The Design Process Behind Invisible Threads

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Woman sitting on stool embroidering. Photo only shows her hands.
Posted by: Kristin Crane Category: In The Library Tags: Comments: 0

The Design Process Behind Invisible Threads

People who don’t work with textiles are usually surprised to learn that the inspiration for the computer was actually a loom. Invented in Lyon, France, by Joseph Marie Jacquard, the machine Jacquard developed used horizontally placed needles to sense the presence or absence of holes in a card. This told the loom whether to raise a warp thread or not. Jacquard exhibited his invention in 1801 at the Paris Industrial Exhibition and by 1812 there were 11,000 Jacquard machines in France. In 1824, the first one made it over to the United States. Eventually, this technology inspired an inventor to build a machine using the same punch card technology to hold data and tally the census of 1890. The technology evolved further and this binary system of organizing information led to the development of the first computer in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania.  

The invisible thread connecting technology with weaving is strong. To this day, textile engineers, technologists, and designers are still pushing boundaries. When designing the patterns in the Invisible Threads collection, Kristen wanted to figure out a way to draw with thread. She wanted to develop a collection of fabrics digitally printed that looked like embroidery without a sterile, computer-generated look. The goal was a look that inspired the feeling of calm handmade textiles give us.

The Design Process 

The Brushes

For a truly handmade look, Kristen knew she needed to start with something handmade. So, the first step was sewing. She embroidered fabric swatches with basic embroidery stitches all in wool yarn. 

Next, she took photos of each of these lines of stitching and brought them into Photoshop. There, she put these stitches into repeat.

Once in repeat, she brought the stitches into Illustrator and created a brush. She used those brushes to draw her designs.  

The Swatches

Kristen created the swatches in much the same way as the brushes, although with a slight difference. Rather than a single line of stitching, Kristen stitched small sections of satin stitch using embroidery floss. 

Once again, she brought those swatches into Photoshop to put in repeat and export to Illustrator. These became swatches she could use as filler for shapes.

The Color

Creating the brushes and swatches is the first step. In order to make colorways for each pattern, she needed color palettes for each of the brushes and swatches.  

Only once these tools were created could Kristen start designing the patterns. Could we have saved time by generating these brushes and swatches directly in Photoshop or Illustrator? Probably, but by starting the design process with hand stitching thread on fabric, the digital tools used have a special quality impossible to capture purely digitally.  

At Design Pool, we love textile history and its influence on modern technology. For us, textiles have always been about the place where art and technology meet. We hope that the patterns in Invisible Threads will be used in healthcare interiors and senior living facilities to bring people a sense of the tactile experience of their home without sacrificing cleaning requirements.


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