How to Sketch Fashion

How to Sketch Fashion

How to Sketch Fashion
How to Sketch Fashion, with super stock photography.

Learn how to sketch fashion designs with these five easy tips from Rain Blanken.

Fashion sketching is not only a great way to carry a concept from paper to runway, but it’s also fun for brainstorming. If you are interested in pursuing fashion design, it is important to keep sketching. Sketch meat dresses and Star Trek uniforms… sketching all kinds of fashion will help to keep your creative mind sharp.

How to Sketch Fashion
How to Sketch Fashion

1. Use ‘croquis’

Crochet? I love crochet! Croquet? They play that with flamingos on Alice in Wonderland, right? Nah, croquis are yet another word that is not ‘croissant’. Sadly, not everything can be a croissant. In my article on, learn how to use these pre-made models to get right to fashion sketching without having to draw hands (agh, they’re the worst!)

How to Sketch Fashion
Fashion Sketching Tools    Photo: Getty Images

2. Fashion sketching tools

Which tools work best for sketching your styles? Colored pencils can give a lot of detail, but sometimes lack to get bold ideas across. Let’s take a look at the advantages/disadvantages of various mediums.

How to Sketch Fashion
Fashion Flats   Photo: Getty Images

3. Fashion flats for details

Fashion flats are a lot like the technical drawings that you’ll see on sewing patterns. They give a lot of insight as to where seams and notions are placed to make a garment work right. Not the most flashy corner of the fashion world, but necessary if you want your pants to stay up.

How to Sketch Fashion
Add Fabric Swatches    Photo: Getty Images

4. Add fabric swatches

Sample swatches are the perfect excuse for my fabric hoarding. In this part of the article, I’ll explain how fabric swatches can give you a great deal of perspective on the finished garment.

How to Sketch Fashion
Fashion Sketch Inspiration Board     Photo: Getty Images

5. Make an inspiration board

Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto the wall may sounds like a redundant exercise, but this is actually a great way to collaborate your ideas with others, and just give your inspirations time to breathe and morph. Plus, if your designs are out on the wall, it makes you accountable for finishing that project when your buddy asks about it two weeks later.

How to Sketch Fashion
How to Sketch Fashion

6. From design to creation

Above is an example of taking a design concept from paper all the way to the finished costume. You can see a few changes made along the way, but the sketch and notes indicate the fall of the fabric, colors, and tone of the design. Don’t be afraid to mess up that notebook.

How to Sketch Fashion
How to Sketch Fashion      Photo: Getty Images

See the full article on for all of my tips on how to sketch your own designs.  I hope that my tips give you a bit of inspiration and the courage to just jump right in and start creating. Not every design is a winner, but they all contribute to the development of your skills!

Share your designs with me on Facebook.

Upcycled T-Shirt Tutorials

Upcycled T-shirts: Ways to Turn T-Shirts into Something Else


Upcycled T-Shirt Tutorials

During my six year contract for, I’ve thoroughly explored the world of turning t-shirts into other forms of fashion. Since the jersey material is so easy to manipulate, and t-shirts are so plentiful, they make for a popular muse.

Here are my 10 Upcycled T-Shirt Tutorials:

Racerback Upcycled T-Shirt Tutorial

1. Above: My original design, the Trident Braided Racerback is a project for the experienced t-shirt refashionista. You’ll use a looping technique that actually braids and strengthens the straps.

Upcycled Tube Top

2. Above: This upcycled tube top can be used both as a skirt or a top. This is a great project for t-shirts that have large print, like this Hogwarts t-shirt that was three sizes too big for my sister.

T-Shirt Roses

3. Above: I used scraps from the Trident Braided Racerback project to create these little t-shirt roses. They are a quick and easy project that will eat up your scrap pile.upcycled-t-shirt-halter-top

4. Above: This halter top was created out of a men’s t-shirt that had no womanly shape to it whatsoever. My sister masterfully transformed it into a halter top for a perfect fit.

Upcycled Tank Top

5. Above: The above tank top only came in men’s styles;a boxy mess that can easily be refashioned into a fitted tank top, without even sewing a stitch.

Upcycled T-shirt Skirt

6. Above: This long skirt makes it possible to keep a large logo on a t-shirt skirt without it being right up by your waist. In this topsy-turvy design, the logo ends up on the bottom, along with the t-shirt collar, so the design hints back at it’s t-shirt roots.

