Tuesday, November 15, 2011


October was the Month of Illness around here. At least one child and/or parent was sick all month long, and the youngest kid had back-to-back cold, roseola, cold, and another cold.

So I got pretty much nothing done for weeks. No new fabric designs, chicken nugget-like product for dinner every night, no housekeeping on the 2nd level since early fall. It's getting out of control.

Tonight I cooked a real dinner... we had raw veggies & hummus... this weekend I swear I will vacuum the heck out of the bedrooms... and I did something new for Spoonflower's advent calendar themed fabric of the week contest. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Memories of Home

Some new stuff I'm working on: a series of house ornaments. They're especially meaningful to me because I started with the house I grew up in. I haven't been inside it in almost 20 years... sure wish I could walk through and see what changed, what stayed the same all this time.

I'm planning on illustrating one of every style that appeals to me (notice I'm not promising any particular number of houses, ha!), but each one will be the house someone I know has lived in. Kind of like a house portrait, but made generic enough to appeal to anyone.

So far I have the '50s ranch, early 1900's gablefront, 1930's bungalow and 1970's split level. Next up, 1920's Cape Cod, 1990's colonial, and who knows what else I'll come up with. Maybe I'll even throw in a chicken coop or outhouse or two.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Arachnids and Parsnips?

Another wacky fabric design for Spoonflower's root vegetables contest. It's called Root Cellar and combines vegetables, assorted containers and spooky labels.

At first I was illustrating it much more realistically, with perspective, shading and 3D effects (see below). I was just about finished when I decided I hated it, scrapped it and started over.

The final one's much brighter and more fun, but the style of the first one made more sense because of the Halloween-y subject matter.

What do you think: Should I have gone with my initial idea and submitted the first (bottom) version?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

I wanted to share a great tutorial using my Halloween potions labels (available in the Silhouette online store).

Joy shows you how to start with shiny new wine bottles, age them using Mod Podge and other fun stuff, glue the labels on, and create fantastic Halloween party decorations. Or set them up on a shelf in your kitchen any time of the year and make visitors really nervous. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tiered skirt tutorial

I've been thinking, if I'm going to be designing fabric, I should probably start sewing more. And taking pictures of my projects and posting them. And hopefully putting together tutorials about what I make. So here goes.

It's my first tutorial, so please let me know if something makes no sense or if you need more explanation.

My oldest loves skirts and especially ones that flutter out when she spins. She also loves robots, Spider Man, He-Man, bugs and playing in muddy puddles. So just for her, I designed this skirt.

It's based on a very simple tiered style skirt, where four rectangles of increasing width are gathered and sewn together. The waist is a channel folded over and sewn shut with elastic threaded through it. Easy, even for me!

You can buy my preprinted robot skirt kit here (the photos show how the printed yard looks), or just follow the instructions and use any fabric you have on hand. My preprinted fabric, and the below measurements and instructions make a mid-calf length skirt that fits about a 5T/6T.

- You'll need a length of 1" wide elastic (about 1" longer than the diameter of the waist measurement of the wearer), some fabric (one yard should do it; either one color or a bunch of coordinating patterns and colors), and the usual stuff: thread, scissors, sewing machine, iron.

Here's how to make it:

1. Measure & cut: You'll need 4 rectangles to make the four tiers. Measurements are 30" x 7.25" (A, in photo above), 44.25" x 4.75" (B, above), 56" x 4.75" (C, above, in 2 pieces), 100" x 4.75" (D, above, also in 2 pieces).

In my limited sewing experience, I've found that a rotary cutter, straightedge and cutting mat are invaluable. Without them, I'd never be able to cut a straight line.

In the photo above, you'll see the pieces cut from my preprinted pattern. Since the two largest rectangles are wider than the yard of fabric, I had to make them in sections and piece them together. You might have to do that, too, depending on the width of your fabric.

Because of the crazy busy pattern on my fabric, once the skirt was sewn together the seams were pretty much invisible. My fabric also has a robot doll and a little bag to put her in printed on the yard, so you'll see pieces for those on the right side of the photo.

2. Gather tiers: Adjust sewing machine to longest stitch length and sew a straight stitch along top edge of tiers B, C and D. Pull bobbin thread to gather fabric into a ruffle (see photo, above) until the width of each tier matches the bottom of the tier it will be sewn to.

For example, you'll gather the top of tier B until its gathered width equals 30", which is the width of tier A. Tier C's gathered width should equal 44.25". Tier D's gathered width should equal 56".

3. Sew tiers together: Pin right sides of the four tiers together (see photo above), A at the top, then B, then C, with D at the bottom, adjusting the gather if necessary so the widths match up. Sew using a straight stitch. Zigzag stitch along the edges you just sewed to prevent fraying.

