Monday, December 6, 2010

Roses and ribbons

On Friday I received a heavy box of new ribbons from my partner in all of this, Renaissance Ribbons, who manufacture and wholesale my designs.  It contained designs which I worked on last fall with Sheila Rolfer, their elegant and stylish head of sales.  She came to visit me last fall and we spent a hard & fast 4 hours in my studio, rummaging through all of my design files, flipping through dozens of colorings in Photoshop, and coming up with a number of new ribbons which have slowly arrived across 2010.  It was loads of fun, a dream for both of us.  Renaissance Ribbons is in northern California, I am in southern Indiana, and though we meet from time to time at trade shows our main communications are by email and telephone.

Getting together in person and going through my hundreds of designs was both intensely creative and efficient.  Shelia has exquisite taste, and a finely tuned sense of our market through years of selling ribbons for Renaissance (which is the most exclusively wonderful American ribbon company, period)  While I will project colorings from an artist's point of view, frequently coming up with challenging palettes not yet seen (I have an intuitive grasp of when the world has seen enough of a trendy color and what the antidote is likely to be), Sheila understands what our customers want now, and how that fits in the worlds of fashion and interiors to which ribbon is linked.  Our collaboration -- along with owner, Edith Minne, who has a deep love of ribbon and adds a keen business perspective -- is balanced then by the points of view of many camps.  Getting together in person is almost giddy with ideas, we talk until our minds are spinning and then it is time to part and get it all done from our various corners of the ribbon empire.

Sheila sometimes makes design suggestions to me, and sooner or later I manage to catch the vision through her eyes and come up with something new. She had wanted a two-tone rose design for some time, and because we were together last year I could draw and color it as she watched, we looked at the thread color book together, and we came up with this dramatic beauty, which I call, of course, "Sheila's Rose".  It is a heavy satin damask in either warm antique gold or rich crimson, with black.  More colors to follow in the spring.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

sewing ribbon belts

here I am in a narrow belt of my Granny Squares on black.
I posted a while ago with that great photo of the mannequin at Vogue Fabrics wrapped in circles of ribbons around the waist, and today they wrote about me writing about them on the Vogue Fabrics blog. Occurred to me that I hadn't shown you the belts I have been making all fall.  Here they are on display at the TSA conference in Nebraska last month. (sorry the photo is so very yellow!)

To make a belt, I cut 1 1/4 yard (that is about 45") of ribbon, and select the same length of a coordinating grosgrain ribbon in the same width.  May Arts offers a great grosgrain ribbon in the 2.5" width, which is particularly hard to find.  (Most of my ribbons are 1 1/2" wide, and it is quite easy to find 1 1/2" grosgrain in a variety of colors) One could also back a belt with fabric, or with another coordinating LFN ribbon, of course.  I lay the ribbons back to back, and sew carefully down each side as close to the edge as possible. When that is done, I heat up my woodburner pen tool, lay a metal ruler across the end and cut carefully with the hot knife, which evens and seals the cut so that it will not ravel. Repeating on the other end, I then lap one end though the buckle about 2", fold it down and sew in place by machine.  I take it over to the ironing board and steam press it on the wrong side, using a medium heat setting.  Polyester ribbons will shrink rather dramatically from the application of direct heat so I don't press on the face of the ribbon, but a good pressing on the back makes it lay flat and gives it more suppleness.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

purse project by K Andrew Designs

Blogland is so wonderful.  New friends all the time.  Yesterday K. Andrew left a generous comment on my blog post and I went off to hers to see what she is making with my ribbon, and found this charming purse, made with Mistletoe and brocade dot ribbons. 
There is even a tutorial and a giveaway contest involving it!  Please go check this  blog out -- full of ideas.  And please feel free to send me links to your own posts involving LFN Ribbons.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vogue Fabrics

Vogue Fabrics in Evanston & Chicago, IL has got to be my all time favorite fabric store.  I have been shopping at the Evanston store since I was in seventh grade and beginning to sew.  We would make pilgrimages up from the northern suburbs and pore over all manner of useful and exotic fabric, always being sure to hit the remnant room to collect an armload of bargains before heading home to the sewing machine.  I sewed addictively and it was sewing that led me to a life and career in textiles.

I was thrilled when they began carrying my line of artist's ribbons, which they still proudly label as "designed by hometown artist Laura Foster Nicholson" years after I decamped to southern Indiana.  Loyalty begets loyalty, I guess.