Upcycled Tank Top Bag

7. Above: An old tank top, or one that is stained beyond repair, can make a quick and handy grocery bag.I used two tank tops on this design to create a durable tote that can hold a lot of weight.

Upcycled T-Shirt Dress

8. Above: The Yellow Submarine t-shirt dress above was created out of one of the many XL t-shirts that haunt my local thrift shop. The extra material is great for creating this easy jumper dress.

T-Shirt Babydoll Top

9. Above: This babydoll top uses a casing and some yarn at the bust to create definition and a better fit. The arms are cut off and I’ve added some matching trim and buttons to the design.


Photo copyright Ruth Ingram, Used with Permission

10. Above: If you are a t-shirt collector, or know one who is on your gift list this year, a t-shirt quilt is the perfect sentiment. You can save vacation or team memories for a lifetime, cuddling up with Margaritaville in front of the TV every night.

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Customize Your Clothes by Rain Blanken

Is it Worth it to Write a Craft Book? Review of Craft Writing for Rotovision

Writing a Craft Book
Writing a craft book was one of the most trying experiences of my life.

I haven’t told this story before. In 2012, I was asked by Rotovision to write a book on customizing clothing. Boy howdy, a book deal!

I wouldn’t have been so pumped if I had realized that working with Rotovision would be my worst nightmare. Not only that, but writing a craft book in general is tough. The writing is the easy part!

You don’t have to make one. You have to make five.

When I started out with a craft book, I hadn’t thought photography sessions through. At the session, you have the models there all ready to dress up. In the same session, I needed the models to both make and wear the items. That means I had to make ‘dummy’ pieces for each step of the project.

Mostly, I had to make at least five of everything. And buy five of everything. But for some projects, the only piece of clothing I had was a single article from Goodwill.. no duplicates. For these, I could get away with using the back of the same article of clothing for close-up steps, or do parts of the project myself in between shot setups.

On the beaded sweater project, we shot backwards, Taking the final photo of the model, then stripping away the beads to show how to make it. I still have this beaded sweater and wear it, but there are only beads on one side. There are a few holes on the other side where I hastily ripped out the beads to set up the previous steps, but I wear pins to cover those holes. 🙂

Rotovision Wants You, But Not Really YOU, per Say

Rotovision had hired me for my expertise, but then repeatedly wanted to veto my completed projects. I’m talking already designed, already made, already made in-progress dummies for photographing, and already photographed. Projects had gone from concept to the model’s back. I had included a full table of contents and chapter descriptions to let them know exactly what I would be doing, and then they switched it up.

Example 1: At one point, I had gotten permission from Conan O’Brien’s people to use his logo  on a shirt. The logo was not the lesson, it was just an aside. The lesson was in cutting a t-shirt to create side panels on the shirt. After the concept, creation, and photography was done, Rotovision thought that young people wouldn’t get the Conan reference. The logo was not essential to the project… it was a wink at the young demographic I was writing for (yep, young people would get that reference, Rotovision).

But since everything was already made and photographed, it all had to be done again. Instead, appearing in the book is a sweater turned into a wrap. Still a good project, but it taught the same principles as the first project, and was simply redone on the whim of the art directer at Rotovision. I let Conan’s people know what we wouldn’t need the logo, after all.

The art director at Rotovision argued that ‘Steampunk is mostly black.’

Example 2: I presented a steampunk project that would teach readers how to distress leather with shoe polish, then attach jewelry pieces to create cogs and such. Designed, created, photographed on the model. It was in the can- done. The art director at Rotovision argued that ‘Steampunk is mostly black.’ Now, for you steampunk fans out there, let me say that again. She said that steampunk is NOT predominantly BROWN leathers, it is all black leathers. This was what I was dealing with.

I rewrote/designed/made/made dummies/photographed the whole thing. The project that made it into the book:

Customize Your Clothes steampunk purse tutorial
Because brown leathers in steampunk is unacceptable.


I ended up with a black purse and nixed that whole leather-distressing educational part of the project. The project appearing in the book still teaches you how to sew jewelry pieces on, but it could have been much more informative, had they listened to me, who they had hired for expertise.

Example 3: Yes, this happened a third time. I was given an example of an artist that they wanted to emulate in the book. Rotovision was ALL ABOUT me ripping off other artists work, and it was tricky for me to get around this. They sent me various blog links to projects that they wanted me to rip off, and I had to be very careful in how I suggested something different, as not to bite that hand that feeds. At that point, I had already signed the contract, so it was tricky, indeed.