I always put the gathered piece on top and the flat piece on the bottom when sewing; that way I can make sure the presser foot isn't pulling out the gather as I sew. I get so frustrated when I mess up and have to rip out all the seams and start over, which happens a lot, so I'm all for tips and tricks to prevent that!

Here's what it looks like with all the tiers sewn together. This is my favorite part... it actually looks like a skirt here!

4. Sew side of skirt: Pin right sides of skirt together and sew, then zigzag the edges to prevent fraying.

(Note: It seems to be easier, for me at least, to sew the tiers together when they're flat. Some tutorials have you sew each tier together on the short side, then gather, then sew all the tiers to each other. I think having them flat makes it easier to measure and pin, so that's what I'm recommending here.)

5. Create waistband: Fold over 1/4" of top edge (on tier A), press. Fold sewn edge down again, creating a 1-1/8˝ channel, press and sew again. Feed the elastic through the channel. Put a safety pin on one end of elastic to help it slide through more easily. Overlap ends of elastic, hand sew or machine sew together. Blind stitch the channel closed.

6. Hem: Fold over 1/4˝ of bottom edge (on tier D), press. Fold entire seam over again, press, and sew in place.

7. Topstitch: Sew a straight stitch just above the seam where each of the tiers are sewn together (it's the white dashed line in the photo above. Forgot to take a picture of it!). This is totally optional, but I think it gives the skirt a really nice finishing touch and makes it look more professional.

That’s it… now have a little one try it on and twirl away!

Font nerd

This is a darn cool site for retro style fonts. I love stuff with a sense of history that also looks really cool.

They have it set up so you can pay what you want for any font, which would have been a godsend about 15 years ago when I first started freelancing and had around $500 to my name.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Someone besides me likes old neon signs! It really makes me happy knowing I can design something people like enough to want to buy.

I have no idea what in the world you'd use this fabric for, besides the obvious (bowling shirts? bowling bags?), but it does look pretty cool. I would love to see whatever anyone comes up with using the fabric.

So counting this week, I've won four Spoonflower fabric of the week contests. According to the Spoonflower people, I'm in danger of becoming a SF celebrity! That's pretty darn awesome. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Color challenged

Every time I choose the perfect color to paint a room, it's wrong. I have a very hard time picking palettes. I can't decide on the right green. You'd think I'd have an easier time of it, having a BFA in visual art plus a certificate in botanical illustration.

Most of my classes pretty rigorously emphasized the basics: cool vs. warm colors; the fact that value is actually more important than color; the properties of paint and other mediums; how colors change depending on where they're viewed, what they're next to, and the light they're viewed in; how reflected light affects a color.

Still, I feel like I'm lost when it comes to choosing colors. For any purpose. Like when I have to choose a fourth color to complete my limited palette Spoonflower fabric of the week contest design: black, white, sage-y green/blue, and one color of my choice.

I tried light salmon pink, orange, rust, dull brown, warm gray, periwinkle, yellow, gold... and settled on a darker version of the aqua. Maybe I'll upload the others and see what everyone else thinks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I never was too keen on bowling. The last time I went, I was about 10 years old and still not strong enough to pick up even the kids' bowling ball with one hand. My score was something like 75.

The great thing about Spoonflower's weekly contests is that just about everyone can find something in the subject, a unique angle or take on it, to illustrate.

Like bowling: I don't bowl, but I love old neon signs. Fishing... I don't fish, but always thought the lures looked like jewelry or candy. Squid... I just happened to have watched a National Geographic documentary about giant squids a couple days before the contest subject was announced.

Anyway here's this week's design. I'm pretty happy with it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

And we have a winner!

I checked my email this morning and was again completely surprised to see that my Hawaiian cheater quilt design tied with this lovely panel by Jessica Greenwalt as winner of Spoonflower's Fabric of the Week contest! I'm thrilled, and congrats Jessica!

I guess I am good at something besides changing diapers and vacuuming. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Spoonflower's weekly contest is a Hawaiian cheater quilt design. Here's my entry (the aqua one) plus some additional versions.

It's also Free Swatch Day on Spoonflower: any one swatch on any fabric shipped for free!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Connecting Threads contest entries

Here they are, the six that were uploaded and the one that didn't (never got a confirmation email for it... figures that that's one of the better ones.) They're all new designs made just for Connecting Threads, and voting just opened today!

There are many more entries than I thought there'd be, and a lot of really good designs. I'm not expecting to be a finalist, but a little part of me is holding out hope. You never know; stranger things have happened.

