Designing Textiles for Women’s Activewear

WOMENS-ACTIVEWEAROne of my favorite markets is women’s activewear. Patterns need to be empowering, inspiring and feminine while also flattering lots of different body shapes. I really enjoy the process…And that’s why I’m excited to tell you about a new Group-Study happening on Monday, March 19th in the Textile Design Lab: Designing Textiles for Women’s Activewear

This 5 week course is the high-value, hands-on training you’ve asked for – delivered with the same quality and interaction you’ve come to expect from the Textile Design Lab team. I filled the course with lots of design exercises and creative activities to help you learn. And best of all, the price is low, just $49/month – so you can take action without busting your budget.

In this course you will:

  • Discover who the leaders are in the women’s activewear market and what they look for when selecting patterns and designs for their work.
  • Learn how to research trends for this market and get our tips for which trends to consider and follow when designing women’s activewear.
  • Discover what motifs you should include in your designs and your portfolio to attract attention.
  • Take action. During the course, you’ll create a professional design brief for use in your portfolio.
  • Learn from real world case studies created by our experienced team of professional designers.

If you’re ready to jump into the Fashion Industry, Designing Textiles for Women’s Activewear is the perfect next step. I hope you’ll join us on Monday, March 19th. Grab your spot here.

Guest Expert Interview: Jessica Wilde

Jessica-Wilde-Pattern-ObserverThis month we have the privilege to welcome Jessica Wilde, experienced surface pattern designer, to the Textile Design Lab as our guest expert. Jessica creates unique and eye-catching designs inspired by nature and wildlife, each beginning with hand drawn detailing and combined with an expressive colorful twist. Jessica will be sharing her tips for designing for wallpaper on Tuesday, March 27th in the Textile Design Lab, but she is here today to tell us more about her work and her thoughts on the wallpaper industry.

Can you remind us of your design background and tell us a little about what you’ve been up to since your last interview this past fall?

I’m a freelance surface pattern designer and have my own brand of botanical inspired fashion and home accessories, as well as gifts and stationery. I graduated from Textile Design at Birmingham City University in 2008 and got a job as wallpaper designer for a manufacturer. I worked on domestic and contract ranges, alongside designing for client commissions for various hospitality and retail projects. In 2013 I went freelance and started designing for a wider range of products, sold designs via print studios, and have steadily been growing my own product range.
It’s been a busy few months since last Fall, I’ve been working on a range of client projects which has varied from wallpaper, plant pots to Christmas baubles! I have a trade show in May and I’m developing new additions to range for that. I also finish my MA this summer so making the most of the final few months, planning future collections and growth for my business.

Your designs are highly detailed. Could you tell us a bit about your process in developing your patterns and how much time is put into a finished design?

I usually draw motifs individually or in small groups, I find this suits for scale and keeps the design process very flexible. I then repeat in Photoshop, often with smart objects, layering with textures and colour. It’s hard to say how long the designs I do for my own ranges take, it can be a lengthy process of experimenting, testing and colouring for products, but for a stock designs being sold outright I’d generally work to average of a design a day.

Jessica Wilde-studio-Pattern Observer

Jessica Wilde’s Design Studio

What do you notice buyers looking for in the wallpaper industry? Are there industry standards for designers to keep in mind, certain subject matter or colors that are more sought after, etc?

Some designs always sell well such as damasks and florals, they just get updated or reworked in some way. Wallpaper repeats are normally 53-64cm square and need to be very well balanced, any oddities will obviously stand out on the wall. A half drop repeat tends to be preferable for this reason, and it’s best to check designs in a room set to scale and test in black and white as this highlights any issues. It’s also good to show how usable a design is by presenting it with a light and dark colourway, this can also be an opportunity to show a commercial colourway alongside a more eye-catching showstopper.

What trends are you currently seeing in the wallpaper market? (Color, motifs, scale, etc.)

Digital has changed everything, a decade ago you had to stick to a standard repeat and limited colours, but now we’re seeing large scale motifs and super-size repeats that span multiple drops or fill a wall entirely. This has been around for a while, but digital wallpapers have become increasingly sophisticated and high end. Some of the big brands are including a digital murals as part of their conventionally produced ranges, or companies specialise purely in digital. This saves on outlay, reduces risk, production constraints, and in turn offers us some really exciting design opportunities.

