Freelance Fabric Design Question pt.2

In response to the first entry, I heard back from the fabric designer. After her comments are some slightly OT things about fabric design that aren’t enough to merit their own post. Anyway, J elaborated with:

Thank you for posting about this last week. Some of the responses were in-line with my thinking. What will most likely happen is that I will require him to purchase x-yards within a certain time frame (one year) of each design he’s using exclusively. When big-name fabric converters (which I guess is what I am now) make these arrangements, the minimums are 10,000 yards or more. I think these numbers are huge because

  1. they have planned revenue based on said designs and
  2. their printing operations require so much yardage just to get the registration of the design fit and to do anything smaller would be a loss.

What makes my situation unique is that I’m not a huge mill and I wasn’t planning a particular revenue base to be generated from each design. But I’m certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth either. So, onward I go into the abyss, smiling and waving to the crowd and eating myself alive with stress when nobody’s looking. I’m sure you can relate on some level!!

With regard to licensing designs, there’s no set rule. Each arrangement is based upon a percentage of each yard sold or a 15-75 cents of each yard sold, for a certain period of time –essentially royalties. Sometimes there is a set flat fee instead. In a licensing arrangement, your name is tied to the product and you, as the designer, can do everything in your power to market and promote this fabric to increase sales. FreeSpirit has a few designers who have catapulted themselves to celebrity status in the quilting- fabric world by plugging themselves hard. Interesting to watch.

You can also sell your designs outright at surface design shows for $400-1000 each. You no longer own the copyright and are not affiliated with its promotion. Figuratively speaking, you just hand over the design on a piece of paper or on a disk. Done. One must be very prolific to make this or licensing a revenue stream.

If you want to connect with J for more information or to talk shop, she’s here in the forum.

Slightly OT fabric stuff:
I intend to write about this later (today?) in another context but gal pal Sal mentions that her friend Andrea sells fabric ideas and concepts (sample) at the larger trend and fabric shows like Première Vision and never misses the ones in Paris. I’ve seen these fabric concept booths; usually it’s a large card with swatches representing a family of style ideas affixed. The better companies charge several thousand for these storyboards so it is big business. It is a matter of exclusivity too, no two are alike. Swatches are either created digitally or harvested from vintage garments found in used clothing stores. It is understood that the buyer will then take the swatches to a converter to have the fabrics made. This is great, hassle-free work if you can get it because the responsibility for fabric production is passed off to the customer.

If any of you missed this previously, Spoonflower is a service that prints custom fabric to order in very small quantities. By small, I mean five yards. The problem is, that’s their maximum length. Still, it could be an option if you wanted to test out a fabric for prototyping or maybe samples if they’re small enough. If the concept sold and you needed production quantities, you could see about contracting to another source for more. Obviously, you’d do some leg work in advance of need. Unfortunately, Spoonflower is by invitation only at this time. Sign up to be placed on their waiting list. I signed up months ago and have an invite that is languishing because I won’t use it. If you’re a forum member and want it, let me know.

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Trish says:

    I left a detailed post after the first entry for anyone who is looking for Surface Design Association of the Surtex trade show where you can sell your textile designs.

    Please take a look at the first part of this Freelance Fabric Design post to find the info.

  2. Kara says:

    Hi, great info about fabric designs. I am starting to dable in this myself. I signed up for spoonflower as well, but who knows how long until I get an invite. Is the offer still good to use yours? Thanks.

  3. gilda says:

    hello, i am a student designer and have been looking all over online as well as in new york, for a company that might be able to help me do some textile printing on a woven, for a price that doesn’t require me to sell my liver. i’ve tried spoonflower and they did an amazing job; however, i need more like a whole bolt of fabric (it’s for my senior thesis). could anyone point me in a direction, or recommend a company to me? thank you.

  4. Hello, My name is Diana:

    I am very interested in designing my own fabric and I have used Spoonflower before just for samples pieces for a school project, but every since after that project I have been very interested in designing my own as a business. Is there any tips on how I might be able to get started?

    Thank you for your time!!

  5. Jutta says:

    I create digital designs and have printed several ones with the help of spoonflower on yards of silk. What would be the next step to sell them? To whom could I show them ? Or should I find some clever person to make them into garments? Please help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.