Although it seems like good stuff only happens when I least expect it -- cliche but oh so true -- meeting my husband; all my fabulous clients who let me stay home, draw monsters and design wacky projects and actually, unbelievably PAY me for it (yay!); having three wonderful but exhausting kids; getting chosen to paint a fiberglass bulldog; becoming an artist for Silhouette America. Serendipity has played such a part in all of these things. It's always seemed like the more I hope for something, the more likely it is that I don't get it.

It could be that the time is just not right, and somehow (serendipity again?), I end up in a better place later down the road... "everything happens for a reason" and all of that. Which is easy to believe in hindsight; not so easy to keep in mind in the midst of the moment.

Okay, I'm depressing myself. Honestly, though, I would so love the opportunity to be a real fabric designer, not just a wanna-be, floundering about not knowing what the heck I'm doing. More than the winning or prize money, it would be fantastic to have validation that yeah, I'm not that bad of a designer and I really can do something well besides change diapers. :) And it's just really darn cool to see my designs sewn up into something useful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I just spent a week in marathon design mode. I came up with 7 different fabrics for Connecting Threads' contest and am not thrilled with most of them, as usual. It's so hard to not be overly critical of one's own work.

I've been trying to come up with something truly unique and innovative and just really cool to look at. Something that lots of people will look at and think, I need to buy that. For no particular reason or project, just because they think it's fantastic and must own a couple yards of it. Someday I'll come up with that fabric. I don't think any one of those seven is it, though.

Here's my favorite of them all, called "Road Trip". It's inspired by the old mid-century motel signs along Lincoln Ave. in Chicago's northwest side. I used to drive to work that way and thought someday when I had the time, money and a good camera, I wanted to come back and take pictures of the signs at twilight. Never did get around to it.

Twilight's the loveliest time in a city, in my opinion, because you get a wonderful combination of neon and streetlight combined with sunset glow reflecting off all the surfaces. It's hypnotic and melancholy all at the same time, and does a good job at camouflaging the stark and ugly that's so common in urban areas.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Robots aren't for girls"

First, a bit of background. My dad was raised in a very traditional family. My mom has a very different viewpoint.

Luckily hers won. As kids, my brother had dolls; I had Tonka trucks. And luckily for me, there were few expectations or limitations in my house about what either of us could or couldn't do, play with, wear, say, be or act because of our gender.

When I was 12, we went to a Christmas party sponsored by my dad's employer. Gifts were given out: real full-size basketballs for the boys, and latch-hook kits for the girls. I'm still mad about that.

Probably because of my upbringing, I've always believed -- still do -- that girls and boys both benefit from things for the other gender. Why shouldn't girls play with Legos and cars and trucks? Why can't a boy have a doll or play dress-up? Seems to me it can only help. Girls might learn skills they someday can put to use as an architect; boys might discover an affinity as a teacher.

Last year I did a design and entered it into a contest for Robeez baby shoes. It was a cute little robot, and I intentionally made it fairly gender-neutral, and wrote that either a boy or girl could wear the shoes. Someone commented on my design that she didn't think it appropriate for girls to wear robot-themed anything, and so she wouldn't be voting for mine.

The point of this? I guess it's that whenever I can, I'm going to try and design things that aren't the same old cliche: most everything for girls is an explosion of pink, frills, butterflies and glitter; boys get sports, vehicles, stripes and monkeys. Kids should have more choices and I'm going to try to do my tiny little part to provide them. Starting with a robot skirt for girls (you can buy it here). Which, incidentally, did not make the top 10 in Spoonflower's fabric of the week contest. I honestly thought it was a really good design, despite the robots.

Okay, soliloquy over. Here's my oldest daughter wearing her robot skirt. She loves it. I'm happy. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ruffles & robots

It's coming together, slowly but surely!

This is the robot doll peeking out from the mini bag. I used extra fabric from the edge to make the handles.


I have about a million ideas but not enough time in a day to design them all. This is one example where I was so excited to create it, I didn't really think about how much time it would take to design little motifs for 50 different coffee cups... one for each state... yikes!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Now I HAVE to dig out my thread...

It's here -- my robot twirly skirt! Now I just need to stay awake long enough after the kids go to bed to sew it together. I sure hope it works!

Who wants to enter another fabric design contest?

Me! Me! Me! [jumping up and down and clapping hands]

One of the fabric companies, Connecting Threads (which I hadn't heard of until recently, when my mom gave me one of their catalogs) is having a fabric design contest. Details are here.

Connecting Threads is cool because their exclusive fabric collections and quilt kits are incredibly inexpensive compared to other designer fabrics ($5 or $6 a yard versus $10 on up). And I'm guessing by the looks of their recent emails, they're trying to appeal to a younger demographic who has less traditional tastes (me!), so my stuff might stand a ghost of a chance. Yay!

