Japanese children’s prints seem to come in three types: all-over print, border prints, and panel prints. All-over print is like any Western prints, with the same images printed repeatedly across the fabric. You can use any part of the fabric and make almost identical products. Border prints and panel prints, on the other hand, seem practically unique to Japanese fabric — I can’t recall seeing anything like them elsewhere.
Border prints have “feature” images printed along the two borders of fabric (along the selvages), and something else (or nothing) in the middle section of the fabric. Like this:
Panel prints have different image “sections” scattered all over the fabric, so depending on how you cut your fabric, you end up with completely different images. Like this:
I have a love / hate relationship with these prints. I love them because they are irresistibly cute, and they appeal to my creative spirit. I get all excited thinking, I can use this part of the fabric for a backpack, and then the middle section for a lunch bag, and so on. It’s like a puzzle to me. I also get deluded into thinking what a great value these prints are, because you can make different-looking bags using the same yard of fabric.
Deluded, however, is the truth here, because these prints in fact offer no value in a strictly business sense. On the contrary, when I try to actually make something out of them, I end up spending an inordinate amount of time agonising over how to cut them. So, from a strictly business point of view, they are time wasters.
Moreover, when you finally come up with a great way to use these border/panel prints, and you start cutting around the prettiest parts of the fabric, inevitably there is a lot of leftover fabric that you cannot use up easily. If I can make three backpacks from a meter of regular, all-over print, for example, I can only make two from a border print. So these prints are not only time wasters, but fabric wasters as well.
And yet… and yet I still buy these fabrics. Why? Well, because working in a “strictly business” mode all the time is boring. The wasted time I spend agonising over how to use a border fabric? I enjoy every minute of it. Sure, I cannot impose a “difficult fabric surcharge” on a bag just because I spent a lot of time making it, or because I end up wasting fabric. But my work is also my creative outlet, and there is a lot of (self-)satisfaction when I come up with a fabulous way to use a particular border fabric. Like this complicated border print:
This one has large-sized cars on white background on one end and small-sized cars on white on the other end. In the middle there are cars printed on blue background. After a lot of thinking, and several trial and errors, I came up with these two backpacks:
Aren’t they gorgeous? I love the pair of them. They look similar but different, because they come from opposite ends of the fabric. The pocket was the most difficult part, because there was no way I could “match” the print underneath without wasting a huge amount of fabric. So instead of trying to match them, I used a small-cars pocket for large-cars backpack, and vice versa. I love the sort of magnifying glass effect (and opposite of it) it creates. These backpacks took days to make. Granted my work day is rather short, but seriously, days.
And you would think, wouldn’t you, now that I’ve figured out this particular print for my backpacks, surely I can make more of them more efficiently? Well, unfortunately, this print is sold out. No more “working cars” print available to order. Sigh. Ah well, at least it was fun while it lasted, and I’ll move on to the next challenging border print.