Wave Your Flag

Being a one-time Nebraskan and an all-time tinkerer-with-things-to-make-them-better, from logos to household appliances, I was super excited to see that Skillshare is hosting a contest to redesign the Nebraska state flag.

I’ve made and re-made a lot of logos in my day, but had never really given flags much thought until I saw Roman Mars’s TED Talk a couple years ago about city flags, where he discusses Ted Kaye’s five basic principles of flag design, which really apply to a lot of design situations.

Kaye’s first rule, “Keep it simple: The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory,” especially resonates with me – I always strive to have logos I design be something you could sketch out with a pen on a napkin and still recognize.

So I got to thinking about Nebraska – I haven’t been there in 20+ years, but in some ways I think that’s helpful when designing a flag, because it’s easier to distill a place down to its essence when you’re not right in the middle of it.

Sandhills photo by Chris M. Morris
Sandhills photo by Chris M. Morris via Flickr / Creative Commons (flag outline added by me)

The number one thing I remembered and loved was the sky – wide and blue, crossed with clouds that cast far-reaching shadows across the open land, filled up with storm clouds and once a gathering tornado I wasn’t allowed to watch, being banished to the basement. So I knew right away the top half of my flag would be blue for sky.

Nebraska cornfield photo by Richard Hurd
Nebraska cornfield photo by Richard Hurd via Flickr / Creative Commons (flag outline added by me)

When I think of Nebraska, I also think of fields of yellow – goldenrod dotted with red-winged blackbirds,
corn tassels, prairie grass, the Sandhills. The current Nebraska flag is also blue with a gold/yellow state seal (like 23 other state flags!), so I liked that these colors refer back to the historic flag.

Nebraska photo by Jodene E
Nebraska photo by Jodene E via Flickr / Creative Commons (flag outline added by me)

Looking at maps of the state, I was struck by how the Platte River makes a graceful swoop across the state, which is almost rectangular, and decided to use that swoop as a distinctive and place-specific way to divide my blue and gold sections. After I went through a few iterations of color and line width, this is my final product:

Proposed Nebraska state flag redesign by J. Paltiel/Lellobird

Having seen other flag re-design missions falter, including Mars’s campaign to revamp San Francisco’s city flag, I’m not sure if this one will officially go anywhere (change is hard, I know). But I’m eager to see what other people come up with!

Proposed Nebraska flag redesign by J. Paltiel/Lellobird

The Cat’s Meow

Cats in Bloom pillow designed by Lellobird, made by Roostery
Above: Cats in Bloom on the appropriately-named Catalan throw pillow by Roostery

Cara from Kitty Curator emailed the other day to say she’d included my “Cats in Bloom” fabric in her recent post about cat fabric designs on Spoonflower. Thanks for the mention! There are some really cute fabrics on the list – if you’re a cat fan, definitely check it out.

Kitty Curator is a “blog about independent artists, designers & makers who create cat-inspired artwork and handmade goods,” in Cara’s words.

Cats in Bloom was inspired by a black cat I used to own who was a complete sweetie, slightly clueless, the clumsiest cat you’ll ever meet, and a world-class purr-er.

Looking at that pillow, I was just thinking this would be a fun design to do a little brightly-colored embroidery on top of, maybe tracing some of the flowers to give it a pop of color. Hmm…

Boxy Foxy

Boxy Foxy fabric by Lellobird, photo by Spoonflower

My Boxy Foxy fabric came in seventh in this week’s Spoonflower Tangrams contest – thank you to everyone who voted! It was fun and a little bit challenging to work with tangrams – they’re easy to draw, because they’re just geometric shapes, but I tried a few different ideas before I found a way to make them visually interesting. I enjoyed seeing how many images I could build with just simple shapes.

Sew Sew

Thread Garden fabric by Lellobird, photo by Spoonflower

This week my design placed 4th in Spoonflower’s sewing-themed fabric challenge.

I’m a bit of a geek about researching and recreating vintage-looking labels and ephemera, from record labels to library circulation cards.

So it was fun to study old wooden spools and come up with my own take on them, combined with stitched leaves, for my Thread Garden design. This was a limited-color-palette contest, using Pantone’s Greenery color of the year, plus black, white and tan. I really like the fresh, spring green of Greenery.

Photo: Spoonflower

The Craftroom

The Craftroom fabric by Lellobird - photo by Spoonflower

I got my start in online design contests doing tee shirts back in the day, so it was especially fun to merge tee shirts with fabric design in Spoonflower’s 2017 T-Shirt Design Challenge.