This is the Bobsmade work that Rotovision wanted me to do:

Bobsmade hat
Bobsmade example from Rotovision…


So, I came up with a different kind of design. It was my own style, but still cartoonish. The idea of making a ‘tutorial’ that just told you how to apply a Sharpie to fabric did not appeal to me. Saying ‘draw on this’ is not very educational… or interesting, for that matter. So, I instead talked about how to remove the finish from a leather opera wallet before applying the Sharpie. Then, how to refinish the surface. This idea was approved in the book outline.

Here is mine:

Sharpie Art Wallet
My hand drawn version, obviously not professionally photographed…


It’s a cartoon. It’s Sharpie. It’s an accessory (an opera wallet). I thought I had filled all of their criteria, and I was damn proud of this cute design!

They didn’t like it.

Their simple explanation was that it wasn’t what the art director had in mind. And they called it childish, even though their example was a hat with cartoons on it. It was a very insulting email, way past ‘business mean’. Nevermind that they gave me no other instructions and the photo they provided was of cartoons on a hat!

Instead of going on a rampage, I suggested using Sharpie on a dress, telling my readers how to treat the fabric before & after to make it last. They liked this. The trouble is, not many clothes are made of a kind of fabric that will take Sharpie permanently. I had to use a cotton fabric that would take the ink well.

I could not find a black & white dress made up of cotton fabric that would properly take Sharpie dye without bleeding or fading. Think about it… when is the last time you saw an all-cotton dress at all, much less one that is just black and white? I had to draft the pattern and make this dress by hand out of a black and white fabric.

Customize Your Clothes Sharpie dress tutorial
My sister modeling the Sharpie dress.


In reality, there is no color on the back of this dress. We instead used that side for the ‘before’ and step-by-step photos. I still have this dress hanging in my closet, because, well, I made it from scratch and then spent DAYS coloring in the circles on the front for the final product shots.

The wallet also would have taught how to remove a leather finish; I scrambled with what to teach in the dress tutorial and eventually added some cross-hatch techniques. The result is cool, but so much less practical than my original tutorial. The wallet was a small-scale accessory, which is what most readers are going to want to color… not a whole dress made from cotton, which is so incredibly hard to find that you’ll have to make one yourself!

Supplies, Photography, and Models Ain’t Cheap

In addition to designing, making, and writing about each project, I had to do the footwork on every other aspect. I could afford to pay one model, but all of the other models in the book are my sister, daughter, and my friend.

Customize Your Clothes ripped jeans tutorial
Rain appears once in her own book… as crotch and legs!

Even I make a single appearance in the book… my legs! They didn’t put a photo of me in the About the Author section, even though I provided a few choices taken by the photographer. Lookit them gams, though (on the left).

Customize Your Clothes Tetris hat tutorial
My friend Nikki in the Tetris stud hat tutorial.


Customize Your Clothes painted heels tutorial
My daughter’s modeling foot. It’s famous, now?

Driving to get photos taken every weekend was exhausting. Especially when Rotovision wanted to throw away weeks of work on occasion, and we had to take pictures of the same projects again.

Along with everything else, Rotovision asked me to find artists to highlight for every chapter. I did all of the legwork for this, not only interviewing the artists, but securing the rights for their photos, then passing those rights forms to Rotovision. It certainly didn’t seem like the job of the writer to do this, but hey… book deal, right?

Rotovision Doesn’t Like to Pay

Getting my payments was like pulling teeth. Rotovision would promise payment, then ask for another 25% of the text without paying. Payments were always late, and several times, my contract was sent to my neighbors house. I can understand a few miscommunications, but this was overkill.

Payments were months late. This while I’m driving an hour and a half away from home every weekend to work with the photographer. There was a lot of money to be put up by me for materials, work hours, and gas… all of which I had figured into the pay schedule that they had provided and not kept to. But that’s an old writer’s gripe, right? Haha, publishers don’t pay on time. Oh, that’s such a fun cliche until you’re trying to pay the mortgage.

No Publicity for You!

Rotovision sold my book to Running Press. As we approached the release date, I started looking around online for any news of the release. I was checking my emails every day for any word from Running Press. But no one from Running Press ever contacted me. I even sent them an email, but nothing back. My book was sent into the abyss.

