Wednesday, January 27, 2016

PWS - How to Write a Quilt Pattern - Roundtable Topic 2 - Quilt Design

Topic II - Quilt Design - Round Table Discussion

On Monday I covered Topic II of the Pattern Writing Series - Design, sharing my inspirations and process of coming up with and organizing quilt designs.  Coming up with designs is a highly individual process, so to gain other perspectives on the topic, our guest designers are going to share a little about what inspires their quilt designs and how they come up with new and exciting patterns.

I wanted to know how the designers came up with their pattern ideas, what inspired them. I also wanted to know what tools (computers or other tools) they used when coming up with a design.

Yvonne from Quilting Jetgirl will be presenting a more in depth post tomorrow (Thursday, January 22st) about her inspiration process and Anne from Springleaf Studios will be posting on Friday January 23rd about the differences of starting the quilt pattern process from a design versus starting from a collection of fabrics.

Where do you find inspiration?

Anne of Springleaf Studios - Inspiration can come from anywhere. The trick is being open to the possibilities of what you see and the potential it holds for a design. You might see the same thing over and over and then suddenly see it in a new light which sparks an idea. I tend to look for inspiration in other textiles, graphic design, fine art, and nature. Plus, I simply play with shapes on my computer. A lot. Looking at other quilts can be very inspiring too, but I generally avoid that when I am designing a new pattern because I don’t want to be overly influenced by existing quilts. The more aware you become of your personal style, the less you will be inclined to borrow from others. Whatever you do, don’t copy. Be inspired and then find a way to translate the idea into something uniquely your own. 

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts- I find inspiration in nature and modern minimalist artists like Charley Harper, Ed Emberly and Eleanor Grosch.

Soma of Whims and Fancies - Most of my pattern designs are initiated by my drawings and paintings. Inspiration for those comes pretty much from every aspect of life.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I have been inspired by photography and specific design goals or challenges (Triangle Transparency was created based on my desire to use transparency play in a design), but I am mostly inspired by doodling.

What inspires everyone else here also resonated with me (nature, graphic design, architecture, modern art). There can be a lot of inspiration in the carpet of hotels / airports. It is also fun to check out Instagram hashtags like #QuiltInspiration. One thing that stands out to me is how often either secondary patterns / pattern repeats or stark asymmetry are what catches my eye, even if the final design I end up with does not use those techniques.

Amy of 13 Spools - I primarily find inspiration in architecture, furniture design, and modern art. When I’m not looking to these, I find inspiration in other quilts, woven blankets, and in a few of my favorite shapes - “flying kites” (a sharp version of a boomerang shape) and sharp, scalene triangles.

Christa of Christa Quilts - Contrary to what many others do, I'm always looking at social media to be inspired. Not to copy anyone else's designs of course, but to see what's trending. For example, when I was first getting my feet wet with modern quilting (back in 2012) I noticed that chevrons were really popular. So my first modern quilt was an original chevron design. The blocks themselves were made from basic half square triangles, but the coloring, size and arrangement were in my own unique style.

Other currently trending design elements are triangles and churn dashes, so I've got a few of those in progress, too! One thing I will do after I have come up with a design is to search google or pinterest to see if anyone else has designed something similar, before I publish mine. I believe there is a phenomenon out there called simultaneous discovery, but fortunately with quilting, it's vary rare that two similar designs are exactly the same!

What computer programs or other tools do you use to come up with a quilt design?

Christa of Christa Quilts - I design the majority of my quilts in Electric Quilt (EQ7). The only time I don’t is if it’s a very unique design that I can’t figure out how to draw electronically. Then I’ll use graph paper to work out the proportions and then re-draw it in EQ once I’m ready to finalize the design and add fabrics.

My favorite part about using the software is the fact that I can save a fabric image of any print I want to use, and import that into the program. This lets me know exactly how the quilt will look before I make the first fabric cut.

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - I initially use graph paper for designing quilts. Then I use EQ7 to allow for showing how that design would look using different fabric choices.

Soma of Whims and Fancies - Since I love to draw, I always have something with me that I can doodle on. Sometimes I sketch out ideas on my ipad. I also use Adobe Illustrator to draw on my computer.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I use Inkscape, which is a free “professional quality vector graphics software which runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.” Right now the designs I come up with are probably 50% started by hand sketches and 50% started within Inkscape. My husband bought me a Rhodia dotPad for my birthday this year, and I like curling up with a pencil and seeing what happens. Many of my initial sketches morph when I start working on them on the computer.

Amy of 13 Spools - I solely use Adobe Illustrator to sketch my quilt designs. To create a printable pattern with instructions, I use Adobe InDesign to create a PDF document with the Illustrator sketches placed alongside the directions.

Anne of Springleaf Studios I used to do everything on grid paper. Now it’s almost exclusively done in Adobe Illustrator. While I love the idea of maintaining a single sketchbook, in reality I tend to jot ideas down all over the place and end up with lots of loose pieces of paper. I’m currently trying to get my older sketches into the computer where I can keep them more organized. Regardless of where an idea initially starts, I use the computer to fully develop the concept. The computer gives me the freedom to explore a wider range of possibilities. I am able to easily and quickly play with color and layout and find that this exploration results in a much better final design. The main downside is that the computer is not as organic as sketching. 

See you tomorrow for Yvonne's post :)


  1. Thank you designers for sharing your inspiration sources. This is great information!

  2. This is so helpful because I've been trying to figure out which program to focus my energy on. I know InDesign somewhat but not well enough yet. Thanks everyone!

  3. There is nothing like pen and paper to get started! I still struggle a bit with computer programs, but getting comfortable comes with time and practice!

  4. This is so wonderful ! Thank you so much !

  5. What a great complication of inspiration resources! I'm a mix of Illustrator and graph paper myself when I'm working out ideas.

  6. I agree with Jayne in that there's nothing like pen and paper to get you started. I'd now add that our phones are an excellent way to record ideas. Don't feel like you have to have special computer programs. Just do it with whatever method you're comfortable with.

  7. I'm probably ahead of the game, but I've been trying to find a downloadable style sheet to use while formating my patterns to keep track of fonts, font size and other formatting . Any resources you know of? I've wasted a lot of time looking on line! Story of my life! LOL

  8. These are a lot of options which I guess just indicates that we should just jump in and start somewhere.

  9. It's so interesting to read about everyone's differences and similarities in quilt pattern inspiration and design process. Thank you for sharing them. I had not even known of some of the design tools such as Inkscape, Rhodia and Adobe InDesign. We modern day quilters have so many fun things to play with!

  10. I'm inspired to convert my ideas from sketchbook form to computer to keep them organized! I use EQ7 too and find that I sometimes have to use grid paper to work a pattern out because that's more organic. I use MS Publisher to create my patterns and I thought I'd mention that since it hadn't been mentioned yet.

  11. I love to doodle with pencil and paper! However, sometimes I do it on ipad or computer because it's easier to redraw/redo there if I have deleted/undo something earlier. Ah technology :)


  12. This is great! I have a question for Christa: How do you go about googling to see if someone has come up with a similar design? Do you use certain keywords? Image search? Your quilt title?

    1. Hi Tiffany! I will either try searching by my quilt title or keywords such as "log cabin" or "triangle quilt" etc. to see if I can find anything similar.

  13. Great info on the possibilities. EQ is my preferred avenue for new stuff.

  14. Thanks for the post and great tips..even I also think that hard work is the most important aspect of getting success..
    adobe illustrator courses

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