Hacking Textiles

Over the past week I augmented my design quiver with some seriously geeky techniques. Neighboring Silicon Valley, and having my share of nerdy tendencies, this was inevitable.

First off—take cover people—I’m workin’ a laser!

Adjusting the height of the Laser Cutter

Wednesday night, I headed up river to the best little maker lab I could find, and got schooled in using the laser cutter! Design considerations, software, safety, all culminating in controlling the machine and cutting a design.

I admit it—it’s a rush to draw something out, then see a nearly parallel, nearly monochromatic, and coherent beam of light carve it from your material.

Laser Cutter Computer Control

I’ve had brain full of ideas to bring laser cut textiles into my designer pillow collections…now I have the ticket to ride.

“So what else?”

Hacking my knitting machine!

“Say what?”

You heard me.

Now I don’t own a factory. My knitting machine is big and clunky. Akin to a big weaving loom–it’s truly hand manipulated—you push a carriage back and forth across a long bed of needles to knit each row. I work up a sweat doing it.

Once you deploy the yarn feeders on top, the machine looks rather bizarre—like some strange metallic grasshopper. And it has quaint 1980’s technology with built in patterns like you might see on sweaters.

But, my goal is to knit my own patterns.

Did just that on Sunday.

With the help of my new friend, Adrienne (fellow member of my machine knitters guild and head of the South Bay Meetup) I took one of my hand-drawn designs, scanned it onto the laptop, and well, knit it up!

Knitting Machine Hooked to Laptop

We used a simple open-source program*. Adrienne had knit with the program before— things like a tribute-Spock hand in the “Live Long and Prosper” pose and, of course, Elvis’s face; so she walked me through it.

I also couldn’t have done it with out my card-carrying geeky husband Chuck. I dragged him along, but turns out he enjoyed himself. And when it seemed we were stuck, he quickly Googled and downloaded the right driver for the funky connecting cord.

Knitting Coming off the Machine copy

Here’s my drawing…

My Sketch

…and here’s my knitting!

My Machine Knit Design

“Woo-hoo!” Shouted that a few times as my pattern emerged from below the needlebed. People at our meetup were crawling under the table to check it out.

This is my test design…planning more luxurious and interesting yarns for realsies.

Okay, so now lots in the design mix for the next pillow collections. Back to the studio to make it happen!

*There are also are some more pricey machine knitting software packages out there, especially good for those who want to design and shape fitted garments like sweaters, as well as knitting patterns. But I wanted to take a more furgal route…and to challenge my tech-y skills!

What newfangled design technologies are you seeing & using in your projects and homes?

Want Color or Life Inspiration? Take a Walk

It is mind-blowing the color palettes you’ll find in nature.

Think that’s a daring combo in the fabric you just found? Go outside and I bet you’ll see something even more fearless.

I regularly hike the hills surrounding our local reservoir, with camera (or at least iPhone) in my pack. (Okay and some pepper spray in case the local coyotes get too friendly.)

Wildflowers Hill Hike

A bird nerd like Dad was, I’m always snapping photos of the pelicans, ducks, vibrant bluebirds, and that great blue heron’s luminous plumage (he’s still convinced he is hiding from me in the cattails).

The birds never disappoint, but I only have to glance down for fantastic color play.

My walk the other day is case in point. The rains have painted our hillsides with wildflowers, seemingly overnight becoming Monet-worthy canvases.

Spring Wildflowers Color Palette

Masses of yellow mustards, elegant purple lupines and shamelessly bold-orange California Poppies…all against a backdrop of lush leafy grass that goes on and on. A great lesson in proportion too, as the sea of green becomes a neutral backdrop for the peppering of brights.

And EVEN Patterns. Yup, keep your eyes peeled for fantastic patterns to jumpstart designs.

Stripes in Nature

I audibly gasped when I spotted these wildflower stripes…not sure if this photo does it justice but stroked all across the hillside below me were clear, natural stripes of hue.

Let’s see, that’s inspiration for color palettes and patterns. Oh, and one more tiny thing…life.

