Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sewing With Certainty #5: Creating Your Own Designs

I am a quilter who doesn't typically work from patterns, but patterns gave me the inspiration for this topic. I think many of us try to create our own quilting and quilt top designs inherently, especially if we feel confident at such a task. The conceptual part of my brain grows a bit every day, I swear, from all the awesome stuff going on in blogland and on Instagram (pattern or no pattern).

Coming in November!

These are the top three things that I do to help myself grow as a quilt designer:
1. I bought a huge book of graph paper and I add to it. All the time. Angela Walters, in her lecture to my guild, talked about her big book of doodles. So, I got one. I started and I haven't stopped. There are quilts in there that don't have a fabric stack yet, and that always makes me excited.

Recognize this guy? 

Sometimes it comes out like utter nonsense:

Sometimes it is really helpful.

 All in all, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be at this stage in my sewing without my paper and colored pencils! There's something so special about it. I might look into getting electronic software one day but right now, I don't want to "break" something that works well for me.

2. I look for designs everywhere and I take pictures of them. I've started using the Instagram hashtag #targetlovesquilters because, seriously:

Cutest tissue boxes ever. And most colorful. Those designers should be modern quilters!

Also, NATURE. I find quilts and FMQ designs in nature constantly.

From the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. Sooo want to make this a quilt!

Apparently the insides of elevators were designed by quilters. I can't make this stuff up. And yes, I probably looked interesting while taking this one.

 In NYC near the Public Library. Be still my heart! I snapped this one as my friend and I flew past in the cold.

3. Catalog inspiration on Pinterest and in my Flickr favorites. Almost every single time I am about to free motion quilt something, I go back to my FMQ Pinterest board to get ideas.


 Now it's your turn! Don't forget, every link you enter gives you a chance to win a fabric prize (soon TBA) from myself and 1 Choice 4 Quilting!
You can enter once every two weeks with a new blog post about this topic.

Sewing With Certainty Schedule:


  1. I love to doodle designs and ideas on graph paper, too. The first Target I have ever seen up here in Canada just opened. Thanks to you, I now know where to seek out some quilty inspiration! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on design, Jessica!

  2. You are so creative Jessica and I love seeing all you do! I am NOT creative in the least, so I follow a pattern and use my own colors and fabric.

  3. You have convinced me to get a pad of graph paper! I have all these loose sheets and yesterday I lost one. I am going to try to find a spiral bound one if I can. I also take pictures and clip magazine pictures, but I never thought of doing it when I am shopping. And maybe I will take pictures of the magazine pages - less paper to handle and loose. Thanks for the ideas!

  4. Oh, I know - Target is such a delight for visual inspiration! I use graph paper, too. I've looked at software, but I know in the short term the learning curve would frustrate me vs just getting the idea down quick on paper, so I haven't made any real move in that direction.

  5. I love this topic - I will have to think about it some and come up with more to say about it on my blog and then linkup :-)
    You are so right - there is inspiration everywhere. Now I want to make modern quilts from your images, too!!
    Great tip about the graph paper, too! Electronic design is convenient, but it doesn't beat the quickness and ease of getting your thoughts immediately down onto paper!!

  6. I like graph paper and coloured pencils too. Also use pictures, images in my head, but do not feel that I am creative! I cannot draw and this is very frustrating. I real block!

  7. Seeing as how I just designed a quilt, I have quite a few things to say on this subject!

  8. I have never made a quilt from a pattern, although I have made two sampler quilts from block "recipes"! I often feel my way through my quilts, which is hard to explain and I'm not sure I can put it in writing. Let me think on it for a couple of days!

  9. I enjoyed this post because it's always interesting to hear where others are gathering their inspiration and how they're processing it Absolutely agree with all three points. I don't have a smart phone so I don't get to take pictures every time I see something interesting. But, I see how handy that could be! Someday I'll have a smart phone =)

  10. the only quilt I designed was using graph paper. But like you I see quilt designs everywhere - I just don;t know how to translate them into a quilt!!

  11. I love working with graph paper. I have tried two electronic design programs and I find two problems: 1. I spend more time figuring out the program than the design. 2. I limit my design to what I can do on the program. I imagine to an extent, that is a learning curve issue, and I've just not gotten past it. What electronic programs are good for is testing color patterns without redrawing--assuming you got it drawn in the first place.

  12. One more thought. Maybe as a way to ease into designing. My favorite group quilting activity is making round robin additions. Apart from the starter block, there is never the blank page. I find it a challenge to look at what has been done and think about what a quilt "needs" next. One gets into quite a variety of design situations that way. But it is easier than starting from scratch.


Let's start a conversation! I love comments and I'd be happy to reply to all who have an email address accessible. Thanks for commenting!


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