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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ahead and behind

First, the "behind" - I have two contest entries to blog about.

First, we had to do a cheater print (previous cheater contests have been themed with zig-zag and robots), this time including something floral and being seasonally apt for Spring. And also using these nine colors (plus white):

Color by COLOURlovers

Color by COLOURlovers

I searched around for florally-suggestive traditional quilt blocks and liked "Thistle Bloom." That design requires five different fabrics. As a twist, though, this is a square block and the contest entries get shown on a 21" by 18" fat quarter, so I tried to come up with a way to have it work as a full FQ or if you just wanted a square block. My solution was to make the block a fairly standard 16", then add a 1" seam allowance all around, then add 1.5" sashing to each side to fill it out. So with a different design for the allowance, that brought it to six sub-designs.

I considered drawing six new floral repeats, but got a little light-headed at the thought, so instead I just took some of my existing designs that have gotten the most amount of positive attention and recolored them. I even managed to upload them all as their own repeats, so you can see them all here.

The easiest, just involving swapping the colors, were the seadragons, the basic stitching, and the baby praying mantises. I also took the "wailing spirits" and redrew their faces so they were happy and laughing instead. I had previously turned the campground patten into an abstract texture, so I used that one again as well. And finally, I took just the Rothko egg from the painters' eggs and put that in a small repeat.

So the end result:

Spring Thistle

I ended up using only the cool colors, plus the light yellow and pink from the warm. I thought it would give a more serene look, but I think it was a mistake as it simply looked washed out compared to all the other designs that featured the red, in particular. It came in a bit below the 50th percentile, with 60 votes. My favorite entries were the ones based on millefiore and Baltimore-style applique. For plainer types of patchwork cheaters, I really liked the 3" squares, hexagons, and cathedral windows.

As to the "ahead" part of the post title - I had managed to get ahead of the contests by the time I was working on this cheater, so I even made a few more coordinating designs. I put just the 16" patch in a repeat without the extra filler:

Spring Thistle Yardage

And I also made some plain quarter-inch checks using various combinations of the same colors I used in the other fabrics, and combined them all to make a nine-patch cheater print:

Spring Ninepatch Cheater

Part of this burst of coordination was also procrastination, because I was lacking inspiration for the next challenge, which was "magic" (as in Houdini, not Harry Potter). I had an idea of a scatter print of white-gloved hands in poses suggesting sleight-of-hand, but hands are some of the most challenging things to draw, so I kept putting it off. But, finally, I loaded up a video of Penn and Teller demonstrating their principles of magic and did my best on a representative sequence. It was at that point I decided to just put the hands in orderly rows, so that you could "read" them in order like a little illustration of the technique.

I decided to use the Synergy "movie" palette, which is a bit of a stretch theme-wise - still entertainment, I guess? I plan on also doing a version with hands clapping, so perhaps that can bridge the gap. I entered this version in the contest:

Sleight of Hand

And I also did a version with a gray background. My entry came in 34 out of 119, with 105 - a pretty good showing! My favorite entry was the playing cards.