Design wise we can have several trends going on from luxurious maximalism to almost the complete opposite of minimalism and a return to nature. For my MA I’ve been researching the emergence of biophilic design and how nature in interior design can impact on wellness, something I think will only continue to gain momentum in the coming years.

Jessica Wilde-Design Process-Pattern Observer

Jessica Wilde’s Design Process

Can you tell us a bit about the production process for wallpaper? How do these production needs affect the way you design?

Wallpaper can either be produced conventionally or digitally, the latter has unlimited colours and the setup for this suit lower quantities, though is more expensive to print. There are very few limitations to your designs, you can really let your imagination run and create art for walls.

Conventional production requires tooling in the form of a print cylinder or screen, one of which is required per print colour. The setup is more expensive and tends to be limited to 3-4 colours max, the more colours the more expensive it is to produce. This suits mass production and the designs tend to be much more commercial, with the end product being cheaper.

When designing it’s best to have an idea which method would be used and what market it would suit, making it workable for mass production makes the design more sellable.

What do you love most about designing wallpaper and what are some of the challenges?

I love it when you see your designs on the wall, it can be a fab surprise sometimes to find them when you’re out and about or spot them launched by your favourite brands.

The repeats can be a real challenge, some designs just work, and others can be a total headache. You can also forget what scale you’re working at, either going to big or small, and you have to remind yourself it’s got to be something you can live or work with when it’s on the wall.

Jessica Wilde-Moth drawing close up-Pattern Observer

Jessica Wilde’s Moth Drawing

Do you have any tips or resources to share with surface pattern designers who are looking to develop their own wallpaper line? Where did you begin when you were starting your line?

First think about how you intend to produce the range, conventional tooling will strongly determine the design process and outlay costs involved. Digital is more flexible but needs marketing at a higher price point. Contact your local manufacturers for options, finally don’t forget about licensing if you prefer to leave the production side to someone else. For me, my designs and budget decided it, I use far too many colours and enjoy the creative freedom digital offers.


Can you give us a quick preview into the training you will be offering in the Textile Design Lab? What can people expect to learn?

We’ll cover the different markets within the wallpaper industry you can design for and the different production methods to keep in mind. I’ll also cover how best to set up your files, standard repeat sizes and share advise for selling to the industry.

Textile Design Lab members can find a link to Jessica’s Live Training in our Member Dashboard. Not a member? Get started here.


Free Live Training: Start Designing Textiles for the Women’s Activewear Market


Join me this Wednesday, March 7th for a FREE live training event! We’ll be discussing the women’s activewear market and how you can start designing for this inspiring market. I’ll also be sharing more information about our upcoming Women’s Activewear course happening in the Textile Design Lab! The free live training is this Wednesday, March 7th at 12PM Eastern. A recording will be sent out to all registrants. Bring your questions and grab your spot here.

5 Fashion Industry Guidelines for Creating Stunning Textile Patterns

Womens Activewear Patterns

If your goal is to have your textile designs make it into the fashion industry, you’re in the right place. I’ve put together five guidelines regarding designing textiles for the fashion industry. These industry insights will help you to create stunning patterns that are perfect for whatever market you are designing for. I developed these guidelines after my 15+ years of experience in this industry and having the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented fashion designers and merchandisers along the way!

Guideline #1: Flatter the Customer

The first guideline is to design patterns that flatter the body and are consumer right. This guideline is mentioned first because it is very important to the fashion industry, but not applicable to other textile design markets (home décor and stationary, for example). It’s important to make sure that your motifs are properly placed in the layout or repeat, because you don’t want motifs to highlight the body in an unflattering way. Ask yourself, does the placement of your motifs create accidental stripes that take away from the movement of the design? Or does the movement within your pattern flatter the body?

Guideline #2: Consider your Market

The second guideline is to design patterns that are consumer driven.

You want to constantly ask yourself:

  • Are the motifs right for this market?
  • Are you using colors that feel like a good fit for someone in this market?
A Pattern Observer Studio design for Turbine Outerwear

A Pattern Observer Studio design for Turbine Outerwear

Guideline #3: Consider the Trends

The third guideline is to design patterns that are “trend right.” Fashion trends are an important considerations for people in the fashion industry. As such, the designers who develop an eye for trends are the ones whose services are in demand in the market. Despite the importance of trends, there are still some hesitations. The largest hesitation is the fear that your style or creation will look like a knockoff runway look. I assure you, with the proper commitment to trends, this will not happen.

