Beetles and fish and lobsters, oh my!

15 Apr

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.

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25 Responses to “Beetles and fish and lobsters, oh my!”

  1. ukmaryanne April 15, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Wow. I agree, it would look adorable as a playmat. Love the bugs :) Bees and flies might be interesting too (I am so over butterflies….)

    Mary Anne

  2. mrsbeezstampin April 15, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    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)

  3. Kate @craftsonsea April 15, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    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!

  4. Tamsin April 15, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    The lobsters look fab particularly. Have always wanted to have a try at Spoonflower…

  5. Natalie April 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    I really like the octopus designs, almost floral like harebells. An interesting read.

    • Wolves in London April 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      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!

  6. Wolves in London April 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    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…

  7. annie April 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    I want to make a dress out of the inverted octupuses! I might be hounding you soon… (I can make you one too maybe!)

  8. Diana April 15, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    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.

    • Wolves in London April 16, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      A beach bag, yes, I love it! That would be the absolute perfect thing for them…

  9. Anonymous April 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    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

    • thelinencloud April 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

      Sorry wasn’t logged in properly … Bee xx

      • Wolves in London April 16, 2013 at 8:28 am #

        Thanks Bee!

        Yes, it’s great that you can get them all as swatches. Gives you plenty of scope to check they’re okay first!

  10. Truly Myrtle April 16, 2013 at 9:05 am #


  11. Truly Myrtle April 16, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    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.

  12. Truly Myrtle April 16, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    And he’d love the bugs.

    • Wolves in London April 16, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      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!

      • Truly Myrtle April 16, 2013 at 9:25 am #

        Ah, yes – Liberty and William Morris – esque. Beautiful.

  13. Grace April 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    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.

    • Wolves in London April 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      Thanks so much Grace! Sounds like the octopus one is definitely the overall winner…

  14. SHERYL August 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    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.

    • Wolves in London August 5, 2013 at 9:03 am #

      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.


      • SHERYL August 5, 2013 at 11:44 am #

        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!

  15. Anonymous July 2, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    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?

    • Wolves in London July 2, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      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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