When I was at Crate & Barrel offices last week showing my new designs for next fall, one of the buyers told me that Vogue had displayed a wide range of my ribbons draped on a dress form in the window.  Here it is, with a reflection of Evanston in the background.  Thanks Katie!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

LFN at the Land of Nod

these photos courtesy of Land of Nod

I have been waiting for today -- my first Land of Nod  products went live on their website today!  For those of you with grown kids (and no grandchildren yet) Land of Nod is a partner company of Crate & Barrel and I have been working with the for a couple of years now developing designs for rugs and bedding.  I have always loved their style and it is particularly fun to design furnishings intended for children but with a certain sophistication.  Above are two tufted wool rugs, which come in 3 sizes and these two colorways.

these photos courtesy of Land of Nod
Above here are a coordinating Christmas tree skirt & stocking made of  linen appliqued with felt, based on the bright banners I filled the windows in the New Harmony Contemporary Gallery Shop last year.

I have also designed several bedding sets for Land of Nod, which I believe will come out in early spring 2011.  Fun!

Monday, October 18, 2010

on a lighter note...

From pirates to Santa: sounds like Disneyland!  Just got word that the Santa ribbon we have worked long and hard on (so much detail to fit into a tiny textile) has been ordered and if I am good as gold, Santa will deliver him to me before Christmas ... keep your fingers crossed!
approval sample of 1.5" Santa Ribbon, courtesy Renaissance Ribbons

Saturday, October 16, 2010

with all this exposure there is always a danger....

LFN Textiles Orange Suzani Ribbon 2.5" wide

...and I am not talking about the Social Network movie.  This week I got a cheery note from my British sister in law telling me she had seen my ribbons on a vendor's stall at a show in London, and she gave me the URL.  I always like to see who sells my ribbon so I looked it up and was horrified to find 11 of "my" ribbons, actually knockoffs of popular LFN ribbon designs.  Utterly recognizable designs, but poorly woven, colors off, narrower widths and yes, cheaper prices. I include four of my designs which were among the knockoffs, and there were 7 others at least. (these are my designs, not the copies, pictured)
LFN TIny Christmas Cakes ribbon, 1" wide
most people think only Gucci bags and music get pirated or knocked off.  They enjoy getting designer goods at a cut-rate price and think it doesn't really hurt anybody.  I am here to tell you that any creator is likely to suffer.  Copyright laws exist but are difficult to enforce, and most copycats know that minor changes are enough to render a design "new " and original enough.

This is the third instance in as many years that I have uncovered knockoffs of my designs, always by accident when someone tells me they have seen my ribbon somewhere (last year was a shoe manufacturer who actually got samples from us and then had the designs printed more cheaply).

LFN Big Bee ribbon, 1.5" wide
The damage this does is twofold.  Of course, I am not being paid for my designs.  It also introduces a cheaper, less well made item, which is detrimental to the reputation of my beautifully designed ribbons.  Their prices undersell mine which causes its own harm.

Having things manufactured abroad, notably in Asia, exposes one to this kind of piracy much more easily.  One never can blame the little guy who is buying these ribbons, not knowing the harm done; but it is really difficult to trace the source and it is nearly impossible to prosecute.

Auricula Ribbon, LFN Textiles, 1.5" wide, brown ground
I would like to ask you, my supporters, to keep an LFN watch out for me for a while.  Let me know whenever you see ribbons you think might be mine, for sale in stores abroad.  I am particularly on the hunt for the British distributor right now.  We are pursuing our own investigations at Renaissance Ribbons, but I could use your help.  You can leave comments here or email me at  Thanks!

PS: I have now heard from the shop owner who was unwittingly carrying these ribbons and she quite reasonably asked me to remove her photos from this posting, which I have done, so I am only showing the original LFN designs, not the copies.  You may use your imagination, they were similar enough but the widths and colors were slightly different.  Others copied include Allium, several colors of Palmette and Suzani and Poppy.

I should add that the shop owner was mortified and quite lovely about taking the offending ribbons off her website.  She purchased them Asia and saw them everywhere there.  It is frightening -- but some people have pointed out it is the way of the world and I should feel flattered and keep moving.  The answer is always new designs.  Not sure I agree, but what else can you do?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spoonflower Conquest!

