Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fabric Design with Heather Ross

Fellow bloggers: have you ever had a post that seemed so big, so overwhelming, and so daunting to write that you just keep putting it off and putting it off, until you eventually realize you may never write it?

My Quilt Market blog posts have fallen into that category in the past. It just seems like it will take hours to upload all of the photos I want to share, edit them all, and write the perfect blog post in which every word is witty, selectively chosen, insightful, and entertaining. It seems like a tall order.

Well, this is another one of those posts. After sitting in my blog dashboard as a draft for the past 15 months, I'm just going to write a few words and click publish. Because, you know, I have this OCD thing going on that won't let me have closure on an event until I blog about it.

Me & Heather Ross!

So yeah, that's me and Heather Ross in July 2010. Heather, who has been pregnant, carried a child to term, given birth, and survived her first few months of motherhood, all while this post has been sitting in my draft folder. No big deal.

Pacific Northwest College of Art, July 2010

Last July, I traveled to Portland, Oregon (for the first time ever) to take Heather's class, Introduction to Fabric Design using Photoshop, at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

Pacific Northwest College of Art, July 2010

Heather was a GREAT teacher -- fun, laid-back, super patient, inspirational, full of tips & tricks, and HILARIOUS. She was pretty tickled that a man was taking her class. In fact, I seem to remember that she called me "THE MAN" all weekend. Did I mention that she was hilarious?

Heather started the class by quickly walking us through her design process by quickly drawing up a design, coloring it, moving it around, and setting up a basic repeat. It was a basic, but very Heather Ross, sketch of rainbow-striped toe socks. Looking around, I could see everyone's jaws were hitting the ground at about the same speed that mine did. We all agreed that, within 20 minutes or so, Heather had just designed a fabric that we would all happily purchase.

Heather Ross Fabric Design class, July 2010

I thoroughly enjoyed spending a few days in Portland. The city was everything I had hoped it would be, and was extremely welcoming of us east coasters. And the PNCA was the perfect venue for a weekend of creative thinking.


Here's the Whole Foods that was just about halfway in between my hotel and PNCA, right in the heart of the Pearl, where I had breakfast each morning. I still drool when I think about the beignets they had there. Our Whole Foods here in NC doesn't carry beignets. : (

Whole Foods in the Pearl District, Portland OR

It was during this trip that I also got to meet some of my sisters from some other misters, the Sweet Hot Yams themselves. They were like my personal welcoming committee in Portland. Here we are on a beautiful July evening enjoying a yummy dinner at the Paragon. From left to right, that's Mo, Monica, me, Terri, and Violet. It's funny -- looking back, I can remember how very nervous I was to meet them all.

PDX Fabric Fun

Monica even slipped me some cuts from her not-yet-released (at the time) fabric line, Holiday Happy. Of course, when I had planned on writing this blog post 15 months ago, this was going to be the "nyah nyah, look at this super top secret fabric that I got from the designer herself and it's not even out yet" picture.

Holiday Happy

Here's Violet and Terri again with another super sweet and amazing Yammie, Ms. Traci of Hip Fabric.

Dinner in the pearl

Here's a picture that Violet took of me at dinner that night.

Quilt Dad

Um, so I just realized that my photos kind of reveal the type of traveler that I am. Notice that I made it a point to not only visit, but to remember for eternity by taking pictures of, both a bakery ...

Pearl Bakery, Portland OR

... and a cupcake shop. Hmmmm, guess I'm not too good at keeping my sweet tooth under wraps.

(Fun fact: the photo below of Cupcake Jones was recently spotted on Flickr by a company putting together a visitor's guide to Portland, and they asked if they could include it. Sure!)

Cupcake Jones in the Pearl District, Portland OR

Here's a photo taken by Abi of the classroom setting. One of these things is not like the other! Can you spot me sitting over there by the window, deep in design thought?


Here's a pic that fellow classmate Megan of Lucy & Norman took when Heather was showing me something in Photoshop. It probably had something to do with repeats, which is why I look so bewildered and am trying SO hard to remember everything that she was telling me.

Heather and John

BTW, it was great to meet Megan, a long-time Flickr friend of mine, in person for the first time. Here she is with Heather. She doesn't look quite as bewildered as me.

Me and Heather Ross!

Megan designed a really cute cheater print featuring pigs and bacon.

My finished fabric design on paper

Here's Heather towards the end of the class, when we all printed out our fabric designs and laid them out on the floor to really take in what we had accomplished in just a few short days. Here, she's giving some advice to Amy from Amy a la Mode, another Flickr friend that I was glad to have the chance to meet in person.

fabric design class

So do you want to see the fabric that I designed? Here's my print -- a couple of cute foxes that I sketched in different poses, along with some floral rings that I drew and designed. I began with a few pencil sketches and, with Heather's help, learned how to digitize and color my art, as well as create repeats in the pattern.

