asking for trouble

Sewing Notions Process

Dressmaking Pins fabric design

Let’s have a look at how I designed the above fabric pattern. If you follow me on Twitter you may remember this.

I have my best ideas in the early morning when half-asleep. This time it was my sewing notions ideas and this is what I got up and drew.


I already knew I was doing a buttons design so these were for the other three. The trims and thread spools came out pretty much exactly as I imagined but the dressmaking pins went through a lot of changes. They were initially going to be a stripe design, but when I did some googling to see what pin head designs were out there I kept seeing them in circular packaging, which was much nicer. This ended up being my inspiration (image from long-deleted eBay listing).


Here’s some screenshots I took of Illustrator as I came up with my version of that. I wish I’d thought to take more at the beginning, but this is all I have.

pins process

I use totally random colours at this point, just to differentiate things. There was a lot of maths for all the angles and to figure out a nice colour and design repeat around the pins. I wasn’t initially happy with the circular frame they’re held in so I had to give my pins a point. Once I had the design finished, I tried out different colours.

Picking colours for some new designs.

Once I knew what shades I’m working with (and checked that they work across all four designs, since they’re co-ordinates), I picked colours from my Spoonflower Colour Map. This shows how colours actually print on fabric so you can be sure it will print as you expect. If you don’t do this step, there can be some odd colour shifts. It’s especially important to do this for a contest entry as if you place in the top ten, your fabric is made available for sale, and if you live outside the US you probably haven’t been able to receive a test swatch to check yet. I wanted to keep to a small number of colours, so in the end I had pink, yellow, light blue, dark blue and white.


This is just a rough repeat to see how things look – this was one of the easiest repeats in the four as I didnt even need to rotate or flip anything. It works out perfectly as a half-brick repeat and has a nice hexagon design going on too.


Here’s the final design with the repeat all lined up. I decided the two circles of the frame were looking too heavy, so I removed one and had to add another colour – a light grey – to make it blend better. It looks really nice with a white or grey background too, but I didn’t want the four designs too look too similar. I can always upload more colourways later.

Sewing Notions Co-ordinates

The final step was combining all four designs into one file in Photoshop so I could upload it to Spoonflower. The other designs went through similar processes, though they were much quicker as they’re not exact repeats. If I remember to take more screenshots, I’ll show you the process of turning a sort-of repeat into an exact repeat.

Voting for the Sewing Notions contest is now open so I would really appreciate a vote for my designs – VOTE HERE!


Hello! I’m Marceline Smith, the designer and owner of Asking For Trouble. I create illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts using my cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii. This is my business and personal blog where I write about my creative doings, inspirations, travels, Japan trips and daily life. Read more »

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