Category Archives: books

book review: Design Your Own Tees

I spent part of my Saturday in Adams Morgan at the seventh annual Crafty Bastards art & craft fair. This year was the first time in years that I’ve been in town and not vending at another craft fair, so I was excited to hang out and absorb the craftiness. There were a number of my good friends vending who I wanted to visit, plus some new (to me) designers that I wanted to check out.

One of those new (to me) people was the clever Jennifer Cooke, who is totally not new to the indie craft scene at all. Since 1999 she has been the mastermind behind raeburn ink, the label under which she creates clothing and accessories that are all about color and pattern. Obviously a girl after my own heart!

The bright colors and intricate patterns on her t-shirts, tote bags and scarves is exactly what attracted me to her booth. She uses very bright colors in unexpected combinations. She layers bold graphics and abstract patterns to create images that are way more interesting than the same tired old motifs you see on everything these days. She uses patchwork in an utterly modern and eye catching way. Love!

So naturally, when I spied that she had copies of her book for sale I was instantly intrigued.

As a sewer who loves clothes, I’m always interested in project and pattern books about making cool stuff to wear.

But Jennifer’s book was even more seductive to me, as it promises to teach me how to print on fabric, something I’ve been interested in but have never tried. I was sold. Silk-screening and stenciling here I come!

Browsing through the book at home, I was not disappointed. The book includes twenty projects broken up into three themes – texture, pattern, and color (love!). Each project promises to teach a technique, rather than offer a set of rigid instructions for a very specific project. I love that, because that means I can make my own projects, rather than exactly what appears in the book.

One that I’m dying to try is layering two abstract patterns on top of each other in contrasting colors. I’ve never, ever screen printed before, and the instructions provided in the book make it seem so easy, and not at all mysterious! Every project lists exactly what materials are needed, and there is even a short section on effectively setting up your screen printing workspace, which was obviously written for total newbies like me. Awesome!

Not all the projects are about printing however, there are quite a few that focus on sewing, which of course I love. Many of them utilized techniques that I just finished using in my own fall collection, including embroidery, patchwork, and applique. Hooray!

Looking through Jennifer’s portfolio, you can see that she regularly employs all of the techniques that she teaches in the book, to lovely and colorful effect. Visit raeburn ink online for links to her Etsy shop and lists of places to buy her goodies in person.

I would definitely recommend Design Your Own Tees for both beginner sewers and printers, as the projects are interesting and adaptable, with clear instructions that leave lots of room for your own creative interpretations.

The images accompanying the projects are clear and colorful, and come with suggestions for little variations or ways to combine techniques. If you do want to make exactly what Jennifer made for the book, templates are included in the back that can be photocopied or traced. Everybody wins!

There are at least five projects that I want to try right away, as soon as I get to an art store for some printing, stamping and stenciling supplies. Yay for new crafts! What has inspired you lately?