My fox fabric

I also played a bit with each sketch and auditioned different color combinations. You can see better here how Heather influenced our work -- she taught us how to keep the rough pencil sketch feel to our art, which is the technique she follows when creating her own designs. She also taught me how to do the shadow effect that you see here.

Another color option

Fox on purple

Fox on yellow

What an amazing experience. Even now, 15 months later, I can still recall how grateful I was to be able to take 4 days away from my everyday life to take some time for me -- to feed my creative soul, pursue my passion, and imagine what might be possible in the future.

Heather Ross Workshop in Portland

We've set up a Flickr group, so if you want to see more photos from the weekend and my classmates' designs, just click here: Fabric Design with Heather Ross Flickr group.

(Whew. Y'all, you don't know how much of a relief it is to finally press publish on this post!)


  1. Wow - what an amazing experience! Thanks for (finally) posting this and giving so much detail. I would love to take a class like this - have always wondered how to get my little sketches into digital/fabric form. LOVE those little foxes - as a crafty fox myself - great print that I would totally purchase :)

  2. What a great opportunity! Looks like a fun, successful time was had by all.

  3. Well done on getting this post finished. I enjoyed reading - didn't matter how long ago it was. What a fantastic experience!

  4. Great post! That class looked fun!

  5. What a wonderful trip - I was jealous of everyone who went then and I still am!

  6. I know exactly where you're coming from - even a basic post takes me a thousand hours to write because I'm so OCD about it! Looks like that was an amazing class though - I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for the next one! Also, I am in LOVE with your foxes!! Print 'em, print 'em, print 'em!!!

  7. I remember when you went on this trip John. So great to finally hear all about it. The last shot of the whole group is great. Love the texture of the concrete floor in the background.

  8. Wow! What a great class. I'm so inspired. I'm always striving to remove the pencil drawn look from my drawings and I'm too OCD to ever get it perfect. Glad you finally got around to posting.

  9. Waiting for Part 2 of this post....Quilt Dad fabric designs to be released at Quilt Market! :)

  10. I love the foxes! I'm glad that you were able to get the workshop. A few days worth of instruction can inspire creativity for a long time. Wish I could go to one. I enjoy reading your blog.

  11. *Sigh!* Jealous! It being 15 months ago does not make me any LESS jealous. : ) Love the foxes, they're so cute.

  12. Ohh now, is this a prequel to another interesting story?

    It looks like a wonderful time.

  13. I'm happy to learn that I'm not the only one that puts off writing the most interesting stuff because it can be overwhelming! LOL!! Love your fabric design!

  14. Lucky, lucky you! I remember your flickr photos from last year and it's nice to read more about the experience, John.

  15. Thanks for sharing-real inspiration!

  16. Oh gosh that looks like such an amazing class. It must have been lovely to learn all the technical stuff from a creative person and it must be great to get your ideas out of your head, on to the screen. Did you get any of your fabrics printed? I think your foxes are amazing

  17. I'm officially jealous. That looks like an awesome experience and I loved your foxes.

    I know posts like these are always a challenge but I'm glad you got through it. I really enjoyed this.

    Cheers, jj

  18. I went to the Friday evening presentation and really enjoyed myself. Heather is so easy to listen to and made things as clear as possible. (I can complicate ANYTHING.) Would have loved to attended the complete workshop, looks like you had fun.

    I have a poster from the event with her signature, not framed yet.

  19. Glad you got to go to the workshop, but what speaks more to me is the fortitude to finish the post you started long ago. It's an inspiration.

  20. I was also at one of her workshops there last year and she spoke about there being a man in the fabric design workshop since I was the only guy in the one I went to. Must have been you! And yes, I agree, she's hilarious!

  21. You have been sitting on that for all that time! Cute foxes, the shadowing really animates the illustrations

  22. Wow! That sounds like such and awesome experience! Do you have any information about the class (is it offered on a regular basis)? Did you have to know how to use photoshop before the class? Oh, and I love the foxes. :)

  23. Haha John! Finally! I've gotten pregnant, given birth and have a 4 month old to show for it since that class! But good for you for finally getting it out. And I'm glad you have something to show for it. Love the foxes!

  24. Sure looks as if you enjoyed the class, the visit, and all the instruction you received.... Isn't Portland great! The Pearl District... is the best place ever! Our Son and DIL and little grand daughter live there and as it happens he graduated from the PNCA.... it will be 2 years in December.
    The Cupcake shop and the Whole Foods store there are some of my DH and mine's favorite places to visit besides are kids while in town. What's not to like!
    The foxes are great... remind me of some of the old stories I read as a kid!