Incorporating trends into your work DOES NOT mean that you have to knock off designs that are on the runway. In fact, for the most part, buyers want the opposite. Buyers are looking for patterns that interpret the current trends in a way that fits with the brand image of the company he or she represents. They are also looking for something unique to their company, something that their competitors won’t have.  These are the very reasons why trend interpretation is so important! It’s your creative voice and mark of originality in a crowded marketplace.

Trend interpretation is important for:

  • Keeping your work fresh;
  • And, having a higher demand with fashion designers who are developing trends in which they need patterns that will work with their interpretations.

By following trends you are doing both of these things. Additionally, you can offer your buyers exactly what they are looking for when shopping for patterns for their next collection.

Finding Balance within Fashion Patterns

Guideline #4: Create Balance

The fourth guideline is to design patterns that are balanced. Motif and color balance are crucial to fashion textiles. This is because each garment should look similar on the rack, regardless of size. Imagine browsing through a rack of shirts and realizing the extra large has bright blue flowers and the small only has navy blue. Retailers know that each garment should represent the pattern in the same way, creating an even balance of color and a visible motif in each garment on the rack. As a designer in the fashion industry, it’s important that you keep scale in mind and make sure that all motifs and colors are used in a balanced way. In the women’s activewear market this is especially important because much of the work is with smaller garments, such as tank tops and bras.

Guideline #5: Quality is Key

The fifth guideline is to design patterns that are of the highest quality. So what makes a pattern high quality? A few telltale signs include:

  • Avoiding obvious Photoshop filters;
  • Using a sophisticated repeat that is difficult to see;
  • And, using linework that has a thickness of at least one point so the details are not lost in the printing process.

The fashion industry can be an exciting market to design for if you understand how you can keep your beautiful individuality, while also creating styles that are appealing to buyers. So, whether you need to finesse your current game within the industry or are looking to get more information on how you can become a part of it, we invite you to join us for a free live training event on March 7, 2018. Get the details here.

Featured Designer: Alexandra Michiardi

With the support of SURTEX, each month a new post will be highlighted on Pattern Observer, featuring the work of one of our Textile Design Lab members. This month we are thrilled to feature the work of TDL member Alexandra Michiardi. Alexandra joined the Textile Design Lab in October, 2017 and we were immediately took note of and were impressed with her passion for her craft, and her fresh use of color and texture. She is such a joy to have in the Textile Design Lab and we look forward to bringing her work to the SURTEX show in May.

Read on to learn more about Alexandra’s background and what drives her to create.


“Although I graduated in Science, I always wanted to be an artist. It was only two years after my PhD, at almost 30, that I decided to pursue my passion for art. I studied mostly painting, particularly portrait and human figure, but I was not ready to allow myself to be a painter. I had the impostor syndrome. Two countries, two businesses, and two children later, at 40, I decided it was time to do what I really want to do.

“For starters, I am pausing my Etsy shop (where I sell stamps for crafters under my brand méli-mélo) to give me permission to become a textile designer.

“Since I joined the Textile Design Lab in October last year, I have been working toward my goal, a couple of hours a day, every day, when my baby is sleeping. And I will have more time to work very soon! We just sold our house, where we have been living the past 6 years, so my husband could take a career break. We will be moving out of the UK in a few months. We don’t know where we will relocate yet, but we do know why we willdo it! He will take care of our children while I focus on my art and business.
I feel grateful and excited (and a bit scared too!) to get a real chance to make my dream come true.


“All the patterns seen in this post were created in the past four months, and most of them have been inspired by courses and challenges I have taken in the TDL.

“They are mostly abstract, bold, and colourful prints. I have used several techniques to create my motifs (drawing with china ink, stamping with foams, using cut out papers, acrylic paint, and sprayed inks). Then I worked in Photoshop (I promise I will learn Adobe Illustrator this year!), mostly playing with layers, textures and of course colours!

“I aim to have a professional website and portfolio to start reaching out for my first clients later this year. I would love to work with ethical and sustainable brands who contribute to make the world a better place.
I want to be able to play with colours, shapes, and textures every day from anywhere in the world (we have big travel plans as a family this year), and make a living from my artwork. And I think the universe is conspiring to help me succeed!”

See more from Alexandra on Instagram and be sure to sign up for SURTEX’s newsletter here. I send out helpful content through their newsletter each and every month.

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.