I received a few copies in the mail and was told that I could buy copies of my own book to hand out for people to review. And that was it. There would be no book signings, no interviews, no features on other sites. I gave the free copies to my gracious models, and waited for correspondence that wasn’t coming.

My book was sent into the abyss.

The book ‘release’ was anti climactic, to say the least. It quietly went on sale at, and I found it in my local Books & Co. The only press it got was me telling my mom on Facebook. I couldn’t be more disappointed. I didn’t have the money or resources to market the book myself. I had just assumed that they would be interested in selling what they’d paid to make. I don’t make royalties from the sales, so I couldn’t justify putting even more time and money into this book.

I added my own ‘customer images’ to the listing, because Running Press wouldn’t add any ‘Look Inside’ kind of images to the listing. I did what I could. But now, removed the customer image program altogether, so now I put those images here on my site.

It’s Not My Book

Since writing this book, I have learned to not be so critical of the work of other authors. I did not have a say in which photos were used in the book, how it was laid out, even which parts got cut. I had to argue with the creative director at Rotovision to change the embroidery stitch photos to close-ups. They wanted to use a full shot of the model working at the table. Yeah, you can’t tell how to make a stitch that way, guys.

The next time I see a craft book that has bad photos of a tutorial step, I’ll consider the fact that the author may just be grinding his/her teeth about that page.

At one point, I suggested that they hire an excellent proofreader that I know, Stet_, since I was hiring the photographer, models, and feature artists for them, anyway. But they turned him down in favor of an in-house proofreader. I then had the pleasure of correcting mistakes throughout each draft returned to me. Mistakes their editors had added to my copy.

The longer I worked on this book, the more I just felt like a hired gun. I was a writing monkey that was dumb enough to negotiate photographers, models, and feature artists for the publisher. But I knew that if I left these tasks to them, they would pick something that made as much sense as ‘steampunk is only black leather’.

I also wanted to credit my models in the front of the book, but Rotovision wouldn’t have it.

But I Am Starting to Like It

I’m still not happy with this book, but I am proud of it. Hell, it was a lot of work.

I’m a fighter, if anything, and I think I pushed back against Rotovision just enough to make sure that I put out a book that has a lot of value. The projects are all informative, and I hope they are inspiring. I maintained my integrity by refusing to rip-off other designers, and hopefully gave some exposure to the artists that I featured in the book.

If I did it again, I’d read the contract a little better to make sure that they couldn’t back out of projects that had already been approved. I’d consider my supply budget more carefully, and work with a photographer that is closer to where I live (though, Dorn Byg is incredible and fun to work with).

The experience wasn’t the glamorous ‘OH, golly, book deal!’ scenario that I had always envisioned. I’m sure that not all craft book deals are like this… probably not even all that happen via Rotovision. But make no mistake… writing a book is not easy, nor glamorous.

Sometimes, I’ll find my book at the bookstore and we’ll look at each other like two lovers that had a complicated relationship in another dimension. My book makes me sad and proud. But it has my name on it, and that’s something, right?

Customize Your Clothes is currently available on, but there are no inside photos of it. You can find those here. It is also available at select Books & Co. stores.

Customize Your Clothes by Rain Blanken
Customize Your Clothes by Rain Blanken at
Customize Your Clothes Sharpie dress tutorial

Customize Your Clothes; Photos Inside the Book

Customize Your Clothes by Rain Blanken
Customize Your Clothes by Rain Blanken

Recently, I discovered that my images were missing from my own book’s listing on I had added these images to the Customize Your Clothes listing myself, because my publisher didn’t add any. It was difficult getting paid by them at all, much less getting them to publicize the book.

Amazon got rid of their customer image system altogether, and my uploaded images with it. I didn’t know what else to do to reach readers aside from writing a ‘review’ that tells them where to find images from in the book.

Now, I don’t make any royalties from the sale of the book. I just spent a lot of time on it and want people to know what’s there.


My ‘Review’ on

Hello! I’m the author of Customize Your Clothes. Writing a book is difficult. Especially when your publishers are non-communicative and even refuse to pay you at times. They also decided not to publicize this book at all whatsoever… including the addition of images to this Amazon listing. That’s why you can’t ‘look inside’ my book, here.

I’d really like my readers to know that the tutorials and photos inside this book are very helpful. I worked to design fashions that are not only fun to make, but that look awesome, too. I still wear many of these! But that’s hard to convey when there are no images to show, and the cover is less-than-informative.