I have been entering Spoonflower's Fabric of the Week contests occasionally when the theme matches something in my portfolio. Last week I was surprised and delighted to find out that I had won the Gourd contest!  My prize: $100 worth of Spoonflower fabric, so I was able to print out a number of designs in my portfolio.  As you might imagine I design far more than I can afford to print -- so this is a great boon to me.  I think I will make aprons out of my fabrics, there seems to be a demand for them at our New Harmony Coffee House & General Store.  It is so lovely to be selected from a field of talented peers, and to be chosen by peers.  Thanks, Spoonflower!

Textile Society of America

Last week, I took my ribbons out to Lincoln, Nebraska to offer them for sale in the Marketplace at the Textile Society of America symposium.  Although, because I sat in the market, I was not able to attend the many fascinating seminars, many friends & colleagues were in attendance and I was able to socialize and network at night and when people visited my booth.  The other vendors had fascinating goods: beyond the usual expected shibori and hand woven scarves, there were dealers of South Asian quilts, (Thomas Mond of Maine) and moroccan and central Asian textiles (Ethnofacts from Lawrence, KS); high end handmade clothing dealers such as Santa Fe Weaving Gallery and Carol Lee Shanks; artist cooperatives representatives such as Creative Bee from India and Quilts for Kids, Nepal.   Natural dyeing was a major theme of the symposium and Carol Leigh's Hillcreek Studio brought masses of natural dye substances and mordants.  ( I was able to resist most of the textiles, but indulged my curiosity about natural dying by purchasing madder root, logwood and mordants -- watch my art blog for what happens with that!).

Carol Leigh's Hillcreek Fiber Studio

Quilts for Kids, Nepal

Carol Lee Shanks clothing

I got to the International Quilt Study Museum to see a fantastic exhibition of quilts from India, Pakistan & Bangladesh, and made connections with their museum store and several others for selling LFN Ribbons. 

At my booth I was delighted to have conversations with dozens of fascinating conferees about all sorts of textile subjects, and was gratified to hear from many of them that they had previously purchased LFN Ribbons at diverse stores all across the country.

John Marshall Japanese Textiles
Thomas Mond Quilts

LFN Display

LFN ribbon belts

The drive home yesterday in the October sunshine was sparkling and sunny, and today I am soooooooo happy to return to my studio.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Yikes, a month since posting!  any day now the mail will bring me the new Beets ribbon and I will need to get it online for you: here is a peek now.

Also, I have another design in a Spoonflower contest for gourd fabrics, my heirloom pumpkins. (if you want to vote for me, it is #60!)


This week I am off to Lincoln, Nebraska to sell ribbon at the Textile Society of America conference -- looking forward to meeting a fascinating group of people.  More to come!

Friday, September 3, 2010

what I am really doing instead of writing on my blog

OK, so I have not been posting much this summer.  It IS summer, after all.  But today, the third of September, the weather has uncannily changed, as it always does exactly at the beginning of September, to cool, clear, breezy days and nearly chilly nights.  I love September as I love New Year's: both signal time to get back to serious work after a holiday.

I have been working, too, mostly weaving as I look at the calendar and realize that the two shows I have lined up for next spring are looming (!) ever closer.  I also am lucky enough to have some commissioned work (see my artwork blog, for comments about all of that).

I have been designing new ribbons and anticipating the arrival of the fall ribbons I have already designed: Coleus, Kale, Grapevines, Beets among others.  I am anticipating the arrival of the next Land of Nod catalog (October 21!) which will contain my first designs for them-- what fun that has been!  But all of this work can't be shown until it is on the market so I can't post it now.

And it would seem that most of the time I have been working at the design for my new website, which I hope to switch to on October 1.  (same address, new look!)   I have always done all of my own webwork, but finally hit a wall when I just couldn't figure out how to add project pages, a cleaner design, a more integrated feel.  So I have been feverishly working with a new host and hope to go live with it by the end of the month.  It is always more work than you think it ever could be --even if you have help.  The biggest change for my customers -- other than the addition of project pages -- will be the ability to buy as little as 1/4 yard!  Up until now I worked in units of 1 yard.  So keep your eyes open and be sure to visit us soon.  Here's what the new home page should look like:

I plan to have an area where I can upload customer's ribbon projects, so by all means please email me your LFN ribbon masterpieces if you want me to feature them.   Come to think of it there is no reason I couldn't do that right here, right now on this blog.  You can send ideas to me at

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

ribbon luggage rack

When I visited my sister Sandy last week, the luggage rack in the guest room was woefully tattered.  An easy fix!  I had an assortment of ribbons with me and Sandy chose the claret Pears.  I sewed on a pale pear green satin backing ribbon of the same width, cut the ribbon into 20" lengths, and Sandy stapled them back on the rack.  Done in less than 30 minutes!

