Guild member Marilyn Knepp describes her experience with the ‘design your own fabric’ site Spoonflower.


Two years ago, my friend Patti Wolff gave me a birthday gift certificate for Spoonflower.   I am not a designer; I mostly make quilts from patterns.  I have a huge stash and buy tons of commercially printed fabric.  What would I do with Spoonflower?


I went to spoonflower.com just to look around.  I learned that the site wasn’t just for those who wanted to design their own fabrics, there are billions of choices created by someone else that you can buy.  I needed a fabric with violets so I searched for “violet” and a million choices came up.  I was intrigued; I spent too many hours paging through choices before being totally overwhelmed.  I used a primrose fabric from my stash instead.


But then, I wanted to make a tote bag for my daughter to use in her start-up business.  Marjie and her business partner Christina have developed the Spellbound app to add an augmented reality experience to the enjoyment of children’s books.  It marries the technology that kids love with the joy of reading a physical book, and expands the experience and the understanding of the story.  They tote lots of books and devices to trade shows, sales calls, and author and publisher recruitment visits.  The perfect tote bag for them would use their cute and catchy company logos on a bag designed for the needed functionality.

Spoonflower was the obvious answer.  It is an online site where you can create or upload your own designs and have them printed on any of 20 different base fabrics or on wallpaper or gift wrap.  Your creations can be kept private and used only by you or offered for sale to others.  You can order fabrics in small amounts and, in my opinion, the cost was very reasonable for the one-off yards that I ordered.  I can attest to the quality of the printing and the fabrics.  My fabric was printed and shipped quickly.


You can upload files with your designs in a number of different formats or use the Spoonflower utility files to create a printable design.  My husband helped me create JPEG files using Photoshop.

One of our files had full size images for the front panels and for the pockets of the bag and would be printed on 60” wide cotton twill.  This was the most difficult file to create since the placement had to be perfect so that I could get precisely centered designs on the pattern pieces.  The fact that this was the first time that my husband (a Photoshop expert) and I (a quilting expert) had worked together to create a design file compounded the difficulty.  We didn’t speak the same language.  He would say, “Do you know what you want?”  And I would say, “yes,” and then ask for revisions (can we try the text in the medium blue rather than black?  How about green hair on kid 5 rather than olive?).  He would say, “you said you know what you want” and I wouldn’t see any contradiction between my yes answer and asking to try out a different color or slant.  I thought it was a design wall; he thought it was finished on take one.

Spoonflower Finished bag back (3)

The other fabrics were easier.  We uploaded a file with a single image of the company logo and then used the Spoonflower utility to try out different options for the type of repeat for an all over design.  We printed one version of this with a charcoal background on twill for the back panel and one version with a white background on Kona cotton for linings.

The last design was a stripe that we created in Photoshop using the colors in the Spellbound logos.  We had the hex codes for the colors in their logos and that made our job easier.  But, we did have to make some alterations in the colors and the Spoonflower utilities make that very easy by presenting color grids where you can click on your choice.  For the stripe, we uploaded a small square of the design and used the utility to expand it by repeating.  We had one yard printed with a horizontal stripe and then rotated it to make a second yard with a vertical stripe.

My designs are designated as private so you cannot find them on Spoonflower but offering designs for sale is easy if that is what you desire.  Also, I used the “collection” feature in Spoonflower to group my designs.  This makes it easier to order swatches, which we did.  I wanted to be certain that the colors we were using all printed approximately as we expected on the fabric we selected.  The swatch for my collection included five 8”x8” samples of the fabrics.  We did have to change one of our color choices before printing the actual yardage.  I also was able to use the swatch sampler to test whether I wanted to wash the fabric before using it and to see what differences washing might cause in texture, color, and size.


I was completely delighted with the Spoonflower experience and will not hesitate to use it again, and now I can think of several circumstances where it would present exactly the right solution.

I sometimes find myself in need of a fabric with a particular combination of color, style, and approach yet cannot find commercial fabric that fits the bill.  If I could draw, it would be easy to upload my own designs for printing.  Because I cannot draw or doodle, I would look in a book of public domain images to find an image that would work.  I’d scan and upload it, adjust colors, and then print exactly what I need.

Several years ago, an elderly relative asked me to repair a quilt that his father had made for him in the 1940s using a single printed fabric.  I looked a long time to find a fabric that would suffice for the repairs and had to settle for a less than great option.  Now, I would take a picture of the part of the quilt in the best condition and print my own.

Best of all, as Marjie’s company grows and prospers, I can continue to make tote bags for her whenever they need more for a growing sales force or updates as they change logos or taglines.

Copyright, of course, is an important condition and that’s why I specifically mention public domain images or creating only for personal use of the very old fabrics of unknown provenance.   As part of the upload process, Spoonflower does ask you to confirm that you hold copyright or have permission to use if the design is copyright protected.

There is a lot of help provided on the Spoonflower website, although I found I had to use the search function to find the articles covering my questions.  They also have a handbook and are now offering classes on using their applications.


I owe great thanks to my dear friend Patti.  She sees possibilities in me that that aren’t apparent to me, and her thoughtful gift took me out of my comfort zone.  If not for her, I never would have considered using Spoonflower, I could not have made this wonderful gift for my daughter, and I would not have learned these new skills.

-Marilyn Knepp

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This post was written by Mary Beth Donovan

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