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From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile

When artist and designer Rebecca Atwood picked up a wide, flat brush and started painting flowing indigo stripes in her sketchbook one day in late 2016, she wasn’t necessarily looking to create a new product for her Brooklyn-based home-textile studio, Rebecca Atwood Designs.  

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 1 of 26 - Rebecca Atwood’s pillows, duvets, wallpapers, and other designs are made in many places, from Rhode Island to India, but almost all of them start as ideas in her sketchbook. The Tidal Wave fabric series is based on painted squiggles she did in 2016. 

Rebecca Atwood’s pillows, duvets, wallpapers, and other designs are made in many places, from Rhode Island to India, but almost all of them start as ideas in her sketchbook. The Tidal Wave fabric series is based on painted squiggles she did in 2016. 

“I was just painting simple lines as a way to warm up and explore some ideas—just seeing what was happening with the paint that day,” she says. “I loved the way it pooled and then stretched as the brush dragged it across the paper, softening the line as it moved across the page.”

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 2 of 26 - To bring her painting to life as a fabric, Atwood worked with designers and weavers at MTL, a mill in Jessup, Pennsylvania. MTL is one of a very small number of textile mills left in the United States; it specializes in weaving jacquard velvets and high-end upholstery fabrics.

To bring her painting to life as a fabric, Atwood worked with designers and weavers at MTL, a mill in Jessup, Pennsylvania. MTL is one of a very small number of textile mills left in the United States; it specializes in weaving jacquard velvets and high-end upholstery fabrics.

The wavy, undulating pattern, done in gouache, reminded Atwood of her childhood, spent on Cape Cod. But she says it also reflected the freeform manner in which she designs the fabrics, wallpapers, and other items she sells in her studio and online, capturing snippets of inspiration in the sketchbook she always has close at hand. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 3 of 26 - Each finished run of Tidal Wave fabric is stretched across a frame and carefully inspected for imperfections. Any textile that doesn’t meet industry standards is either repaired or, in rare cases, scrapped, depending on the severity of the flaw. Once the fabric passes inspection, it is sent to the warehouse to be sold or made into pillows.

Each finished run of Tidal Wave fabric is stretched across a frame and carefully inspected for imperfections. Any textile that doesn’t meet industry standards is either repaired or, in rare cases, scrapped, depending on the severity of the flaw. Once the fabric passes inspection, it is sent to the warehouse to be sold or made into pillows.

“Sketchbooks are a big part of my process, and where everything starts,” she says. “And sometimes those sketches take on lives of their own.”

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 4 of 26 -

Such was the case with those wavy blue lines, which she felt compelled to do something with. It would have been easy to take the flowing strokes of blue paint and create a print. After all, a number of her studio’s designs are produced via screen-printing. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 5 of 26 -

But Atwood had other ideas: “I wanted to take something that felt very painterly and transform it into a woven fabric,” she says. “Weaving is so structural, so constrained by its horizontal and vertical grids. I wanted to find a way to translate a hand-painted design into that format.”

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 6 of 26 -

Atwood has a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and has worked as a designer for Anthropologie and consulted as a trend forecaster for Kate Spade and WGSN. But she isn’t a weaver. She doesn’t consider herself a screen printer, either—although she used to hand-paint, print, and dye all of her own designs when she launched her first textile line five years ago, working out of her small New York apartment.

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 7 of 26 -

“It’s not like fashion, where color is always evolving. You want to create a palette that is enduring.” -Rebecca Atwood

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 8 of 26 -

“I’m a painter,” she says. “I quickly learned that I don’t want to make a hundred of the same thing, because it takes the joy out of the initial design.”

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 9 of 26 -

To create this particular textile, Atwood turned to MTL, a Jessup, Pennsylvania–based mill she’d worked with before. “They’re experts at weaving,” she says, “and they’re also my partners and collaborators in making what I’m dreaming in my head come to life.”

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 10 of 26 -

The main challenge would be finding a way to create the “wave” as a raised motif that would capture the feel of embroidery. Atwood also needed to determine the right blend of yarns to create the effect of brushstrokes. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 11 of 26 -

Working closely with MTL senior designer Julia Krah, she explored various material options and weaving techniques to capture the effect of paint pooling and dragging across a page. Together, she and Krah settled upon a blend of five colors, executed in a mix of nylon and cotton. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 12 of 26 -

The resulting textile, produced in 60-yard runs and known as “Tidal Wave,” is a durable fabric best suited for upholstery. Atwood sells it by the yard ($124 per) or as a finished square or rectangular pillow stuffed with down. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 13 of 26 -

It’s available in three combos: soft peach and white, gray-blue on taupe, and, in the colors closest to the original sketch, a subtly shifting wave of sea blues and cream.

