Workshop: Introduction to Fabric Design

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(This workshop is not currently offered. Check the Lab calendar for up-to-date availability!)

Fabric design is the process by which fabrics are prepared in order to create physical objects. A craft is an activity where objects are formed by had. Sewing is the act of joining, fastening, or repairing a piece of fabric with a needle, thread, or sewing machine. Normally, sewing is broken up into hand and machine sewing. While the two processes differ substantially, the end product of the two methods is the same.

Typical Workflow

  1. Create a sketch
  2. Flatpack
  3. Markup & Cut
  4. Pin
  5. Sew

Creating a sketch

Our introduction to fabric design will be centered around creating a bed hanger. Sketch your design on either a piece of paper, or a whiteboard. Keep this sketch handy as it will be helpful later on in the design process. This sketch should be for the finished product. The sketch does not have to include everything, but should include key details like where different pieces of fabric will be attached to one-another, where fabric will be folded, and points at which fabric will be stitched. Multiple sketches may be needed in order to show the full complexity of the item.


Flatpacking allows the three-dimensional object sketched by the designer to be translated into a set of two-dimensional shapes. These shapes—once cut—will form the object. A flat-packed sketch should be able to be drawn on a piece of paper, cut out, and used to create the object. Instead of paper however, fabric will be used to create the object instead.

Markup & Cut

Marks should be drawn onto the fabric with a pencil in order to guide the user in how to cut the fabric. These marks should be based on measurements made with a ruler or meter stick. Marks that are made for cutting should be made the boldest. Other marks that can be made on the fabric include the placement of folds, stitches, hems, buttons, and other embellishments. Marks should be made light so that they can be erased and repositioned if needed. Once the entire piece of fabric is marked up, cut the bolded lines with a scissors, or rotary fabric cutter.


Once all individual pieces of fabric are marked up and cut, the pining process begins. Pins are placed anywhere where two pieces of fabric are being joined together using a stitch. Use as many or as few pins as you need. Using more pins allows you to ensure that the fabric will not slip or move as you work, however it will also create small holes in the fabric. Using fewer pins creates fewer holes, but will increase the chance that the two pieces of fabric will not be in the correct position when you sew them.

When using a sewing machine, special attention must be paid to the orientation of the pin. When orienting the fabric so that fabric slides away from you as it moves through the machine, the tip of the pin should also point away from you. This is to allow the user to pull the head of the pin away from the machine as the pin approaches the foot. Once removed from the fabric, immediately place the pin back into the tomato shaped pin cushion provided with the sewing kit.


Once pined, the fabric can be sewn together. When sewing, it is best to refer back to the original sketch to make sure that all stitches will be placed in the correct position.

When sewing with a machine or by hand, the order of the stitches matters. Certain stitches and seems will be much harder to accomplish if they are preformed after others. For this reason it is important to decide the order of stitches before the work begins. Once the order of stitches has been decided, sewing can begin

Hand Sewing


  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • An iron and ironing board is optional, but helpful for certain applications

Set Up

First, cut a length of thread. The thread should be twice as long as the length of the stitch, if not longer. Once cut, tie a series of knots at one end. A demonstration of this process is shown below. {insert GIF} Once the knot is big enough, thread the needle by sticking the unknotted end of the thread through the eye of the needle. This may me hard to do if the thread is frayed. To decrease the difficulty of threading the eye, make sure that your thread is cut cleanly, or use a threading device. Threading devices can be founded in the black sewing kit. Once the needle is threaded, you are ready to start sewing.


This part is up to you. There are many different types and styles of stitches that can be used to sew. Some are more decorative than others however the objective is always the same, to fasten two pieces of fabric together. Before starting the work, make sure to choose a stitch to use, and be comfortable using it. It is much easier to create a stitch than it is to remove it.

For the first stitch, be sure to put the needle through the wrong side of the fabric, and pull the thread taught. This ensures that the knot is big enough to stop the thread from being pulled through the fabric. If the knot is not big enough, and the thread slips through, increase the size of the knot and try again. Repeat the process of inserting the needle to create a stitch until you have completed the entire seam.

To finish, insert the needle through the right side of the fabric, and separate the needle from the thread. Once separated, create a knot to secure the fabric in place. This knot should be created in the same fashion as the first knot. Make sure the knot is big enough and close enough to the fabric to stop it from slipping through. Once done, snip the ends of the thread with scissors. Repeat the entire process until the object is fully formed.