Introduction: Design Your Own Fabric With Icons to Represent Your Interests (& Make It Into a Tie!)


My partner and I are converting our Civil Partnership (CP) to Marriage. When we had our CP 7 years ago it was a fantastic day which we consider to be our wedding even though the laws in our country dictate that to be considered equal now we have to legally convert from one type of union to another. Good excuse for a party I say!

We have 2 wonderful children now that were not around to celebrate with us the first time so we wanted to involve them in our special day. We are having a small ceremony in the morning followed by a big fat party!!

For the ceremony I wanted to finish my outfit off with a special tie, and having discovered the amazing I knew I could make something truly unique that incorporates my kids and the family they have completed.

Step 1: Choose Your Fabric 'elements'

I decided to use the brilliant Noun Project for my design so that I could represent my family and everything we enjoy visually. If you've never heard of the project, check it out. Great resource for many projects, both for fun and for work.

First off I made a list, with my partner, of all the things that represent us as a family.

Some of those things are;

  • Chocolate
  • Sweets
  • Love
  • Torch
  • Lego
  • Bicycle
  • Baths
  • Swimming
  • Rainbow
  • Football
  • Music
  • Dancing
  • Stars
  • ...+ another 20 or so.

I then headed on over to and searched for each of the items in my list and looked for an icon to represent each one. Sometimes there was only limited choice, others had several options so I chose the one I liked best that also fitted stylistically with the others (when composing the design layout later I did change a couple that looked 'wrong' next to the others). I also had to alter my search terms for a few of them - "DVD" looked a bit pants so I searched for "Film" instead and got a much better set of icons from which to choose.

All icons on The Noun Project are subject to Creative Commons Licencing so it imperative that you attribute the designers of the icons you choose.

I saved all the icons I wanted in a single folder for ease of access later and also updated a text file with each icon's name and designer attribution information as I went along - going back and doing it later is a pain so make sure you do it as you go. They make it super easy for you - just copy the attribution info available as you download each icon and add it to your text file.


(Image Credit for this step; Chocolate by Jessica Lock from the Noun Project, Computer by Yorlmar Campos from the Noun Project, Disco Ball by Yazmin Alanis from the Noun Project, Dog by Buena Buena from the Noun Project, Film by Diego Naive from the Noun Project, Football by james zamyslianskyj from the Noun Project, Heart by stolkramaker from the Noun Project, lego by Marco Petrucci from the Noun Project.)

Step 2: Prepare Your Noun Icons

Having downloaded all the images its time to resize them and crop any accreditation* that is saved onto the image. You can do this one by one using any available image editor you have available including Windows' own image editor. I used the popular and free GIMP2 to do this.

Simply crop each file so that there is no text showing on the image itself.

You then need to resize all your images. I chose to make mine 1" wide with the height constrained by the proportions dictated by width. You can do any size you feel comfortable with, but make sure you test print at real size if you aren't sure what will work well. I wanted a lot of nouns so went on the smallish size, without compromising on detail. Choose whatever works for you and experiment on paper if needed.

To resize them I used a batch image editor to convert all my files at once, but if you don't have such a tool available you can do this at the same time as you crop the images as above. Be sure you have a copy of your files before you start editing them in case you need to play around with options.

*Make sure you have accreditation details saved elsewhere in line with Creative Commons licencing and can display that accreditation somewhere relevant.


(Image Credit for this step; Bath by Kristin McPeak from the Noun Project, Dog by Buena Buena from the Noun Project)

Step 3: Choose Your Base Fabric

Head on over to and have a look at the fabric options they have - they give you loads of detail to help you choose. You can order a sample book for about $1 to help you choose if you like (see image).

I chose the satin fabric as I felt the shiny finish would look the nicest.

If budget is a consideration, 1 yard is all you need to make the cravat style tie I made, but alterations to this may need more. Check your pattern details as required. You may even get away with a fat quarter if you are happy altering the pattern/method I describe or know how to adjust requirements accordingly.

Once you know which fabric you are going to use you need to make a note of the standard width of that fabric. My satin was 54" - write this down to suit your selection or adjust to the width of a fat quarter for your fabric.

Step 4: Create Your Image File for the Design

Open up your image editing software of choice - I used GIMP 2 but anything that support transparencies and allows you to specify canvas size will do.

Create a new canvas that is the width of your fabric as noted from the previous step (here I'm using 54" as that's the width of the satin I want to use) and high enough to accommodate the height of your icons plus a bit of room for creative freedom - I went with 3" to be sure. NB, Width is the crucial measurement and shouldn't be altered, you can play with height later.

If you want to have full control over the total piece of fabric, for example if you want to manually do your repeat rather than letting the spoonflower design page do it for you, or if you have very large icons for example and only want a few, then set the height to the same as the total length of your fabric - e.g. 1 yard (36 inches).

Step 5: Design Your Fabric!

On your newly created digital canvas, go grab those icons and play to your hearts' content.

As you can see from the images above it took me a few goes to get the lay out I liked, even trying a diagonal one which I rejected as being too darn complicated to get to print how I wanted it. You may even need to swap some icons or get more from The Noun Project.

Version 3 was the one I went with :)

I have done a manual repeat for a section of my fabric so that I got a more random layout on the finished piece. Check out the subsequent steps on uploading it to spoonflower and playing with the repeat patterns they offer so that you can get a better idea of how your design will translate to fabric. You may like to have a few goes like I did, uploading it, then trying different options, before coming back here and doing it all over again!

Note: its all very black and white at the moment; don't worry, colour comes later as we'll let the spoonflower software do it for us to avoid pixelation and misinterpretation of colour values (set as hexadecimal html codes).

