Television host, model, carpenter, philanthropist, and now... fabric designer!
Ty Pennington is probably best known as the host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” series, and previous to that, the charismatic and quirky carpenter on TLC’s “Trading Spaces.” These days, the former model is also host of UKTV Home Network’s “Ty’s Great British Adventure” and the Canadian design competition series, “Inside the Box.”
When he’s not playing television host, Pennington is designing furniture, housewares, and decor for his “Ty Pennington Style” line at Sears, and most recently, a home furniture collection, “Howard Miller Furnishings by Ty Pennington.” And with the release of Impressions, his new fabric collection for Westminster, Pennington can officially add “fabric designer” to his ever-growing list of achievements.
When word of Pennington’s new fabric collection and upcoming fall Market appearance reached the Quilt Market office, there was no shortage of “volunteers” (mostly female) willing to take on the grueling task of interviewing him about the line. But, of course, it was eInsider who scored the coveted gig, and got the chance to sit down with Pennington during fall Market to discuss his first official fabric collection and the process of designing it, something he has approached in typical Ty fashion—with absolute enthusiasm.
eInsider: Tell us a bit about the new fabric collection, and how you got into fabric design.
Pennington: Honestly, creating a fabric line is something I’ve always wanted to do. When I design rooms—and I design a room about every three days—I’m always doing something custom, like coming up with a pattern that’s going to be turned into a wallpaper or, sometimes, custom printing something like a one-off that’s going to be on a throw or pillow. A lot of people just think of me as this guy who uses a hammer, but...
eInsider: But that’s not the case?
Pennington: Right! With the home fashion line I’ve done with Sears, I’ve been designing not only textiles that go on beds and in bathrooms, but also plates, dinnerware, all kinds of things. It’s been something I’ve played around with for a while, whether it’s been doing custom tie-dyes in my backyard or working with tapestries. I’ve also played around with clothing design. And in my travels, I pick up a few swatches here, a few swatches there. So, graphically, it’s one of those things I’ve wanted to do because I design patterns quite a bit already. It’s fun being able to tie a room together.
Pennington experimenting with wooden
stamps on fabric.
I decided that if I was going to do a fabric line, I wanted it to feel like it was more than just a couple of patterns that somebody worked up on the computer. So, I thought why not create a process that would make it sort of unique? Editor’s note: To create the designs for his new collection, Pennington used his carpentry skills to create wooden stamps based on various shapes and forms (many organic). He then used the stamps and fabric dyeing techniques to experiment with patterns. These patterns were translated into the designs used in the Impressions collection.
I got inspiration from different things, whether it be geometric shapes that I saw in my travels, or maybe 1960s’ architecture that I saw on a building down in Florida, or something organic like a bamboo leaf. But I didn’t want to simply create a pattern on my computer—I wanted to make it look a little more organic. So, I made these stamps, and I’d come back and try out these different techniques on linen and fabric and see how each one was completely different. Then, I’d take pictures of those again, put them on my computer, and sort of line them up. It was great, because it changed from being just one thing [pattern] into having a lot more depth and texture.
Then, of course, I went back and forth with the team at Westminster, and went over in my mind how these patterns could be used in clothing and other projects. And you know, even with clothing design, I love the idea of being able to take a pattern like this and just run it on the inseam here or the cuff there—so it’s all very subtle.
Prints from the Impressions collections
eInsider: Just a little peek of something?
Yeah! So, I’ve been playing around with that on my own and even on some of the one-off designs.
What I really love about this is the journey. For me, coming up with these designs is a journey from sketch all the way to finished project—from the stamp, to the application, to the computer, and then, finally seeing the finished product. But now, another journey is just beginning, because other people can take these fabrics and do with them whatever they want—whether it’s a throw pillow, a break in a curtain, or a skirt. And there are some of these designs that can really be used in so many different ways.
This design [referring to the stripe print seen in the photo to the left] actually started with a bamboo leaf. I took a picture, created a stamp, then went onto my computer and used the same one to create sort of an ombré. It’s neat, because I’m also working on one that’s going to turn this print into a plaid, but that’s going to be coming out next year.
eInsider: So, you’re in it, then? You plan to design more fabrics?
Pennington: Oh, yeah! It’s just the beginning.
eInsider: It’s impressive, because, honestly, it could have been that you just put your name on the collection without being very involved in the process of designing it.
Pennington: Well, I’m not that kind of guy. Even with the Sears line, I just—ugh—I just wouldn’t want to be that!
For television, I work on two shows at a time—I start with one and then have to go and do the other. So, with the rooms I do, the more involved I am in it, the better. That’s the same with any project I do. I guess it could easily be passed along to someone else, but I also just enjoy the process. I mean, for me, it’s the design process that’s the most fun.
eInsider: You’re just a creative person?
Pennington: Yes, when I’m not doing this [designing], I’m doing something else creative. I even design the logo that goes with the collection.
Pennington: Oh yeah. Why not, right? It’s sort of what I do. Again, a lot of people just think of me as a guy that’s out there hammering nails, but the truth of it is I’m in sewing circles about every three days for the show. Somebody has to sew, somebody has to make the drapes and the throw pillows. And the people who come out are from the local community. So, we set up machines, and I’m the one kind of leading the group, the sewing circle—I work with a lot of stitching.
eInsider: So, it has to be a good feeling to be walking down the street and see someone wearing something made from your fabric.
Pennington: Right! Yeah, to me that’s what is so cool about this whole thing. I developed these designs, but now the fabrics are like a blank canvas for someone else.
For more information on Pennington’s new fabric collection, visit www.TyPenningtonFabrics.com