Monday, June 03, 2013

Fabric: Dreams Come True For Lorene Carnes

The actual making of fabric...the creation of cloth, and the imprinting of specific designs, and how and why they were something that I have been very interested in. When I was a young girl, I can remember literally creating my own fabric pattern designs, as well as fabric designs. But all I did was draw on paper, and color on cloth!

 I can still remember my father explaining to me about cotton gins, and textile mills and the history of the sewing machine.  I can remember feeling amazed, just as we all are when we actually think about how things are truly made.

And so years ago, when I actually had the opportunity to listen to a lecture and to meet a very famous traditional quilter/ fabric designer/ author of dozens and dozens of books, I was delighted that she actually explained....with a great deal of surprising honesty... how her own 'designer' fabrics come about. She honestly told us she didn't really design them at all. What? I practically said out loud!  She said that almost all of the time, she simply bought a piece of vintage fabric, or a sample book of vintage fabrics, (from flea markets especially in Europe) and then showed them to her company and their artists did all of the drawing or scanning or whatever was required to re-create the design into fabric. I remember being absolutely amazed at that!

I thought all designers were artists and they created the ideas, the prints, the flowers, whatever...themselves! Not how it works. The person who gets their name on the selvage has input, but as other local designers have told me, "some times they use the colors we pick and sometimes they don't."  They decide if you get more patterns in the collection, but they usually pick out the a fabric in a stripe and a dot, one or two fabrics in tone-on-tones to help hold together the collection and an accent fabric to bring out secondary color and help to balance the colors of the overall collection.

I knew then, we all have it in us to create art, as well as fabric. And now, of course, there is Spoonflower, and other companies that will do just that for you! Transfer your drawings or fabric swatches into yards of fabric and printing it off for you at varying costs.So, how wonderful that is for those who can, and want to! We can all be designers and we can all express our love of the craft..we just have to be able to afford that process!

However, when I heard about Lorene Carnes, age 92 from here in Salem, Oregon who just got a fabric designing contract with Robert Kaufman Fabrics..I was thrilled for her and totally loved her story! This is truly a story about an artist designing her own fabric.  Apparently, Lorene was going to art school 70 years ago at the University of Oregon and had an entire portfolio of her art sketches still saved in her garage when the daughter of a friend remembered seeing them many years ago and asked her if she still had them.  T

his friend's daughter worked for Robert Kaufman and that was all it took.That, and it being  the right time for this look to be wildly popular again, the right connection with a friend and maintaining that connection, a good memory from the friend's daughter...and Lorene Carnes, age 92 early passion for art and design as well as her ability to hang on to a part of her life that once had been very special to her!

Turn out, of course, that vintage and retro and graphic design drawing of fashion sketched ladies is super 'in' right now. And fabric companies design fabric based on consumer demand and interest. A sketch can become fabric in as little as four months, and Lorene Carnes, age 92, checked her mail recently to discover, yards and yards of her own sketches on fabric. There are changes the fabric artist made, of course..they didn't use Lorene's exact sketches because its all about consumer driven sales..but they are very close, if not the same!

And her lovely fabric will soon be available at stores like Fabric Depot and the Mill End Store in Portland and online at,, and 
and of course, you can see the entire collection at Robert Kaufman..these are her drawings turned into add your own dots and stripes and blenders...but it would be so easy to do!

I can see these turning into cute totes, makeup or hair accessory bags, or even cute aprons especially using vintage patterns. Yep.....lots of possibilities! And I can even think of a few more that I'll keep under my vintage hat and think about making myself!

Now, this is the kind of success story I like to read about! Amazing and wonderful!Now, if I can just get my hands on some of this fabric...oh, the things I could make :)

Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska. Sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, with small format art quilts, prayer flags, and comfort quilts for a variety of charitable programs. And best of all, sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join in her Liberated Quilting Challenge and make and donate small art quilts to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time!