Monday, August 30, 2010

fall at Crate & Barrel

This fall I am happy to have a new version of the suzani flower as a doormat at Crate & Barrel.  This was done for summer 2010 in brights and now it is printed on coco fiber in warm autumnal colors.  You might recognize the pattern, it is one of my best-selling ribbons as well!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

spoonflower contests

I do have fun entering Spoonflower's themed fabric design contests.  Recently I have entered 3 contests, and you can look for my designs -- and vote for them! -- here.  And if you are so inclined, you may look at a number of designs I have made available for public view and purchase by searching Spoonflower for lfntextiles.
Here is my entry for Surrealist Fruit, closing tomorrow.  An earlier incarnation of this design was used a couple of years ago on an apron & mitt set from Crate & Barrel.
 Upcoming contests I have entered:

Windows & Doors (next week)
Kindly remember that all content, images and text, on this blog is copyright Laura Foster Nicholson.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I have always loved Marigolds, with their odd tomato like smell.  In our vegetable garden we have tomatoes interplanted with marigolds and nasturtiums to add color and deter pests.  (Tonight I will spend processing MORE tomatoes, they are burgeoning right now! 

I worked long & hard on this design of marigolds, starting with a black and white, linocut type image and them working it into color (the opposite of my usual way of working color first).  We tried several different constructions for the ribbon before settling on this beautiful, somewhat hefty but supple woven edge ribbon,  I received my spools last week and have posted it online now for sale, and it comes in 3 color grounds. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

I am writing this from Santa Fe, where I have come to see the International Folk Art Market.  I was invited by Docey Lewis, on behalf of Hand/Eye Magazine (now THAT'S a fab read!) and Hand/Eye Fund, to design the logo for their fund-raising booth, A Million Hearts for Haiti, at the market.  Docey has worked with Haitian artisans for years, helping them develop product for American markets under the auspices of Aid to Artisans.  Most of these people lost their workshops in the earthquake, so the goal right now is to raise a million dollars from the sale of Haitian hearts to replace their ateliers.  (see Hand/Eye Fund to make a contribution).  Hearts sold briskly during opening night and yesterday; I was gratified that all the souvenir button pins (see above, sponsored by Tesoros Trading company) I designed already sold out , as well as all of the t-shirts with the logo.  They should be available through Tesoros shortly.

I had the opportunity to walk around the market, agog at the depth of skilled artisanry on every available surface by people of many lands.  The entire market place was decorated with fabulously festive flowers, garlands, color everywhere.  I was too busy looking at the beautiful crafts to take many pictures, but here are a few.

There was a large proportion of artisans from Uzbekistan in particular, suzanis abounding.  Persuaded by a charming Uzbek man to try on a peacock green ikat chapan robe -- which, alas, has no place in my simple wardrobe -- I gave him a length of my Suzani ribbon, which pleased him very much.
I also stopped in at Patina Gallery -- my representatives in Santa Fe -- to drop off a tapestry and say hello to Ivan & Alison Barnett.  The gallery looked gorgeous as always and my most recent work, the Beehives and Goldenrod, as well as Shed with Bales, were hanging. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

crocheting ribbon

My love affair with the image of crochet is continuing. Having designed the rather prim Doily ribbon, we now are introducing a fairly rambunctious design based on Granny Square afghans. Over the winter I was determined to learn to crochet, inspired by Sophie Digard's incredible crochet scarves (I own two). These are hand crocheted of extremely fine wool or linen threads, sometimes bundled together in heathery combos. One of my scarves is in shades of coral an the other in shades of verdigris: between them they go with nearly everything I own and I wear them all winter.

So I slaved away in front of the fire every night during the winter, working on more blanket-scaled grannies, trying to make the color sing like in my Digard scarves -- and, well, I should stick to weaving. It WAS fun. Then I took the inspiration and went back to the computer and have designed a series of things based on crochet. The new Granny Squares ribbons are a part of all of that work. Hopefully other designs will make their way on to the market too. I have had lots of fun, and I think it shows here.