It was tricky picking a 3-color scheme that would work on both light and dark shirts, but a lot of fun to think of all the things to put in my The Craftroom fabric, from spools of thread to googly eyes to a swatch of one of the first fabrics I designed at Spoonflower. I’m pleased to say my design came in 8th, against some very lovely competition.

I’m already thinking about ways I can use all the bits and pieces from The Craftroom in other projects – you might be seeing that sweet little bird in a blockprint sometime soon!

(Photo by Spoonflower)

Take a seat

Lovely Chairs tea towel by Lellobird

For tea towel season (they make great gifts!), I’ve turned the chairs from my Take a Seat fabric into the Lovely Chairs Tea Towel, available now at Spoonflower.

As a fan of art, design and architecture, I love chairs – chairs from all eras (but especially mid-century) have such great lines, even in simple silhouettes like these.

Lovely Chairs tea towel by Lellobird

Family recipes

Grandma's Sugar Cookies tea towel by Lellobird at Spoonflower

I’m pleased to announce that my entry in Spoonflower’s “Grandma’s Kitchen” tea towel design challenge made the top 10 this week! This was such a fun theme to work on — starting with going through recipe cards with my mom to pick out a few family favorites.

We settled on my grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe, for which she was mildly famous (at least within our extended family). She used to press the cookies flat with the cut-glass bottom of a drinking glass before baking them, leaving a pretty flower pattern on the cookies. When she passed away, each of her kids got one of the glasses so they could carry on the tradition. Pretty cool.

Of course, my grandmother knew her recipes so well she never had to write anything down, so this recipe card is actually written in my mom’s handwriting, and carries the marks of many years of vanilla extract and buttery fingers.

Grandma's Sugar Cookies tea towel by Lellobird at Spoonflower
I decided to play against the vintage scanned recipe card with more modern accents, like a stylized drinking glass and cookies and simplified lace doilies in the background.

You can buy the Grandma’s Sugar Cookies fabric at Spoonflower, or have Roostery sew up a set of their Orpington Tea Towels (it prints the right way round, even though the preview may be sideways).

If you’d like to give the recipe a try, here’s the slightly modified version (replacing shortening with butter) we made this week to celebrate:

Sugar Cookies
Makes: 6 dozen cookies

2 c. butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
4 c. flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Sift together baking soda, cream of tartar and flour. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugars in mixing bowl.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  5. Beat in flour mixture.
  6. Chill in refrigerator (at least 1/2 hour or up to overnight). Or, if you’re lazy like me, skip this step entirely…
  7. Roll dough into small balls. Place on greased or silicone-mat-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Press dough balls flat with fork or bottom of glass, dipped in sugar.
  9. Bake 8-10 minutes or until firm and golden.

It’s the Bee’s Knees

The Bee's Knees tea towel by Lellobird

Last week’s Spoonflower theme was Prohibition Cocktails – it turns out that America’s ban on alcohol in the 1920s gave rise to some clever mixed drinks, most of them designed to conceal the less-than-ideal flavor of bathtub gin.

After considering the Whiskey Sour (with fun-to-draw cherry garnish), the Sidecar (with its whiff of Jazz Age elegance) and the Gin Rickey (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s drink of choice), I settled on the Bee’s Knees, because it sounded good (gin, honey and lemon juice), and because I like to draw bees. (Nobody said artists were entirely logical creatures.)

I studied up on Art Deco style, picked the honey-est yellows and dug out some vintage-looking fonts, then ran the whole thing through the excellent Mister Retro Permanent Press filter to give it a vintage printed look.

The end result was The Bee’s Knees Tea Towel, available now at Spoonflower and Roostery.

My design just squeaked into the top 25 in Spoonflower’s contest, coming in at #24.

More tropical quilts

Tropical quilt

My last post about the Matisse’s Seaweed quilt reminded me about some super-simple tropical quilts I made a few years ago. Inspired by the high-end versions at Pottery Barn Kids, we chose a bunch of coordinating tropical and shirting fabrics (from the fabric store, my stash and even some cut-up clothes), cut them into 8″ squares and sewed them together.

It’s a really basic quilt (I’m not entirely sure the machine sewing-in-the-ditch stitching I did to hold the layers together even technically counts as quilting, although I love that term), and I am definitely not precise or patient enough to make it perfect, but I like the way they turned out, they came together quickly and the kids were pleased to get to pick their own fabrics.

Tropical quilt