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Design With Your Children

14 January 2021 08:30


So, we're back in Lockdown and back to home schooling for many of you.

If you want to encourage your children with something creative, why not try designing fabric together?

Creating a seamless repeat is tricky, so avoid that.  Otherwise, there are all sorts of ways you can create a design which even the youngest children can join in with.  Imagine the satisfaction they will feel when they see their design printed on fabric!  You can even go on to make something with the fabric!

There are a number of suggestions and tutorials already on the blog which will work well with children.  I'll list them at the bottom.  But today, I want to share with you a way of designing which has been used by a school with their 6 and 7  year olds for a couple of years.  The designing links in with a project on Africa, I believe.  The designs are then printed onto tea towels and sold (probably to parents!) as a school fund-raiser.

The process is similar to one I've described before (Designing for Beginners - Create a Design with Paper Shapes)  but rather more dramatic.

You will need:

A piece of black paper (A4 is probably about right, maybe A3 if you need the shapes to be bigger)  Card may be easier to manage, but you may not have it available.

Paper in 4 - 6 strong colours, mainly primary and secondary colours

Scissors (optional)


Creating your design:

Use the black paper as a background.  (Black works well in small quantities with pigment ink, but not so well as a main colour.  You also need good contrast between black and other colours.)

 Cut out shapes in coloured paper.  Stick to between 4 and 6 colours for best effect.  If you prefer, you could tear the shapes.  This will obviously give a different effect.  Don't make the shapes too small.

Arrange the shapes on the black paper.  A symmetrical design looks good.  You can make it symmetrical one way, or both ways.  If you want a design which is symmetrical both ways, you only need to create a quarter of it.  Choosing a mirror  repeat on the website will give you the symmetry.  (More about that later.)

** If you're using this as an 'art lesson' in your home school, you could talk about African designs in general, other artists who use(d) colour blocks or symmetry, what symmetry is, shapes, etc. , depending on the age of your children.  Google 'Mondrian Art' for lots of pictures and ideas about using Mondrian in your art lesson. **

Mondrian's famous colour block painting

Once you're happy with your design, you may decide to leave it at that.  However, if you want to get it printed you need to upload it to our website.

Getting your design printed:

First you need to get your design into a file format suitable for printing.  Jpg is simplest.

Either photograph or scan your design.  If you photograph it, ideally you need to be immediately above.  Make sure the design is square in the frame.  Take the highest resolution you can - you can always make a design smaller, you can't make it bigger.  Most mobile phone cameras produce photos at 72dpi.  Your design needs to be at least 150dpi to print.  A photograph which is 107cms wide at 72dpi will only be 51cms wide at 150dpi.  For the same reason, select the highest resolution on your scanner if you scan your design.  Some scanners tend to make the background grey rather than white, but that shouldn't matter with this design.  

Put your design into editing software such as Photoshop or  ( is shareware - free - and simpler to use than Photoshop.  It does everything you need to get your design ready to upload.  You can download it here.)

Make sure you're happy with your design. You may be able to rectify any little mistakes.  If you want a white border round your design, you can add that here.  Check the size - both the dpi and the actual size.  It needs to be 150dpi.  Changing that will change the measurements, so check that they're what you want.  You will be able to make your design smaller on the website, but not bigger if your dpi is 150.  Your design doesn't need to be as big as the fabric you want; you can repeat the pattern to fill the fabric.  Make your design the size you think looks good.    You only need one tile (one repeat of the design.)  The website will repeat your design to fill the fabric.

If you want your design to be symmetrical vertically and horizontally, you can do that manually, as you design your pattern, or you can design a quarter of your design and let the website repeat (mirror) make it symmetrical.

Give your design a suitable name.  (Save it with that name.)

Upload your design in the Create section of the website.

Now you can play around with the different repeats and the size.  The image will show you what they look like.

Here, I've selected a half drop repeat and made the design 1 click smaller (200dpi).  In this view, I've selected the Fat Quarter size, because that's the size of fabric I want to buy, so it shows what it will look like at that size.

When you're happy with your design, save it. At this point you will have to create an account if you haven't already got one.

Order your fabric!  With such a dark, all-over design, I would advise against ordering it on the 130gsm fabric.  This is a fairly lightweight fabric with a relatively open weave.  A dark all-over pattern puts a lot of ink onto the fabric - pigment ink sits on top of the fabric - and tends to make the fabric stiff with a slightly 'sticky' feel.  It works well on the heavier fabrics, including tea towel fabric, which you can also use for other projects.


You will also need to take care when washing a design like this one.  You should always wash printed fabric on a cool wash (30° max) with phosphate-free detergent, but dark designs like this are more easily damaged.

If you prefer a paler design, use a grey background with pastel shapes.


If you're thinking, 'This is all too much.  I don't have the resources.  I can't help with this', look out for another blog post on Sunday, giving details of our next Fabric Fun Craft Club when we will create a design like this together, get it printed and make it into a drawstring bag.  Suitable for aspiring designers of any age!

Also look out for next week's post, when I will announce details of our delayed children's design competition, with a theme of Geometric - so this type of design is perfect!