Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chinese Paper Cutting!

The challenge this week at Spoonflower was designed to help celebrate the Chinese New Year! Designers were asked to submit patterns styled 'like a traditional Chinese paper cutting, using red and white only.'  
#1 'terrarium' sketchbook page
©2014 Patty Rybolt Designs
#2 'tea tray' sketchbook page
©2014 Patty Rybolt Designs
Traditionally a paper cutting is used for decoration during important celebrations, it can also bring good luck, prosperity, and good health in the new year. 
Here is the process I used to come up with this design! 

My approach to this design was to come up with images that could naturally be framed by some kind of container like a fish bowl or something so the images could be used in a pattern or could stand alone for other projects. I started with online research which lead me to a few ideas and then concept sketches.  

#1. Terrarium - My sketchbook page of a terrarium or group of terrariums using bottles, jars, and various other containers. I thought the floral and plant stems would add a soft, organic feel to the project. I also intended to add other interesting features like mushrooms, bugs and possibly a gnome as another design element.

#2. A tea tray with flowers… I thought adding a series of trays would be a natural way of having boarders that could be intricate or simple to cut. Elements such as a vase with flowers could add an organic element, and include a tea pot, tea cup, tea, sugar cubes, lemon and a honey pot. Other organic or geometric elements could be added as well to the tea pots and cups.

The first concept seemed like it would work well for a fabric pattern, so I decided on the terrarium idea. I started drawing with black marker on copy paper then folded the paper in half and cut away. When the design was all cut out I opened the paper carefully and it produced a mirror image. (I removed the cut pieces so the negative space could be used as well). 

Stage 1 - folded design being cut
paper cut terrarium
stage 2 - still cutting..
'paper cut' lily of the valley + leafy plant
In traditional paper cutting the whole design would be cut out of one piece of paper, but for my purposes my design only had to look that way in the finished pattern. I did hand cut all of the pieces that were necessary for the pattern then I scanned them in to photoshop. 

When I had a pattern that was suitable I added the organic elements to the containers. Some of the jars left odd spaces so I added my birds and some flowers, the cut squares were the final element. When coming up with a pattern I tend to place large elements, then medium and save the small for last. With the pattern complete I converted my black and white composition to red and white. Fin!

positive + negative

Previews are shown at the fat quarter fabric size (21" x 18"). Voting begins today January 30th, 2014, and continues until February 6th, 2014! 
Please Vote!!


  1. This is very cool - Thank you for sharing you process love the cricket and the bluebells

  2. Awesome fabric, Patty! I think I need some. I've been thinking a lot about paper cutting lately, so many thanks for the process post!