Move over Amy Butler, there's a new kid on the block for designer fabrics. All custom-designed by a growing online network of DIYers and printed in Mebane, North Carolina, fabric pattern buffs will appreciate Spoonflower, a print-on-demand service that is also an Etsy-type of online community and marketplace where users can upload, share and purchase a mind-boggling variety of unique pattern designs.
From the quirky to the sublime, the site probably has a pattern to suit everyone, but thankfully it also boasts an eco-conscious side: patterns that patrons buy are printed using eco-friendly materials and methods.
Started in 2008 by two self-described 'Internet geeks' whose craft-loving wives convinced them that there was money to be made in custom-printed fabrics, Spoonflower has now blossomed into an interactive community of 70,000 individuals. There's a "Fabric of the Week" feature, project images and you can type and search for that special one-of-kind-pattern - or of course you can make your own. (Adorable octopus fabric? Check. Crazy fractals? Check. Photographic pattern featuring an image of your favourite pet? Check.)
Images left to right: "Electronic Castaways" by milktooth, "evotree19" by Jonathan McCabe, "Fleur de Cuillère" project by Heather Dutton.
The site describes how going digital has helped the company gain an ecologically-friendly edge in printing user-generated pattern designs:
Digital textile printers are large-format inkjet printers specially modified to run fabric. Unlike conventional textile manufacturing, digital printing entails very little waste of fabric, ink, water or electricity. Spoonflower prints using eco-friendly, water-based pigment inks on natural fiber textiles. No additional chemicals are used in the printing or preparation process. Digital textile printing has the added advantages of showing greater design detail than screen printing, as well as allowing designers the ability to use as many colors as they like in their designs.
Like Etsy, social networking sites like Spoonflower are redefining the words "handmade", "DIY" and "cottage industry". Sure, there are other print-on-demand fabric companies out there, but the community and power-to-DIY aspect of Spoonflower definitely puts it a yard ahead of the rest.