Our guide to textile design
Jane McGuire

Our guide to textile design

First published date November 26 2015 Amended date November 26 2015

What do William Morris, Mary White and Cath Kidston all have in common? Not a trick question, they have all forged successful careers in textile design. To put it in layman’s terms, textile design is the process of creating patterns for fabrics. Often used in fashion and interior design, if you are interested in learning more about textile design, going on a course is a good place to start.


What will I learn?

There are three main techniques used in the process of textile design; printing, knitting and weaving. A textile designer will create designs and patterns based on the material they are using. A course will teach you the basics, allowing you to learn how to work with different fabrics and textures, before choosing one to specialise in.

Whether you are drawing your design by hand, or making a computer generated image, a large part of textile design focuses on transferring this onto the fabric. Digital printing can be technical, so often a course will use computer programmes such as Abode Illustrator, Photoshop or CAD. If you have no experience, it’s worth finding a course that will teach you the basics.

Every course is different, but many longer, more in-depth options will teach you about the different printing techniques used in design. This might include silk screen printing, where mesh is used to transfer ink onto a material, cold and hot water dying, heat transfer printing and reduction printing, where a multi-coloured print is made with the use of a single block. A textile designer will have a number of skills up their sleeve, and over time will be able to carefully select the right technique based on the weight, strength and performance of the fabric.


What could I do after the course?

Although there is no one clear-cut way to become a textile designer, having relevant qualifications on your CV is a good way to stand out. There are a number of career options available once you are working as a textile designer, some choosing to work for a manufacturer, design company or retailer. Although these jobs can be competitive, they guarantee work and a nine till five lifestyle.

Other textile designers decide to work freelance, working for a number of private clients. As a freelance textile designer you will also spend a lot of your time marketing your work and travelling to visit trade fares and new clients.

Whether you choose to work in the fashion industry or design for interior companies, you will need great communication and organisation skills to be able to translate your client’s ideas into sketches and samples.


Famous UK textile designers

We mentioned them in the opening paragraph, so thought we should here too. Need some inspiration, why not take a look at the work of three of the UK’s most famous textile designers.


William Morris: arguably the father of British textile design, Morris’ floral patterns heavily influenced Victorian interior design. Friends with the great Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who persuaded Morris to take up painting, his work lives on today.


Mary White: one of the most iconic print designers of the 1950s, although you might not know her by name, you would almost definitely recognise her famous prints. Designing fabrics for the Queen Mary Ocean Liner and at Heathrow Airport, her ‘cottage garden’ fabric is iconic.


Cath Kidston: If you haven’t heard this name, you must have been living under a rock for the past decade. Kidston’s ‘English heritage’ theme proves that we Brits really do love a pastel floral print. Although Kidston has now sold the majority of her shares in the business, the Cath Kidston Company currently has 59 stores all over the UK. 

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