Seriously, a hike can be a moving meditation where your subconscious can get to work. Solutions to even difficult problems have come to me during simple strolls in the out-of-doors.

So next time you need a fresh palette, a fresh look at life and of course some fresh air…take a walk.

Purple and Yellow Wildflowers

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2012

Salivating for a feast of design? The tables are set and the pillows are plumped for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2012, opening this weekend.

More than 30 talented West Coast designers have breathtakingly transformed the historic and stately mansion at 2020 Jackson Street, for this 35th annual Showcase—a benefit for San Francisco University High School’s financial aid program.

I was privy to a peek the other day, and I came away impressed and filled with inspiration. Many spaces are memorable, but I found myself reflecting on the creative and cozy eating areas. (It was lunchtime, after all.) Here’s a just a taste of what you’ll see….

Dining Room Rethought by Scavullo Design(Click on the photos for more detail).

Such a festive solution that Marysia Rybock and the team at Scavullo Design created in this vibrant and inviting dining room. The goal was to achieve “a space that balances the room’s existing Gothic Revival elements…with whimsical pieces and a unique layout that connect it with a contemporary lifestyle.”

And that Jonathan Browning mother-of-pearl chandelier. More than stunning—it’s taken up residence in my brain cells.

Modern Pantry Dehn Bloom & Tinsley Hutson WileyPhotograph by John Merkl.

A secret spot for tea (or to check in with your iPad) is found in the Modern Pantry, by Tinsley Hutson-Wiley and Allison Bloom. Tea isn’t the only British influence you’ll see in the space (you won’t miss it — I swooned at the artistic use of neutrals).

I’m astonished this compact catering kitchen was orchestrated using all removable pieces and overlays to the existing decor. No pressure to the homeowners, but I’d keep the gals’ work!

Lifestyle 2020 Kitchen by Green Couch Interior Design

A mere tidbit of the savory kitchen and family room served up by Jeff and Tray Schlarb at Green Couch. When you visit, be sure to take in the family room’s fresh brick finish and the planetary Coup d’Etat light fixture.

Roof Terrace Pagoda Tent by Frank Holbrook Design

It wouldn’t be a San Francisco Showcase without a scenic enclave from which to savor the Bay, and this year doesn’t disappoint. Frank Holbrook bedecked the Roof Terrace in comfy elegance. Think he’ll mind if we pop that champagne?

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2012

Hungry for more?

Showcase runs April 28 – May 28, Tuesdays through Sundays and Monday Memorial Day,
2020 Jackson Street, San Francisco.

  • Tuesday, Wednesday & Saturday 10am – 3pm (last entry)
  • Thursday & Friday 10am – 7pm (last entry)
  • Special “Friday Nights at Showcase” 5pm – 7pm each Friday.
  • Sunday & Memorial Day 11am – 4pm (last entry)
  • Closed Monday (except Memorial Day)

Tickets are available at the door: $30 general admission; $25 seniors (60+). For group rates, call (415) 447-5830. Check www.DecoratorShowcase.org for additional information on designers, special Friday Night events and shuttle and parking information.

Watch HomeWorkshop.com for more about a few of the home’s fabulous transformations. But in the meantime, serve us up a comment about your favorite spaces and details highlighted here, or others you see in person at Showcase.

Designing a Nursery for The Cake Boss

Watch Sherri on The Cake Boss Baby Special!

I don’t know about yours, but our family (especially our 10-year-old daughter) is in love with The Cake Boss. Buddy and his passionate fondant-rolling, frosting-piping New Jersey clan have us riveted, hungry and chuckling every week.

Designer Sherri BlumSo as you can imagine, we were over-the-moon excited to learn that our own Nursery and Kid’s Room Design Contributor, Sherri Blum, would be creating a space for Buddy and Lisa’s new baby!!

That’s right! Tune in to the one hour Cake Boss Baby Special, tonight Sunday, March 6 at 9:00 PM/8:00 PM Central as Sherri Blum, owner of Jack and Jill Interiors helps Buddy and Lisa design their baby nursery!

Read more details, and see photos at Sherri’s blog at Jack and Jill Interiors. Also, check out Sherri’s contest on her Facebook page here!

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