Beetles and fish and lobsters, oh my!

In which I feel some disappointment that my design skills aren’t quite as faultless as I thought…

You know the saying: the work of a budding fabric designer is never done.

Buoyed by the success of my teapot fabric, I went straight back to Spoonflower to experiment with some different designs.

With the teapots, I loved the simplicity of the repeat combined with the more ornate vintage illustration. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I thought to myself. So, I dug out some more of my favourite vintage images and tried them out with a similar layout.

Satisfied with my efforts, I ordered swatches of the 15 new designs I’d tried, all printed out on one giant piece of fabric.

The Spoonflower parcel arrived through through the post last week. I could hardly contain my excitement as I ripped into the (ever beautiful) packaging. And this is how it looks:

Fabric swatch designs
I think this would actually make a really fun play mat…

Firstly, please excuse the lack of ironing before photographing it.

But, I was a bit disappointed with this batch. I’d been really pleased with them looking at them on the computer screen, but once I saw them printed out onto the actual fabric, so many of them didn’t seem to work.

The scales are off in quite a few designs: the images too large or not enough white space between them.

Some of the colours didn’t work as well as I hoped.

Some of the images didn’t look great in fabric form.

And some of them I just couldn’t imagine ever having anything to sew with a fabric with those designs.

Overall, I was just not feeling enough love for this batch to bother heading for the iron…

Now, don’t examine that photo too closely, please, as I will show you some close-ups of the ones that worked a bit better, or which only need minor alterations to look more appealing.

My favourite, over all, is this octopus fabric:

Octopus fabric by Wolves in London

I did it in two different options, blue on white and reversed with white on blue:

Octopus fabric
Like an octopus X-ray

I think these would be amazingly cute as a little pair of baby boy trousers. Or perhaps a sun hat. Or, gender stereotyping aside, a nice summer skirt for a girl…

The octopus image was from the NYPL digital archive from a plate in an 1809 French book about zoology: octopus image.

Next up, these glorious bright red fish managed to cheer me up from my slight doldrums:

Red fish fabric
Is it giving you a headache?

They’re seriously jolly, aren’t they? The fish is a smelt, apparently, and I got the image from the brilliant website Old Book Illustrations: smelt.

Continuing the nautical theme, you might recognise the lobster in this fabric:

Lobster fabric
This lobster always makes me think of Dali

He’s the same one I used to make my lobster necklace. I adore him (he’s from the Graphics Fairy: lobster image here). But, I don’t think this layout has done him many favours. I think I’ll try again, with alternate rows facing in different directions. And maybe a little more white space around him.

Like this little crab (also from Old Book Illustrations):

Crab fabric
Every time I look at this, I just think “crabs” – that’s not ideal, is it?

He looked awful in yellow, as you can see on the left of the picture, but the simple black image is quite appealing to me. But what could anyone possibly make with a fabric covered in crabs? Any ideas?

Finally, a non-nautical fabric, but in a similar theme to the crabs, these little beetles:

Squash bug fabric
Squash bug fabric. Good for Halloween. Good for anything else though?

This is, apparently, a squash bug, which I also found from Old Book Illustrations. I tried him in turquoise as well, but I’m not sure how well that worked.

So a definite mixed bag. If I was marking myself, I think it’d be a C+. Plenty of room for improvement. Back to the drawing board with these.

25 thoughts on “Beetles and fish and lobsters, oh my!

  1. I loved your lobster necklace but I think I love this fabric more. It’s amazing – I can’t decide between the lobsters and the octopuss. I would adore something made from this fabric. Wish I could sew! (Coming to you as a near neighbour over at the Graphics Fairy Brag Monday)

  2. I think they all look cute! I was actually thinking this morning about making a cushion cover with a crab on it for my son’s room (its a vagueish pirate theme) so that’s what I’d make with it!

    1. Oh, I’m so pleased you thought that — I would really like to try and make “floral” fabrics, but just with other things that aren’t flowers. That’s my ultimate dream, anyway!

  3. Thanks for such nice comments! I definitely recommend a try on Spoonflower. It’s definitely not the cheapest, but there is something very exciting about the ease with which you can make a fabric just out of one simple image…

  4. All your designs are clever. I love the smelt and the lobsters very much. I could see all the designs made into beach bags made out of canvas and maybe one of the images made larger for a front pocket.

  5. Love them … the white octopus one is my favourite … I love that you can print a whole pile of samples … it looks great … Bee xx

  6. Bummer – pushed go by mistake…
    Anyway – love the fish. LOVE.
    My son would totally dig those crabs. Shirt, shorts, bag, hat …. you name it.
    I guess it takes a while to get the hang of proportions and spacing and white stuff and all that. I’d be tempted to look at other fabric for clues and work from there with new patterns… if that makes sense. Not copying, but analysing why you like them.

    1. Ha ha, sounds like your son and my partner have the same taste! I was thinking about making him a lunch bag with the bugs on; I think he’d enjoy getting his lunch out of something covered in insects. (I should say, he is 30…)

      Yes, analysing other fabrics is definitely a good idea. Ideally I want the designs of my fabrics to be a bit more intertwined, if that makes sense. I love patterns that are a bit more detailed, and I think the main problem with these is it’s all just the same idea with a different image.

      Still, I think I have two designs now that I’m really happy with – so that’s more than two months ago. Now to try something a bit more complicated!

  7. Just discovered your blog, inspiring! I love a pattern also. My favourite of these is the Octopus one. Will also have to check out Spoonflower.

  8. you’re inspiring me to have a go, I’ve always wanted to do textile design (studied design history and had a play at screen printing at college decades ago) isnt spoonflower a terrific idea? Can you tell me, how much is the shipping? I’m a bit intimidated by the whole thing being in the States.
    Think I might just have a try with some ideas over the summer hols though, did it take ages for your swatches to arrive because I’m very impatient and might go off the whole thing before they arrive!
    BTW you could easily just be the next liberty or perhaps laura ashley- she started on the kitchen table with teatowels!- there’s an idea for you, have some linen mix or towelling printed in teatowel sized designs, hey presto a product you can sell with just a hem around the edge to sew, surely you can manage that? I’ll be watching out for them in my fb newsfeed lol.

    1. Hi Sheryl,

      Sorry for such a slow reply to your comment — I was in Shropshire over the weekend, with no internet connections, so I’ve only just seen it.

      I would say, do have a go at Spoonflower! The shipping takes about two to three weeks, which is slightly frustratingly slow, and it costs about $2 per fat quarter. It is annoying that it’s in the States, and I’ve been looking around at other UK-based alternatives, but there is nothing even approaching the sophistication of what Spoonflower can do!

      And yes, tea towels are definitely something I’d like to have a go at! I was tempted to make some napkins for my wedding which is approaching soon, but then I realised quite how long it was going to take me to sew 150 napkins and decided perhaps I’d just use the ones that come with the venue, ha ha ha.


      1. thanks so much for your reply, and actually that was super speedy! Most blogs I comment on don’t even bother to respond so it’s lovely to have a conversation.
        Good luck with the wedding planning, made me chuckle about the 150 napkins, lol!

  9. i would love to purchase the pink lobster fabric! Is there anyway to have this printed on a small scale, such as 5 metres? What would the cost be?

    1. Hi anon,

      Yes, it should be possible for me to make it available for you to purchase through Spoonflower. Drop me an email and we can discuss more: wolvesinlondon(at)



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