From pixel to paper to fabric

Back in 2009, as I sketched the initial design concepts for the launch issue of UPPERCASE, I knew one thing for certain: the magazine had to be thick enough so that it would have a perfect bound spine. This decision determined how many pages of content I would need—and also set the foundation for one of the most recognizable design elements of the magazine: the patterns that grace its spine.

With each issue, I design a repeat pattern that references the content within. The inaugural issue had circles as a recurring motif—bubbles, balloons and polka dots—so it was natural to start with a simple dot pattern. The second issue had a melting ice cream cone on the cover and so I drew a waffle hatch. In issue 5, I moved away from simple geometrics to a motif I call “butterfly floral,” simple ditties that echo the butterflies that appear in the cover illustration.

Lines, waves, bow ties, droplets, zig zags… the spine patterns were stacking up nicely! Each had their own personality, but over the years, an UPPERCASE style and colour palette began to emerge—and so did the inkling of an idea. Wouldn’t it be lovely to turn these spine patterns into fabric some day?

I’ve always been personally interested in surface pattern design, fabric, sewing and quilting—and I know many of my readers are, too—so it was illuminating to find out more about the industry in issue 21’s Surface Pattern Design Guide. The guide featured 100 designers and illustrators as well as advice from industry experts and was released in spring 2014.

UPPERCASE issue 21, cover by Molly Hatch. (Low inventory left—order this back issue soon if you'd like it for your library.)

UPPERCASE issue 21, cover by Molly Hatch. (Low inventory left—order this back issue soon if you'd like it for your library.)

The UPPERCASE Magazine Surface Pattern Design Guide as part of issue 21. Art by Jan Avellana.

The UPPERCASE Magazine Surface Pattern Design Guide as part of issue 21. Art by Jan Avellana.

A short while after that issue was released, I received exciting news from Jan Avellana, the artist featured on the cover of the Surface Pattern Design Guide—Mickey Krueger, president of Windham Fabrics had noticed her work and signed her to contract. In fact, Windham found quite a few new artists through that issue. 

In January 2015, I was invited to be a judge for QuiltCon and spent three intense days looking at hundreds of quilts. It was an amazing experience and quite a learning one, too, since I’ve never actually finished a quilt... yet! I did notice that there could be a niche for my patterns: simple yet interesting designs that could read as solids in both modern and traditional quilts.

In February of that year, I was filling subscription orders when I noticed that Mickey had renewed his subscription, so I sent a thank you email. The notion of UPPERCASE fabrics was still on my dream list, but I didn’t do anything about it just then. Later that month, Mickey wrote from Austin, where he was attending QuiltCon, to say that he was also fond of the quilt I had chosen for my Judge’s Choice, a stunning self-portrait by Melissa Averinos. I wasn’t able to attend QuiltCon in person, so I mustered up my virtual courage and sent the following message, with an attached photo showing a stack of magazines:

“I’m sure you have no shortage of ideas, but I’ve often dreamed that the spine patterns I create for each issue of UPPERCASE could be really nice for quilt fabrics!” 

Just hours later, he replied, “Fabric? Wanna talk?”

And the rest, as they say, is history. 

The UPPERCASE collection from Windham Fabrics will be on sale in fabric stores in June!