When you are happy, make sure you have a clear white background layer and no transparency around your icons.

Save your file as a png (jpeg might work, but try at your own risk!). Make sure you keep a copy of the xcf or psd file etc so you can alter later if needed.

Step 6: Upload and Finalise Your Design

Head on over to spoonflower and create an account if you don't already have one.

Find the 'Create' button (at the top) and follow the instructions there to upload your design image.

Set your fabric to the type you have chosen and based your image size on.

Now have a play with the repeat options - as you can see in the images above you get varying results. Personally I liked 'half-brick' the best as I felt it looked the nicest and more random. I personally felt that the basic repeat was to 'blocky' visually and gave areas of the design that were very dark. Make sure you 'save this layout' when you are happy.

Be sure to step back from the screen and see what it looks like at a distance, and note the ruler sizes as they are real size so this is where a printer may come in handy to print a small section of your design at real size, or you can set the zoom level with the help of a physical ruler to make it display at real(ish) size.

Go back and alter your design in your image editor if you need to (for example first off i only had one row of icons, so I went back at this point and made it in to 3 rows with the icons in different order on each row) and repeat this step.

When you are totally happy it time to add some colour.

You should also copy your list of attributions to the additional details section to keep in line with Creative Commons licencing. This can be done anytime, but must be done before you order your fabric.

Step 7: Colour Your Design

Fortunately Spoonflower makes it easy for you to add colour - much easier than trying to recolour in an image editor I found as you don't have to manage various files as you adjust the colour to suit.

I made use of to help me choose my colour which was intended to contrast with the shirt I will be wearing the tie with. Find or create a colour scheme you like and note down the html values required.

These instructions assume a 2 colour scheme - if you want more colours, you'll need to identify which icons to colour in each colour so you may prefer to use the image editor itself to set them or be happy playing with the spoonflower options. If you really fancied it I bet you could do a multi coloured layer that shows only where the black icon lines are!

In the spoonflower design area, choose 'Change Colors' and simply swap white for your desired background colour. Be sure to expand the 'Advance Color Options' section and limit the colour scheme to 2 colours - black and white.

Now set the colours to your desired options and save your new design.

Play around with the options until you are ready to order your fabric - make sure you order the correct fabric and the correct length etc. Don't forget to attribute the icon designers.

Step 8: Order Your Fabric and Wait for the Postie...

When you are sure you are happy, order that fabric and wait for it to arrive.

The jump with joy when it turns up - mine came to the UK from the US in less than 4 days using the reasonably priced expedited shipping.

Step 9: Make the Tie

First off, wash that fabric - you don't want it to shrink later so give it a wash no to pre-shrink it. Give it an iron too and let it dry.

Lay your fabric out on a nice big flat surface - the floor works wonders, provided you vacuum/mop it first!

If you want to make the tie exactly like I did in a cravat/scarf style, follow the steps below. If you have a pattern for another style then follow those instructions instead.

  1. Cut 2 strips, 40cm wide.
  2. Lay them right side together but facing in opposite directions but still with the pattern the right way up. See image for finished result.
  3. Sew together leaving a 12mm/0.5" seam and press the seam to one side using an iron (not too hot for your fabric) and some water/steam.
  4. Now fold the very long piece in half length ways right side together. Pin.
  5. Sew the long seam (around 2.5 meters long) again leaving a 12mm/0.5" seam.
  6. Turn through and drape round your neck.
    • Take off any excess material - 2.5 meters was too long for me, I tied it into my desired knot (see link at end).
    • Be sure to remove an equal amount from both ends so it stays even.
    • I took off 25cms at each end, but I am quite tall!
  7. Turn inside out again and sew one end closed completely, and the other half closed.
  8. Turn entire thing through so its no longer 'inside out'.
  9. Press the centre seam keeping it in the middle and as straight as possible.
  10. Press the edges so they are nice and crisp and the tie holds its shape.
  11. Sew the open end closed by hand or topstitch if you don't mind seeing the stitches.

Yay - your tie is complete!

Step 10: Wear It With Pride

Now you have a fab tie its time to decide how to wear it.

I went for a loop knot - have a look at this YouTube video for instructions on how to tie it.

Enjoy - let me know if you have a go at this 'ible. Spoonflower do gift wrap and wallpaper too so the principals of this Instructables can be applied to them too. The also have lots of design resources to help you get started.

Thanks for reading :)


All Icons courtesy of The Noun Project....

Bath by Kristin McPeak from the Noun Project Bear by Creative Stall from the Noun Project Bicycle by Olivier Guin from the Noun Project Bird by juan manjarrez from the Noun Project Book by Chris Thoburn from the Noun Project Button by Jardson Almeida from the Noun Project Chocolate by Jessica Lock from the Noun Project Computer by Yorlmar Campos from the Noun Project Disco Ball by Yazmin Alanis from the Noun Project Dog by Buena Buena from the Noun Project Film by Diego Naive from the Noun Project Flashlight by Iain Hector from the Noun Project Football by james zamyslianskyj from the Noun Project Heart by stolkramaker from the Noun Project lego by Marco Petrucci from the Noun Project Mountains by James Fenton from the Noun Project Music by Hum from the Noun Project outdoors by Cezary Lopacinski from the Noun Project phoenix by Design Rails from the Noun Project Rainbow by from the Noun Project Recumbent Bicycle by Luis Prado from the Noun Project stars by João Proença from the Noun Project Swimming by Matt Brooks from the Noun Project Tree by Martin Vanco from the Noun Project (some icons not listed as they are free from attribution).

Wedding Contest

Runner Up in the
Wedding Contest