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 14 of 26 -
From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 15 of 26 -
From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 16 of 26 -

Tidal Wave Fabric

See how it’s made, step by step. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 17 of 26 - <b>1 Make the Design&nbsp;</b> At her studio in Industry City in Brooklyn, Rebecca Atwood mixed several shades of blue gouache paint to create the exact colors she wanted before designing a pattern in her sketchbook. This would become the basis for Tidal Wave.&nbsp;

1 Make the Design  At her studio in Industry City in Brooklyn, Rebecca Atwood mixed several shades of blue gouache paint to create the exact colors she wanted before designing a pattern in her sketchbook. This would become the basis for Tidal Wave. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 18 of 26 - <b>2 Transfer to Loom&nbsp;</b> Turning an artwork on paper into a woven textile requires multiple rounds of color swatches, pattern samples, and visits to the MTL mill in Jessup, Pennsylvania, to determine the correct formula.&nbsp;

2 Transfer to Loom  Turning an artwork on paper into a woven textile requires multiple rounds of color swatches, pattern samples, and visits to the MTL mill in Jessup, Pennsylvania, to determine the correct formula. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 19 of 26 - <b>3 Wind The Warp&nbsp;</b> Before weaving the pattern, weavers at the mill must prepare the warp, which creates the vertical structure of the fabric. Here, a "creel" holds hundreds of cones of yarn that will be used to start building the warp.&nbsp;

3 Wind The Warp  Before weaving the pattern, weavers at the mill must prepare the warp, which creates the vertical structure of the fabric. Here, a “creel” holds hundreds of cones of yarn that will be used to start building the warp. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 20 of 26 - <b>4 Create Tension</b> Tidal Wave has a two-color warp made from fine, solution-dyed nylon yarn. Each individual yarn is run through a device that keeps it from getting tangled and ensures uniform tension as it winds around a huge drum.&nbsp;

4 Create Tension Tidal Wave has a two-color warp made from fine, solution-dyed nylon yarn. Each individual yarn is run through a device that keeps it from getting tangled and ensures uniform tension as it winds around a huge drum. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 21 of 26 - <b>5 Tie the Warp&nbsp;</b> Once the yarns have been wound onto the drum of the warping machine, they get transferred—literally unwound—onto a warp beam. The warp beam is then put into the back of a loom and prepared for weaving.

5 Tie the Warp  Once the yarns have been wound onto the drum of the warping machine, they get transferred—literally unwound—onto a warp beam. The warp beam is then put into the back of a loom and prepared for weaving.

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 22 of 26 - <b>6 Prepare the Loom</b> The Tidal Wave pattern is woven using a Jacquard loom, a machine that dates to 1804. Today, MTL uses a computer file that acts as the loom’s "brain" and controls the binary weaving process.&nbsp;

6 Prepare the Loom The Tidal Wave pattern is woven using a Jacquard loom, a machine that dates to 1804. Today, MTL uses a computer file that acts as the loom’s “brain” and controls the binary weaving process. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 23 of 26 - <b>7 Introduce Color</b> The warp, which is made of thousands of fine yarns, acts as a "carrier" for the blue and off-white cotton weft yarns. The binary file controls how and when the warp threads are manipulated to make way for the weft yarn.&nbsp;

7 Introduce Color The warp, which is made of thousands of fine yarns, acts as a “carrier” for the blue and off-white cotton weft yarns. The binary file controls how and when the warp threads are manipulated to make way for the weft yarn. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 24 of 26 - <b>8 Weave the Pattern</b> As the warp is raised or lowered, it creates an opening through which the weft yarn is inserted. These interlacements create the design that’s visible on the face of the textile—in this case, the squiggly lines.&nbsp;

8 Weave the Pattern As the warp is raised or lowered, it creates an opening through which the weft yarn is inserted. These interlacements create the design that’s visible on the face of the textile—in this case, the squiggly lines. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 25 of 26 - <b>&nbsp;9&nbsp;Insert the Weft</b> After each pass of the weft pick (a single yarn crossing the warp), the yarns are "beaten" or combed into place to ensure even tension. The weft pick moves so swiftly across the warp that it’s sometimes difficult to track with the human eye.&nbsp;

 9 Insert the Weft After each pass of the weft pick (a single yarn crossing the warp), the yarns are “beaten” or combed into place to ensure even tension. The weft pick moves so swiftly across the warp that it’s sometimes difficult to track with the human eye. 

From Sketchbook to Loom, We Reveal How a Brooklyn Designer Created Her New Ocean-Inspired Textile - Photo 26 of 26 - <b>10 Trim the Selvedge</b> As the loom weaves, the fabric continuously advances forward and is rolled onto a beam<br>at the front of the loom. As it rolls out, cutters trim the edges, creating the textile’s finished width.&nbsp;&nbsp;

10 Trim the Selvedge As the loom weaves, the fabric continuously advances forward and is rolled onto a beam
at the front of the loom. As it rolls out, cutters trim the edges, creating the textile’s finished width.  

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