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Designers say that they are often inspired by fabrics, which will then ignite an idea for a design. I must admit this happens to me quite often, when I’m perusing a fabric shop or swatch book, ideas pop into my mind inspired by the fabrics themselves. How do you begin you design process?

Each one of us has a personal style, fabrics we favor, colors we adore, colors we despise, and to be honest, sometimes we get lost when trying to decide on which fabric to use for that new sewing pattern! This post scratches the surface for what’s available out there in terms of fabrics, and offers some inspiration to get sewing!

Metallics, brocades, sequins, pastels: Wearing gold can make you feel like a goddess and there are many fun metallic fabrics available today. Patterns to consider: Go glam and try the Sean Skirt, or more girly with the Ruffle Skirt. Dress + belt by American Apparel

Florals: Liberty of London is the Queen of floral printed fabrics, but there are tons of economical calico fabrics available for very little money— even quilters cotton would work for this look. Patterns to consider: The JJ blouse has ruffles to cut from a floral and the Coffee Date Dress also has components which are screaming to be cut from complimentary florals. Dress by Espace Kiliwatch Paris

Bold Solids: I think of Izod, Vineyard Vines and Lily Pulitzer (I grew up on preppy Cape Cod) when I see these bright, eye-catching colors. Patterns to consider: Cut this Cropped Sweatshirt Jacket from a bold solid, or try the Sweatshirt Mini Dress for summer. T-shirts by American Apparel

Striped Cottons + Knits: Here’s where it’s time to break the rules! Combining different stripes can make for a fun + intriguing ensemble. Would you dare mix them? Patterns to consider: Pair red, white and blue striped fabrics and make the Nadia Blouse, or try the Susan Blouse with a sweet tie at the waist. Blouse by Iglaine, T-shirt American Apparel

Dotted Fabric: Polka dots can be paired with any of the above mentioned fabrics— and a tip to keep yourself still looking cool is to follow a consistent color palate or theme. Patterns to consider: Try combining different colored dotted prints into garments like a cute Blouse with Peplum, or this Dress with Bow.

All photos from View magazine issue 88, always an incredible source of design information + inspiration


  • Photoge01_large

    May 15, 2011, 07.43 PMby gedwoods

    Fabrics definitely inspire me, especially the touch and feel of them. I am especially drawn to fabric texture – fabrics with texture take me to incredible places! For example, I have been working alot lately with differently textured blacks, designing clothes that incorporate different textures. I find the results to be startling and fascinating.

    Since I started my own design shop, however, certain habits have changed. I used to love going into a fabric store and picking out different fabrics, with no idea what I might make from them until I got them home and started working on some ideas. I still do that, but if I want the design to become a product, I have to find fabrics that I can buy repeatably, and that is much more difficult with many fabrics. I’m still trying to find a good compromise between fabric-driven design and pattern-driven design as a result!

  • Missing

    May 7, 2011, 06.56 AMby kaymay59

    Yes it’s craziness at it’s best but I found it too confusing to navigate around. (plus I don’t understand French!) Sometimes I get a idea in my head of the fabric I’d like and then spend the next 2 years searching for it until I go off the idea!

  • Rose_large

    May 6, 2011, 09.47 PMby MissPx

    I have drawn many ideas, however I never know which fabrics to use on them so the drawings just stay in my sewing box until I come up with the material I want to use. Most the time I buy a whole load of fabrics (especially when there is a special deal going on) and I will not use the material till weeks later when I match a design with the fabric. Other times I see the fabric and I just think ‘this would be perfect if…’, but most the time I design as I go along, the original idea is not always the finished result.

    Most the time however I would say the fabric is the inspiration point.

  • 2011-01-31_14-59-40_683_large

    May 4, 2011, 01.40 PMby laha5822

    I find inspiration in fabric, for sure! I’ve found a wonderful warehouse in Michigan that gets a lot of designer surplus, tons of decorative upholstery fabric and great knits, so afternoons spent perusing there leave me with tons of great ideas!

    3 Replies
    • Temp_logo2_large

      May 4, 2011, 09.26 PMby Kovu

      Where in Michigan is this magical place?

    • 2011-01-31_14-59-40_683_large

      May 5, 2011, 02.26 AMby laha5822

      Sorry, I accidentally hit the “mark” button on your comment! The Fabric Warehouse in Warren… it takes some searching, but I’ve scored Burberry gabardine and Dior silk.

    • Temp_logo2_large

      May 6, 2011, 01.09 AMby Kovu

      Thank you!! I cant wait to go make a day of this!

  • 2_dsc_1140_large

    May 4, 2011, 10.34 AMby magdamagda

    all starting points are just as good – sometimes it’s the fabric that inspires the design, other times I search for fabric with an idea already in mind, sometimes I just want to try a certain technique and start from there… but all these can influence the outcome at any point, there are twists and turns, the process is very dynamic and…it ain’t over till it’s over!

    1 Reply
    • Birdie2_large

      May 6, 2011, 09.30 AMby littlewren

      I’m so jealous! where you are you have so much lovely inspirational fabric! Your pieces sing because of the integration of beautiful fabric and wonderful design! :)

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    May 3, 2011, 10.38 PMby flowergirl22

    fabric, oh hell I have fun searching for it the best time I have is when I go abroad, and just by chance come across a charity shop or a littel market town,, and find the perfect piece, usually discised as a dress ,,,

  • F4162-02_large

    May 3, 2011, 08.50 PMby oophelia

    thank you I like to learn about more fashion.

  • 30dc666f97397fb31c295913f5a1f0ab992d7e22_large_large

    May 3, 2011, 08.29 PMby nuiwida23

    Great post! I love the ruffle dress in the first and fourth pictures, could you please tell me where I can see clearer photos of its design? It might just be the inspiration I’ve been needing for a bag of fabric potential!

    2 Replies
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      May 3, 2011, 09.09 PMby alisondahl

      The dress is by Dress by Espace Kiliwatch, Paris. I just looked and they have a wild website! Check it out.
      Espace Kiliwatch

    • 30dc666f97397fb31c295913f5a1f0ab992d7e22_large_large

      May 4, 2011, 02.55 PMby nuiwida23

      Wow, that is a wild website! So wild that I can’t find a single photo of their current/past line…oh well :/

    • This is a question
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