Friday, May 26, 2017

Inspired by the Sketchbook

 Part of this post was originally written for The Wonky Press newsletter, issue 37. I write special articles for the newsletter every two weeks - you can subscribe for free at the bottom of this post.

My sketchbook is overflowing. I'd grab it in a fire; I could remake most quilts, but not my ideas. Lately, I haven't been too inspired to draw quilt designs because I'm diligently working on book projects (which I designed months and years ago). In the past, though, I've been known to utilize those inviting graph paper pages even for practicing free motion quilting motifs.

I like having one place to reference all of my ideas. Sometimes, I'll remember I've drawn something and search hurriedly for it. It can be like wading through the mud, though, as there's quite a lot of doodling and experimentation gone awry. Sometimes I find a pearl of inspiration in a mess. Those pages are worn down for all the right reasons.

Back when I was new to improvisational quilting, I drew out every. single. block. of my Facets of Emerald quilt. This quilt, which was meant to look like a gem, would have been better paper pieced, but I was determined to sew it together improvisationally. I took many of the ideas and twisted them a bit to allow for inaccuracy and whimsy versus precision. Funny that I found this sketch right after I entered the current Pantone Challenge (this was my 3rd-place-winning mini quilt entry 4 years ago).

Needless to say, there are designs that I've been itching to create for years. One is Burst, my recent quilt for the RJR Fabrics "What Shade Are You?" blog hop. The challenge was to make something out of their Cotton Supreme Solids (of which there are early 200 - full disclosure, I received the fabrics from RJR), and my orange peel design leapt from the pages. I drew it at least 2 years ago.

I used my sketchbook to test the colors - which ones would look best in the middle square, versus the outside border? I went with the top - it glowed.

 Sometimes, I make little pictorial quilts for people I love. This is a sketch of two characters from the game Final Fantasy X - which I then made into a little quilt. I love the sketch even more than the quilt, I think.


Also, I recently found my sketch of a minimal pinwheel, based on the traditional pinwheel block. When editor Lisa Ruble of the free Modern by the Yard e-zine asked if I would be willing to write another pattern for them, the design jumped to my mind. Paired with a background of two greens (for depth), this little quilt was perfect for spring. And it's super easy to make! I can't remember when I sketched this design, but it's early on in my book. Thanks to Benartex for providing the fabrics and opportunity to bring it to life.

Just what else, I wonder, is hidden in my sketchbook these days? Hopefully I'll get the chance (soon) to investigate further. Sometimes, all I need is paper and colored pencils. Do you use a main sketchbook to track your sewing and/or designing, or do you rely on your computer to catalog ideas? Or a little bit of both?


  1. I have to say a bit of both! Sometimes when my mojo is gone, it's just the thing I need to get going again! I love your RJR What Shade are You quilt! I did one last year too and it was a stretch for me to use solids, but I loved it.

  2. Having a sketchbook to reference all your doodles and sketches is so handy. I have several at this point and they are definitely high on the "must save" list for me, too. It is amazing to see your sketches translated into fiber and how well they are reproduced, too.

  3. Sketch book, graph paper and computer - usually in that order ☺ My little sketch book also contains some blocks with cutting measurements and a few complete designs. It's not a very efficient storage/retrieval system but thumbing through the book looking for one thing does often lead to another...

  4. All so pretty Jess. I esp. love the Facets of Emerald,as green is my favorite color. Thanks for the link to the Pantone challenge. I am entering tomorrow.

  5. I love your work Jess and this was again inspiring post! I have sketchbooks, notebooks, notes, notes etc. But often I don't feel to take the time to use them. I was happy to join Rachel's 30 Days of Quilt Design and enjoyed drawing my ideas. Also I try to keep notes for some blocks, bags etc. I make so it would be easier to make them again (but often fail also with this). Today I shall start mini quilt by one of my sketches and inspired few things seen lately. Have a great weekend! x Teje

  6. So all the point which as you mention i am totally agreed.
    Thanks for your kind information.



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