Spoonflower - a first timer's review

This month, I ordered three digitally printed "Fat Quarters" from Spoonflower.com during their "Buy One Fat Quarter, Get One Fat Quarter Free" promotion.

 Inside the envelope, my purchases are wrapped in a sheet of tissue paper sealed with a sticker.  A packing slip includes full-color thumbnails of each of the prints in my order.

Inside the envelope, my purchases are wrapped in a sheet of tissue paper sealed with a sticker.  A packing slip includes full-color thumbnails of each of the prints in my order.

 My purchases include three "Fat Quarters", each of my own design, and a pack of sample swatches.  Each fat quarter cost me close to $5 (BOGO!), and the sample pack cost me $1.

My purchases include three "Fat Quarters", each of my own design, and a pack of sample swatches.  Each fat quarter cost me close to $5 (BOGO!), and the sample pack cost me $1.

I had really wanted to print at least one of these designs on a cotton flannel fabric.  But in browsing Spoonflower's list of available fabrics, I couldn't find one that I could easily identify as "flannel".  So I decided it would be a good idea to order one of their fabric sample packs (Swatch Booklet, one of several design tools you can order).  Inside this booklet, there are swatches of every kind of fabric Spoonflower can print onto, as well as printed samples of both fabric and paper materials, including wallpaper and gift wrap.  In the future, I can refer to this booklet and physically FEEL these fabric swatches as I create new designs that I hope to print.

Overall, I am rather pleased with my order.  But I am genuinely disappointed by the condition in which my Swatch Booklet arrived.  You'll notice in these photos that there is a significant crease down the front cover of this item.  It's just made of a heavy weight paper, like a cardstock, which is folded around its internal contents.  There's nothing particularly durable about it!  And the samples are either stapled into place, or tucked under a pocket-like flap along one side.  It was clearly damaged during shipment, when the soft plastic bag-slash-envelope was crushed or mishandled in some way in-transit.

A little crease shouldn't be a big deal, I know.  But I had been planning to show my Swatch Booklet to other people, so that we can collaborate on designing new fabrics together.  And now it looks like I have been careless with this thing, like I was the one who caused the crease, because I just don't value it enough to protect it.  (Sigh)  I'm the only one who knows it arrived in this condition!

 Inside the Spoonflower "Swatch Booklet" are samples of fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap paper to which they can print our designs.

Inside the Spoonflower "Swatch Booklet" are samples of fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap paper to which they can print our designs.

Each of the prints I made have a particular purpose (one or more projects I've been planning to work on).  This one in particular (below) was designed as an experiment in translating my BAB sewing pattern concepts into objects that might appeal to art collectors, or at least look more at-home in a gallery setting....  I don't usually do "wall art", so.  I'm just working my way through the idea, one step at a time, without a clear vision of its end result.

 Each piece of fabric had been folded for shipment.

Each piece of fabric had been folded for shipment.

 After laundering and pressing, my new fabric looks like this!

After laundering and pressing, my new fabric looks like this!

After many years of making digital prints on diverse paper and film materials, I know that images often print more darkly than they look on the computer screen.  (You should always expect that to happen!)  In this case, my print on fabric came out MUCH more darkly than I would normally expect my prints to look on paper.  True to their word, Spoonflower's blacks are not very rich, and don't look very black.  But my browns look about the same color as my blacks.... and there's maybe two steps, or even just one step, to the value of each brown.  I can see maybe three different brown colors (yellow-brown, ruddy-brown, and black-brown) in all, but suffice to say: the photographic image I started with has WAY more dynamic range than this reproduction, and I would want to factor what I have learned from this print into my design process in the future if I ever decide to do this again!

Here's my original design file:

 To create this image, I laid a digital scan into the line-art illustration of  BAB Wookie or Sasquatch Costume Sewing Pattern  in Photoshop, with some added details (the face! the paw pads!) and some adjustments for color and contrast.

To create this image, I laid a digital scan into the line-art illustration of BAB Wookie or Sasquatch Costume Sewing Pattern in Photoshop, with some added details (the face! the paw pads!) and some adjustments for color and contrast.

And the object I made using this fabric:

 Like what you see?  Bid on it! Goto  BiddingOwl.com/WavePool  to find this and other objects available at auction through Saturday August 13th!

Like what you see?  Bid on it!
Goto BiddingOwl.com/WavePool to find this and other objects available at auction through Saturday August 13th!

If I didn't have the Wave Pool Pool Party coming up, I would not have selected expedited shipping on my order.  Standard shipping from Spoonflower amounts to $1 per item, and goes out via USPS from North Carolina.  Not bad!  But the time it takes to process your prints can be a bit unpredictable.  I couldn't afford to take the risk that my fabric would arrive too late to complete my work in time for the exhibition-slash-auction-slash-fundraiser.  As it is, I only had 2 days to make my final creative decisions, sew everything up, and photograph my results!  I was seriously cutting it close, but at least I had a guaranteed delivery date and Spoonflower did not disappoint on that score! 

Still, expediting my order pretty much doubled the overall cost.  And I would not do that again, if I can avoid it.  If I had reason to believe I would be ordering from Spoonflower regularly, I would splurge and invest in a Spoonflower Pro Membership for $149, while that offer still lasts (ordinarily $249 annually).  Among the benefits of a pro-level membership is faster printing turnaround time, greater discounts than the basic "Designer Discount", and a better rate on expedited shipping.  Only worthwhile, of course, if I plan to be making prints on a regular basis.

Lastly, I wish I had known in advance that the mailer was a re-usable envelope.  In my enthusiasm, I haphazardly cut the envelope open as soon as it arrived.  I wasn't paying close attention to the way the envelope was constructed, and as a result, I literally destroyed the re-usable seal on the inside of the package.  Oops!  I definitely won't make that mistake, next time.  But it is recyclable, according to the writing on the package, so I just threw it in with the rest of my recycling and forgave myself.  :)