Digital Fabric Printing + Spoonflower Tour

November 5, 2013

Thanks so much everyone for the positive feedback on yesterday’s post about my fabric and gift wrap designs! I chose Spoonflower as a company to work with because they offer an amazing innovative service: the ability for anyone to design their own fabrics, wallpapers, decals, or gift wraps and share them with the world.

I was in North Carolina earlier this year and spent a few hours with the people at Spoonflower in Durham, touring their facility and asking them all about how the process works. With their permission, I took a few pictures while I was there and Allison was kind enough to answer my questions.

spoonflower headquarters slipper chairs

 

1) How long has Spoonflower been in business, how and why did it start?

Spoonflower was founded in 2008, just as the US economy was entering a recession. Surprisingly, the recession did not actually turn out to be our greatest challenge. The idea for Spoonflower came from Stephen’s (one of our co-founders) wife Kim. Kim asked Stephen if he knew of a website where she could print fabric to make curtains from her own design. It turned out that one didn’t exist, despite the fact that interest in sewing, fabric, design and making things by hand had exploded on the Internet.

2) How do the printers work and how much fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap do they print in an hour/day?

We print using large format inkjet printers, similar to the printer you have at home or in your office, just much bigger! We print around 1800 yards per day.

spoonflower printing

 

3) Why do colors have subtle differences when printed on different fabrics?

Each fabric is slightly different from the others. Whether it is the weave density, white point, or fiber content, it all slightly affects how colors print and the pigments adhere to the fabric.

spoonflower color guides

More information in the beginner’s guide

spoonflower entry

 

4) The Spoonflower community is a fun creative bunch. How do you promote your designers’ prints and papers?

Yes, we love our crafty creative community! We use designs from the marketplace in all of our marketing efforts and credit the designers from the community when their designs are used. Whether it is collateral for an event or sharing photos via social networks we love to promote the talented group of designers in our community.

wall of fabrics

 

Thanks so much Allison for answering my questions! I have my own reasons for loving this company and what they do.

Made in the USA.  Much of the textile industry has moved overseas in past decades, but what’s nice about Spoonflower is that all of the fabrics are printed here in the USA. The team recently posted about their American Made award on the blog and the company was featured in the November issue of Martha Stewart Living for this reason.

Eco-friendly.  All of the inks used to print the fabrics and papers are water based and the process requires only the energy and inks to print what is ordered. The fabrics and papers are all on demand, so no bolts end up on clearance shelves in a fabric store. If you want to make a pillow, order a fat quarter or a yard, if you want window panels, order 6 yards (I recommend the linen/cotton) it’s that simple.

Low Start Up Costs.  As someone new to the textile design industry, Spoonflower is a wonderful place to start out. There are no production costs, no shop to run or employees to manage, only the process of uploading and selling. The expense is next to nothing in comparison with traditional textile printing methods since there are no set up costs, no screens to cut, and no minimum yardage to print or inventory to hold.

Variety. There are different types of fabrics available for different projects, the basic cotton is wonderful for quilting, and I love the linen/cotton blend for pillows and window panels. They’ve just introduced performance knit for clothing and the cotton twill can be used for upholstery.

coral pillow and knit scarf

Quick to Market. With digital printing, I can design a pattern, upload it, then have it shipped to my door in less than two weeks. With sales, you can bring designs to market just as rapidly, all you need to do is design it, print a sample, and release it for sale. If I’m inspired by fall leaves on the ground I can make a pattern and have it on my doorstep in that same season, unlike the fabric design houses which plan a year or more ahead for the next year’s collections.

Good People. The people at Spoonflower are really nice and professional too. They’ve made themselves easily accessible and answered all my questions – they even opened up their company for a tour of the facility. Also I love that they promote their community of designers on the blog, in the marketplace and with weekly contests.

Some of you have asked how I create my personal designs. Well, it’s been a huge learning curve. I have no education in graphic design so I just had to teach myself. I started out with Photoshop then learned how to use Illustrator by reading tutorials and watching online videos and just practicing and playing around A LOT.

photoshop and illustrator

I still use both but now prefer Illustrator because it uses vector graphics and not raster graphics which can lose clarity when scaled up.

