After years of sewing things with fabrics designed by other people I’ve always fancied designing my own fabric. But with zero graphic design or illustration skill I wasn’t sure where to start. So, when Craft Yourself Silly offered me the chance to try out their new design software, SewBug, I jumped at the chance.
SewBug actually consists or 4 different programs:
-SewBug Fabric Design which I’ll be reviewing in this article.
– SewBug Quilt Maker which lets you plan out a quilt which you can then order as a kit or print out whole onto fabric.
– SewBug Mix Up a Metre which lets you combine multiple prints and applique shapes into 1 metre of fabric.
– SewBug Quilting By Numbers which lets you colourise any image which you could then use in mix up a metre.
When you first log into SewBug Fabric Design (I will just refer to it as SewBug for the rest of the review as you know which version I’m talking about). You are greeted with the screen below.
It’s quite simplistic software but intuitive and easy to understand. On the left you can see your layers (at the moment mine only has a background). The arrows allow you to move the layers around, the bin is to delete them and the bottom image is for copying.
I chose my background colour using the colour button on the top left. The other options on the left are for altering the shapes you put onto your fabric, the size, rotation, position and scale.
On the bottom right you have the important ‘add new shape’ button to help you create your print. The options to preview and order the fabric, undo and re-do, save load and reset are also on the bottom right. These are all self-explanatory. So lets dive into playing with shapes!
Once you click the ‘add new shape’ button you are offered a range of pre-design shape. You can either scroll through to find ones you like, or use the category button on the top left to go to a specific group of shapes.
As you’ll see below some of the shapes are free to use, others are premium, which means you need a paid SewBug membership in order to use them in your design.
Most of the shapes are quite simplistic clip art style motifs. So that you can use them any size on your fabric and not worry about loss of detail when enlarging or shrinking the design. There are some more detailed images that you would want to print at a reasonable size in order to fully appreciate the detail, like the owl shown below for example.
I’d encourage you to have a really good look through the shapes to help spark an idea for your fabric design. I ended up torn between birds, woodland animals, space and cats there were several motifs in each category that I liked.
I decided to go with a star design fabric. I chose the shapes I liked and added them one at a time, playing around with the scale and rotation to vary the effect. I flipped one of the shooting stars to make them shoot in different directions, shrunk down the circle of stars as it was dominating the design.
I did wonder how I was meant to see the size and scale of the print, to get an idea of how it would look once printed on fabric. But then I discovered that when you press the ‘preview’ button it shows you how it looks on a small repeat and a large repeat. Giving you 2 options for the scale of your print, and showing how it will look on the fabric. At the bottom it says the preview is based upon a 48cm piece of fabric. You can also select ‘cushion’ panel as an option as well.
It’s worth keeping an eye on the preview as you add shapes to your design. I found at times my print looked good until I looked at the preview and realised same shapes were too close together once the design is repeated. Like the pale blue stars in the design above.
I wanted to avoid an obvious repeat in my print so I placed some of the stars on the edge, or corners of the design square so you don’t get an obvious blank space where the edges are. If you decide to do the same it’s worth using the zoom (under the main image box) to zoom right out as per the image below to check if your shape is centred on the edge so it will be symmetrical when the fabric is printed. Don’t forget to hit the ‘reset zoom’ button before you order your fabric through to get it back to the correct zoom level.
When you get to the checkout you will see a preview of all 3 scale options, and on the next screen you choose which one you want to order and there’s a choice of 4 different types of fabric too.
When my fabrics arrived by post the first thing I noticed is the colour was slightly lighter than I expected. This will be because computer screens all vary in their settings and some will show things lighter or darker than they are in real life. The purple was a little more lilac purple than the vibrant dark purple shown on my screen, but I liked it.
The print turned out really well and the repeat worked and made the design look seamless. The fabric itself felt a little stiff, like it had been well starched. But I know when you get fabric printed you need to wash it before use to soften it. I put it on the 40 degree wash, I included 2 colour catchers just in case the colour ran but they both came out clean so the ink is well fixed. After washing and ironing the fabric was softer and felt just like normal shop bought fabric.
I used the fabric to make a pair of matching fabric baskets (pattern from issue 75 of Quilt Now). On one basket I used the fabric for the exterior, on the other I used it as the lining. It handled just like any other fabric, no stiffness, no issues sewing through it, no excessive creasing when being handled etc. I’m planning to use what I have left to make a Lola pouch with denim on the bottom.
To design your own fabric sign up to SewBug: https://craftyourselfsilly.com/sewbug/