about being by yourself, and at various vintage samplers (you should be able to pick out my reference material from here). And for the colors, I decided that the Synergy "serenity" colors, which I had previously used for my newborn dinos, would be a good fit both for the material on its own, and as a further contrast from traditional Valentine's pinks. So assembled into a panel and put in a simple repeat, it came together like this:

Companionable Solitude Motto

But then I started thinking about how you might actually use this fabric, and decided to make a format where you could actually use (almost) everything in a standard fat quarter. That size actually makes a good fit for a 16" square (as we learned with the Spring Cheater contest), so I decided to go for something that you could make into a front for a 16" throw pillow.

Companionable Solitude FQ Panel

I'm very happy with how this came out. I even took the time to turn some of the elements into their own repeats - and I could happily add more, given time. I got a respectable 117 votes, and just squeaked in to the top third in the rankings.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


This week's contest was one of those that requires a format, instead of themed content. In honor of the Chinese new year, we were asked to make red and white designs that looked like Chinese paper cutting. I decided to take a sly approach to it and made an arrangement of shapes that looked like the leftover snippets.

Papercut Leavings

I got quite a few nice comments appreciative of the humor, but it obviously has more of a niche appeal when there were so many ACTUAL nice paper cut-style designs.. It got 56 votes and came in 133 out of 218, so just a hair better than last week. My favorite entries were the garden birdsstylized zodiac animals, patterned hexagons, and teapots. I also really liked the guitar-shaped dragon panel. And for a more usable general fabric, the simple clouds are a nice idea.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Little houses, all in a row

The theme this week was the "Great Barrier Reef." I found it rather intimidating, since I could picture right off all these amazing, hyper-colorful underwater seascape prints, brimming with dozens of different life forms. I decided to focus on just the coral part of things - and doing it in a cutesey, anthropomorphic style. My take was to draw a little village of coral polyps, each in its own little "house" of calcified excretions. I looked around for color inspiration and found this:

Color by COLOURlovers

I originally wanted it to be a little more organic - not so geometric of a layout, and each house is slightly different - but that was giving me fits so I stuck with one "style" of house in a regular hex layout. It's hard to see at this scale, but each little roof has a thatch texture and the walls have a brick texture.

Happy Calcareous Village of Coral Polyps

This came in 148 out of 228, with 49 votes. There actually weren't any fabrics that went as all-out as I had imagined (how much easier it is to imagine those kinds of illustrations than bring them to life!), but this one in graphic style one probably got the closest. I also liked this one in an indigo/gold color scheme, and this assortment of corals and sea plants. For more subtle entries, I liked the brain coral texture, tonal sea plants, and super-simplified fish.