Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

mosaic print


My friend and creative collaborator Ursula and I recently decided to open an online shop. We wanted to make small (and therefore special) runs of items which we could then refresh with something new as they sell out. We are calling it Twentyfive, as in only twentyfive of each piece are made. I decided to focus on housewares and accessories and designed two pillows based on zillij tile designs I fell in love with while travelling in Spain with Kirk in 2001. I also decided to make scarves with a print on them, and test out a local digital fabric printer (Spoonflower) in the process. I thought you might be interested to see how the design developed:

Inspiration photo

Sketch of pattern outline

I decided to isolate three color blocks from the sketch. This part is fun, a couple of hours work drawing while watching a movie with the hubbie. Just don’t try watching a foreign film or something like Deadwood where you need subtitles:

Layer 1

Layer 2

Layer 3

Then it’s time to scan into the computer and do a process called color reduction in Photoshop, so that you can add color. You lose some of the subtlety of the pencil when you do this, but I do try to keep the character of the line as intact as I can:

Layer 1 with color

Layer 2 with color

Layer 3 with color

I wanted this to look deep, mysterious and lush so I decided to add a background by scanning and color reducing a piece of fabric I printed years ago:


Then I put it all together, added some extra elements and put it into repeat so that it will create a rhythmic design across the whole piece of fabric. I taught myself how to build a repeat and do color reduction in Photoshop by reading a book called Adobe Photoshop for Textile Design by Frederick L. Chipkin. I worked my way step by step through his instructions a few times and then ignored the parts of it that seemed clumsy and came up with a mishmash that worked better for me once I understood the fundamental concepts. This entailed hours of sometimes tedious and fiddly work at the computer, and plenty of coffee/snacks breaks:

mosaic repeat version 1

Now I had to make sure that all the colors will print properly which involves laboriously picking through the tiny colored squares on the color chart I ordered from Spoonflower, and matching the code from the chart to the code in the digital file I have created. Then I saved it as the correct type of digital file and uploaded it to the printer’s website. Then the nervous wait until the two yard sample of fabric arrives:

mosaic sample fabric version 1

Ugh! What was I thinking? Waaayy too busy, and the color is less intense than I wanted it to be..not deep, mysterious and lush at all. And the print didn’t come through to the backside of the fabric so I’m thinking it just won’t work for a scarf. Now my timeline before the Twentyfive launch is getting tight, but back to the drawing board…..

I decided to add another zillij design, the one I used for the Arabesque pillow:

Layer 4

Add a few more design elements from the first version and put in a basic repeat. More hours at the computer and more coffee. I think I may be faster at this next time?!:

mosaic, basic repeat

Now I check how the print will look by loading the image to Spoonflower’s website:

It looked much better! But I still felt like the rhythm of the repeat was too static. I wanted it to have more flow, so I went back to the computer and put it into a half brick repeat and added some color:

And to see how that looks on Spoonflower:

I ordered more sample yardage, and again waited impatiently until it arrived:

mosaic fabric, version 2

Although I checked the color codes, some of the colors shifted during printing in a way I wasn’t happy with. For production I did tweak the colors again a bit. To see the finished scarf after it has been washed, cut and sewn click here.

7 Responses to “mosaic print”

  1. ruchapowers

    So great to see your process ‘in action’. I already loved the finished scarf but seeing this only makes it seem MORE special…like you! Good job!

  2. tante steffy & cseza mae

    Hi oamsi!!
    Wow u rock!!! we loved BOTH the 1st design AND the final ……. youre rite the 2nd was better 4 what it was intended…….
    the 1st design had a retro sense about it and u should use it vintage-y drindl skirt or some sort of “frock” we’d buy it!!
    we xxxooo u lots!! czesa & steffy

  3. Jacquelyn Marie

    Oami, Thank you so much for your detailed description (with graphics) of designing and printing your scarf. So much work. You have such patience with the computer, colors, printing process.

    And such a beautiful work of art from your first photo in Spain. Well, I just had to buy one for myself.

    You are doing so well with the new technologies in your art/creative work. Much love, GM Jacquelyn

  4. ursula

    i’m still as blown away by these prints as the first time i saw them (on my phone!). hope you saved me 2 yds of the mosaic II, i want to make myself a dress. great descriptive process here by the way you big textile nerd.

  5. Aunt Diana

    I loved your step by step description of process….very empowering. Not to me, though as I dont have nearly enough patience. But am fascinated by the interaction between your work and that of others (the tile, the computer programme, the text)…the sort of intertextuality that happens in all creative work, writing, painting etc. Creating new knowledge/meaning from combined sources. And I thought the first one too was wonderfully 50s (although my taste goes for the second). Great work.


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