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Fragments – A French Homestead Life

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I have always loved fabrics, often walking round fabric stores with my thumb and forefinger primed to rub and feel the weight, grain, texture and weaves. You can tell alot by simply doing this, mainly if the fabric is a natural fibre or man-made and its density of weave. I woukd swiftly skim through bolts and books and wait till my fingers felt something that triggered an excitement. My favorite fabrics are linens, huckabacks, cottons, calico, toiles, tweeds, natural fibres, mainly for interiors.

I worked at the Curtain Exchange in London back in the 1990’s relishing being amongst over 400 pairs of curtains, a fabric cocoon, as the many drapes insulated the sounds of Londons metropolis completely. Here I learnt about how to hang curtains, the various and sometime complex headings of curtains, the types of hooks to support those headings, for example French pleats need a long hook to keep the pleat nice and taught and straight, interlinings for warmth and weighting curtains with lead beads to keep there shape when drawn. Fabrics could transform a rooms atmosphere with texture and colour, change the shape of walls depending on the pattern orientation and as humans we are so well tuned into fabrics as an emotive element, just a blue striped cotton transports us to the briney sea and call of gulls!

I had however never thought of designing fabrics, it was a mystery…until last year. Finding a surplus of floral photos, illustrations and many fabric remnants from brocantes, I studiously learnt photoshop and pattern designing. I watched Liberty’s of London designing their seasonal offerings and found fabric designing really rewarding. With the print on demand so competitive now, what joy to design my own unique fabric, get it printed in a fabric of my choice, with over 100 now available, and make whatever I want from it. What was once the domain of the interior designer had suddenly become accessible and for me, a moment of wow!

From a photograph of ivy.

So I tinker with my fabric scraps and drawings, and carefully choosing elements, transform with line, tone, sharpness, mirror, rotate and start to develope a pattern. Sometimes the design feels right and I complete in about an hour. Some need to be revisited a few days later.

I like to ge organized too, putting them into clear categories, and building collections. I have pastoral designs, country cottage and country house groupings, nursery and my favorite, circus and fun fair.

Recently a scrap of wallpaper from an art friends renovation caught my eye. I love French toile and before this piece was lost, I grabbed a screen shot. Below is the fragment and further down the fabric designed from it and I am really pleased with the colouring and images that came out of the rotations.

Cotton handkerchiefs and chips of China find their way into my fragment box, to be then photographed and entered into my design folders. Late evenings are my favorite time to design, with some soft ambient or jazz music and the dogs snoozing on the sofa. I give myself an hour and if happy, allocate the design to a collection. From there the fabric might be used for a sewing project, as a background to some of my illustrations that customers have ordered for themed cushions, like Pipi pintade or the Busy Bees or I am developing a collection of wrapping paper designs.

The transformation process is what thrills me and hopefully over the next 18 months, with our attelier finished, the sewing machines will be producing some interesting products. And just this week, a beautiful 60’s Singer sewing machine came my way…excited or what!

Very heavy. Metal casing.
Watercolour illustration
Fabric remnant with colour changes, contrast adjustments, cloning, cutting and repositioning.

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