In Bags & Accessories, Design inspiration, Fabric, In my studio

One of the first things I like to do when designing a new bag pattern is to figure out what fabric to use for the photo sample. Everything rides on the ability of that one cover shot to sell the pattern. It’s a lot to ask! Of course there are many other factors to consider but choosing fabrics is one of the firsts.

fabric audition 1

I start by “auditioning” fabrics in little piles all over my studio. (Ok, these are deliberate piles, not the piles created by rummaging for some long lost something.) I’m working on a bag now that’s made of canvas and has an accent fabric, a strap fabric and a coordinating lining fabric. I work with my stash and pull out every fabric that’s in the right color family. In natural light, I arrange the fabrics, squint, walk away, and mull them over.

Robert Kaufman Annie’s Attic Canvas in Emerald (large print)
Robert Kaufman hexagon print in teal and green, from Stitch Organic
Robert Kaufman Essex Linen Y/D in Black
Michael Miller  Stitch by Stitch in green
Rowan shot cotton in Aegean

fabric audition 2

Clothworks Picnic Pals, organic cotton
Robert Kaufman Annie’s Attic Canvas in Tangerine (large print)
Robert Kaufman Pure Solids, organic cotton
Robert Kaufman hexagon print in yellow, from Stitch Organic

fabric audition 3

Robert Kaufman Essex Linen in Indigo
Betz White Paint Drop print, via Spoonflower
Marcus Brothers Oasis Canvas, organic cotton

fabric audition 4Above:
Robert Kaufman Annie’s Attic Canvas in Garden
Kokka Ginko Leaf on cotton linen
Kokka Folk Modern Floral on cotton linen

If I have the time, I leave them out for a few days and occasionally rearrange, add or subtract fabrics from the piles. I try not to buy anything new but you know how that is! It’s also very helpful to have a few color cards of my favorite basics to pull from.

Another helpful trick is to take photos of the piles. Seeing the fabrics “flattened out” in a photo puts them on an even playing field, so to speak and gives me a new perspective.

Do you audition fabrics for your projects? What tricks do you use?

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Showing 5 comments
  • Plainstitch Deb

    I just made fabric basket samples for a class in that first Aunties Attic in the teal and lime- its fab, would make a wonderful one of your bags

    • Betz White

      Oh, good to know! I’ve sewn a prototype with it and it’s a great weight.

  • Sara

    Great topic! This is something I have been struggling to figure out. My personal fabric taste is very plain, and neutral colors. I love linen and wool. But they don’t photograph well. I’m designing a few new patterns right now and have been trying to balance my personal style with what stands out in an online picture. Do I sacrifice the simple style I love to appeal to more buyers? I’m experimenting with a fabric I designed and printed with Spoonflower. It’s much brighter than my usual fabric picks, but I think it will look much better for a cover photo.

    Do you make your bags with fabrics that you would carry around yourself, or is your personal style different?

    I love the blues and greens in your first photo!

    • Betz White

      I don’t think you need to change your style! I think that’s what will help define your brand. It is important to have a stellar photo so you should have a “star” for the cover, but that doesn’t mean it has to stray from what you love. Maybe research how other companies with neutral colored products photograph them. Experiment with which neutrals work best in photography. Maybe it’s contrast. I think solids and chambrays are having their heyday now!

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