Today I thought I’d give you an overview of the design master plan, the process I use to create hundreds of quilting designs. Some of these you’ll already know and do but you can take your design time to the next level by manipulating the patterns a little more. You can learn more about every point with loads of illustrations from the book. For images for this post, I’m just adding one base unit or pattern repeat and a design or two made from it to give you an idea as to what can be done with it.
If you’ve ever drawn a blank when it comes to design, try this process.
You’ll be glad you did!
- Draw a base unit to work with, or part of design. It doesn’t have to be a thing of beauty, in fact it’s usually the ugliest ideas that make the best designs. Why? Because you change up the design to make it beautiful. This is how designs evolve in many different directions so you won’t be able to recognise the original idea.
- Put two or more base units together: try rotating, offsetting, reversing or inverting them and eliminating, adding or joining lines as needed. This is about as far as I used to go in the design process and struggled for inspiration and to get good results that I could put on my quilt. Resize parts or all of the design as necessary. Try merging the design with other elements to complement what you have.
- If working with a computer drawing program, make the design into a couple of pattern repeats to place in circles and squares, or any other shape you desire. Scale the pattern to create shapes with varying numbers of base units. You can see how I do this in this video here. If working with pen and paper, draw the pattern in several different shapes.
- Placing the pattern repeats in circles warps the patterns so check these new designs for any potential stand-alone base units. Make any necessary changes to them. Base units can be warped so many times that you will barely recognise the original pattern. Many designs will be created from this step.
- Make all the designs (warped and unwarped) into different blocks shapes from triangles to squares, and diamonds to complicated designs. Create a few to fit oddly shaped areas as well if needed.
- Once you have a feel for the design and the direction it’s going, make up borders and corner blocks for those designs.
- Create borders of different shapes and sizes including: scalloped, inverted and offset borders. Place any corner blocks back through the process from the beginning, treating them as new base units. These may become fancy designs along the way. Borders can make fantastic blocks.
- Experiment with any special effects such as distortion and create three-dimensional designs if desired.
- Check for potential secondary patterns, grid patterns, tessellations and filler designs from the base units or blocks.
- Any new base units or designs generated along the way are put through the process again until you have enough designs or want to move onto another design.
- Alter the design in any way required so it will suit and fit the quilt. The design may also need to be altered for trapunto, or be converted into a continuous design for machine quilting.
At this point you might be saying, “But I’m only after a square block design and a border! Why should I do all this other stuff? This will cut into my quilting time!” The ideas in this book are about learning the whole design process and allowing the design to grow in any way it wants. When you come across a problem, knowing the techniques will help you solve it and alter the design to suit your quilt. I found concentrating on one block design and border limited what I did to get the look I was after. For me, it just didn’t work. I would finish my quilt top, say abracadabra and a fantastic design was expected to appear so I could get on with marking the top and basting. Talk about pressure!
Now I take a day off the project to just play with an idea and let it develop into several options. It’s a great way to work and enjoy the next step of your quilt. Work smarter and faster, not harder is the motto here. I never worry about getting one border and block design as I know they will pop up along the way. In truth, several will and they can be adapted for appliqué or painting.
I hope this inspires you to try my technique and make it your own. You don’t have to do every step or in the order I’ve set it out here. I jump to and from each technique according to what the design needs. Have a play with a design that’s been lurking around your sewing room and let me know how it grows and evolves into something completely different.