I found all of the FAQs at Spoonflower very helpful too, they cover everything from file formats to repeats. I highly recommend the beginner’s guide for anyone interested in printing their own designs. With a lot of patience and practice I’ve become proficient at the process, so now I’m continuing to design more patterns for collections to be released in early 2014.

Five years ago, these opportunities didn’t exist for up and coming designers and now they do because of the new technologies and innovative thinking, so cheers to Spoonflower for making a difference in the industry and giving many of us the opportunity to join in and share our designs !

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19 Responses to “Digital Fabric Printing + Spoonflower Tour”

  1. SO proud that I already own some!!!

  2. Debbie C says:

    This is awesome info Kate! Thanks as always for empowering your readers. By the way, I love your holiday giftwrap designs!

  3. Tessie says:

    Kate, you are such an inspiration to me! Your fabrics and gift wrap are absolutely beautiful! Thanks so much for taking us inside spoonflower. It makes me want to try my hand at designing my own!

  4. I’ve been intrigued by this company for a while now….it’s great to get more info about them! I would love to design a project using fabric I imagined and created!

  5. Tiffany says:

    I use some of their fabric for my etsy shop. I love them too!

  6. Grace Fowler says:

    I wish I had your eye for detail. I want to decorate my bedroom but without looking on websites for inspiration i would get nowhere.

  7. Frances says:

    I actual just had fabric made through spoonflower. It was great because I was able to design and get exactly what I wanted for the fabric I made into curtains. So glad you posted about them and I now have learned more about the company.

  8. meg says:

    I used spoonflower before and love it!

  9. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for this post!!!! I have been wanting to design my own fabric for a long time and was not sure how to go about it. This is a perfect solution and I look forward to exploring the Spoonflower website and creating something special for myself.

    Also, your blog is great!! Lots of wonderful tips!!

  10. I am so impressed with Spoonflower! They have found a real market niche — and I love the focus on Made in America. Thank you for sharing this. I’m not a designer but I do buy fabric and will shop from Spoonflower in the future!

  11. I’ve been wanting to work with Spoonflower for a few months…I just can’t decide which of my images to start with for making pillows! Thanks for this — you’ve spurred me on!

  12. lemurific says:

    I think they have a great market and provide a great service, but it is unclear about the origins of their fabric. Yes, it is PRINTED in the USA. Given this qualifier, I assume that their fabric is sourced out of the US.

  13. I’m an old school textile designer when we didn’t even have computer and we designed with paint and brush :). I learned the graphic programs later on but still you needed the big rolls or preparing the screens to print , now it seems so easy and friendly ,
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  14. Sara C says:

    Spoonflower has such great community among the designers. Other designers are very encouraging and helpful. I love to see how many nice compliments they leave foreach other’s designs. I began using their printing services several months ago and have discovered that I really enjoy textile design. It’s such fun to see your own ideas transferred onto a useable piece of fabric!

  15. Kathy Howard says:

    I started designing at Spoonflower in 2009. Just be forewarned it can be addicting to see your designs in print. There are free design programs if you want to give it a try: Paint.net and GIMP are two I use the most and I use png files so I can go back and to between the programs. There is a big learning curve to any of the programs, I think.

  16. I love Spoonflower, they are a great company and right down the street from me. I’ve used lots of their fabric. One thing I love is how great the designers are to work with, If you find a pattern you like but need it in another color most of them will change it for you. They have also donated fabrics for our Special Spaces makeovers.

  17. CentsationalGirl says:

    That’s a HUGE plus for digital printing Tammy, I can change the colors of any pattern quickly and will probably offer that service next year. Want it in navy instead of yellow? Easy! With traditional screenprinting you can only print one color at a time with screens cut for that purpose, plus there are also minimum yardage requirements. Overseas it can be as little as 100 yards but here in the States it’s typically 1000 yards for just one colorway.

  18. I’m so glad to learn about this company, and I’m crazy about your designs!

  19. As a professional print company on the west coast, I am constantly reading articles about other printing entrepreneurs across the country and learning what they have to offer. The designs look great, and I think it is really cool they let you in the facility to tour and take photos. Keep up the good work!

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