Did I mention I think I want to be a fabric designer when I grow up?!

The best part is that one person is allowed multiple entires. My biggest problem with the Spoonflower / Michael Miller contest was that each designer was limited to only one. Waaay too much pressure!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More robots and spacey stuff

This is my entry into Spoonflower's fabric of the week contest. The theme was "one yard skirt pattern", and I thought the world needed some girly science / space / robot designs, so here it is!

It makes a 5T-sized tiered twirly skirt and includes a robot doll and a tiny bag she can fit into. If I were a size 5T, I would totally wear this skirt! But since I'm not, maybe my girls would like to try it out. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011


I just received three yards of my Space Alphabet fabric and coordinates from Spoonflower... wow! I feel like a real designer now!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Space Alphabet for the Silhouette

Available this week in the Silhouette online store, print & cut versions of every letter of the alphabet!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Northern Illinois Prairie Dog

It was reeeally hard trying to paint this in the family room while a preschooler, toddler, and baby roamed about! But he's all done and is getting clear coated today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

At least the drawing's done

As usual, I'm procrastinating. Might have something to do with having 3 kids 4 & under. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wow, I won!

Another Spoonflower Fabric of the Week winner! Again, I didn't think mine had a chance against the other great designs. What a nice surprise!

The coolest thing has to be how they described it: "More fabric for geeks..."! Maybe that's my niche?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Public art, yay!

I just found out that my weird wildflower-covered dog is one of the chosen designs! I've been wanting to paint a giant fiberglass animal since Chicago's Cows on Parade in the '90s. It might sound kind of lame, but I'm pretty excited about it.

It'll be displayed in Batavia, Illinois this summer. Here's the website with more details about the project:Bulldogs Unleashed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What I should've entered

It's in the early stages, so please excuse the unfinished-ness, but this was my big idea that I subsequently talked myself out of designing for Project Selvage. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that (sigh).

Instead, a much more finished version is coming soon to a Spoonflower Fabric of the Week contest near you!

Friday, April 1, 2011


I know the decision was based on what they thought would sell, but still, I can't help but feel a bit sad that my design didn't make it to the semifinals.

Should've gone with my initial idea of a mod space-themed design. Oh well... there's always next time.

Monday, March 28, 2011


New this week in the Silhouette store... classic toys! They're print and cut files with a bunch of my watercolor illustrations, similar to the Hey Diddle Diddle characters (also available in the store!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hey diddle diddle

I just spent the last couple weeks working on a fabric design for Spoonflower's Project Selvage. It was grueling... I had no idea what I wanted to do, couldn't settle on any one idea and kept second-guessing myself... ugh.

Anyway it's done — submitted and entered into the contest yesterday. While it would be super awesome to win, I don't think it will. There's too much great competition! Still, I'm happy with the way it turned out.

As a bonus, I've decided to offer the illustrations for sale in the Silhouette online store. They use the print & cut feature, and would be really cute framed for a baby's room.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One-handed design

Really! I was holding the baby the whole three hours it took me to throw this together last night, so I only had one hand free!

It ended up coming in 4th place... not too shabby.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Top Ten

This week's design was #5 in Spoonflower's Fabric of the Week contest. It's a limited palette repeat pattern border print. My husband didn't like it, though he did vote for it... I admit, it's not my favorite, either.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Award winning designer"

Can I legitimately add that to my resume if the only award I've ever won for my design (not fine art) work is a Spoonflower Fabric of the Week contest?? I'll take it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Time travel

I seem to be on this medieval kick lately, making a bunch of designs for the Silhouette machine (available this month in the Silhouette store). It's kind of a morbid fascination; after all, people died of the black plague and believed bathing was evil back then. Is it weird that I've always wanted to experience that time period firsthand?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I received a really fantastic, fancy sewing machine for Christmas which got me looking at, and thinking about fabric design. I've wanted to try my hand at it for a while... now I had the motivation.

A few weeks ago I was browsing fabrics for sale and stumbled upon Spoonflower. Then I discovered they held weekly design contests, each with a new theme. Some are pretty unique, like the Civil Rights Toile contest (in which my fabric placed second).

My favorite design so far has been my Court Jester pattern. It's for sale here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sketchbook Project

Last summer, I was honored to be chosen by Faucethead Creative as one of four artists they sponsored for The Sketchbook Project.

They asked everyone who was interested in being chosen for sponsorship why they should be chosen. I wrote something completely nutty and dumb like "I'm a stay at home/work at home mom of two and we're expecting our 3rd child in the fall. I have an art degree but rarely get to use it."

Somehow they decided to take a chance on the weird cat lady, so I spent the summer ripping paper and gluing random stuff into the book. And it turned out pretty cool.