I had added images via Amazon’s customer image platform, but they’ve since done away with that. To see images of my book, please visit my site, rainblanken[dot]com. I’ve put up the customer images there so that you can see what is inside the book. No pressure. I just don’t know how else to show the inside of this damn thing.

Update: removed my review. I have no idea how else to show photos of the inside of my book on there, since the publisher will not. :/

Inside Customize Your Clothes by Rain Blanken:

Customize Your Clothes Sharpie dress tutorial
Customize Your Clothes Sharpie dress tutorial
Customize Your Clothes beaded sweater tutorial
Beaded sweater tutorial
Customize Your Clothes painted heels tutorial
Painted heels tutorial, teaching how to properly remove finish and dye leather.
Customize Your Clothes leather punched belt tutorial
Punched belt tutorial
Customize Your Clothes skirt trim tutorial
Lace skirt trim tutorial teaches how to satin stitch edges.
Customize Your Clothes block print tutorial
Block print tutorial that uses a reduction method.
Customize Your Clothes embroidered skirt tutorial
Mad scientist embroidered skirt tutorial that teaches various embroidery stitches.
Customize Your Clothes Tetris hat tutorial
Tetris hat tutorial which teaches how to properly paint and apply studs.
Customize Your Clothes back cover
Customize Your Clothes – back cover
Customize Your Clothes ripped jeans tutorial
Ripped jeans tutorial and inspiration from the runway.
Customize Your Clothes steampunk purse tutorial
Steampunk purse tutorial with various methods of attaching jewelry to a purse.
Customize Your Clothes wool dye tutorial
Sunset arm warmer tutorial shows how to dye wool in the microwave.

Customize Your Clothes is now available on in Spanish, German, and English.

Celine Shoes

DIY Celine Heels?

Weird Celine Shoes
Rain seeks to uncover the secrets of these weird Celine heels.

These incredibly weird shoes made their debut on the Celine runway last fall, and are sure to inspire some of the looks we’ll be seeing in stores this spring. In my heart of hearts, I wish that I could give you some kind of excellent tutorial on how to make these for yourself… but any advice I give you would fall as flat as a Pinterest cake recipe.

Celine Shoes
Looks like a bathtub knob and a floaty goo thing from Spencer’s.

Celine Shoes 2014 Style
Celine Shoes 2014 Style with geometric heel.

Okay, maybe I could make the following pair by screwing a draw pull into the toe of a shoe, but it would take a bit of special engineering to make it look right:

Celine Shoes
Celine Shoes with a case of the crazy toe. Golf ball and rock. I’ve got this.

After a short bit of brainstorming on Twitter yesterday with @diycouture, I came up with a possibility to substituting the heels of these shoes with a ball, or other small object:

DIY Celine Heels
DIY Celine Heels?

This is a sketch I quickly drew up and snapped a photo of, so sorry for the quality. I’m thinking that the object you use to make the substitute heel would have to be smaller than the height of the heel. Otherwise, It would have to be the exact size. Too large, and the heel will tilt forward. But a smaller object could be paired with a number of spacers.

I think that maybe you could use flat wooden beads sandwiched with cut pieces of stiff felt to build up the rest of the height until you’ve got the right size of heel.

What do you think? Could it work?

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More DIY Fashion:

Harajuku Fashion

“Harajuku Girls, You’ve Got the Wicked Style!”

Harajuku Girls
Harajuku Girl flashing a peace sign in Tokyo.

The Harajuku (pronounced Hah-rah-joo-koo) district in Tokyo, Japan is always brimming with outrageous DIY inspiration! Styles are carefully composed by Japanese youth, who put different elements of fashion trends together to craft their own style. They wear their creations each weekend among the upscale Harajuku shops, putting themselves on display like a bunch of chic peacocks.

All of this wild fashion abandon may not suit your style; but it has caught the attention of fashion designers all over the world. Of the most notable, Gwen Stefani is known to keep constant watch on the Harajuku scene (most notably with her afore-quoted ‘Harajuku Girls’ lyrics). The influence of the fashion pioneers has inspired Stefani’s L.A.M.B. collection and such songs as ‘Harajuku Girls’.

The latest Harajuku trend has taken a DIY turn! Our amateur designers are looking cute in such DIY picks as altered T-shirts and handmade belts. Get the Harajuku look yourself by turning a t-shirt into a tank top.