This is a slightly disingenuous title, because there are probably scores of ways to design a quilt. When I was at art college (I went to CCAD in Hartlepool), we learnt to design in quite a linear way. It was a revelation to me, as a mature student: visual research – with plenty of drawing, design development – with lots of experimentation and then a finished product, whether that was a flat pattern design for fashion or for furnishing fabric, or a stitched or printed piece. I still use this process, or something similar, when I design fabric designs now. (You can see them here.)
However, when I design my quilts, it isn’t such a linear process and the ‘jumping-off point’ can be very varied from one quilt to another. Here are some of the ones that I have used.
Having a particular theme: my husband is from Cornwall, and when I designed and made the quilt for our bed, I used the colours of the sand and the sea from the beach near his childhood home. This is ‘Sea and Sand’.
Getting an idea from a piece of fabric and using it inside a traditional block: this is what happened with ‘Funky Flowers’* which began with me seeing a child’s dress hanging in a charity shop. It had a great modern black, white and bright pink fabric. I fussy-cut it to make the most of the print and then looked for a block which would work just right with it.
Becoming interested by a particular technique: I read a piece about seminole and realised I could piece fabrics in long horizontal strips, cut and then re-arrange them. Some experiments turned into a baby-quilt called ‘Oranges and Lemons’*, which is now enjoyed by a young lady called Ruby.
Being constrained by a particular yardage (in this case just six fat quarters), which is what happened with ‘Hello Baby’.
Designing with a specific set of fabrics. This is what happened with ‘Winter Roses’, which appeared in Popular Patchwork, when I worked with two packs of fat quarters in reds and creams and combined them with additional fabrics and added a red and cream border.
Being inspired by a painting. In the quilted wall-hanging ‘Dawn’, it was a painting by de Kooning that I saw in Amsterdam that inspired my colour choices and theme.
Using a pre-existing embroidery: vintage table-cloths, with their lovely 1950s and 1960s designs formed the basis for this quilt. I looked at the shapes I had available from the tea-cloths and table-cloths I had collected – and then worked out a possible quilt pattern around them.
Sometimes it is a mixture of many factors. A quilt I have prepared for the Festival of Quilts this year began with some beautiful fabrics which were a gift to me (number 4 above!). I had a strong image of what the quilt should be like and carried it around in my head for so long, it was a relief to actually begin making it. I did do some visual research (as per my art-school training) and I made some sketches (ditto). However, I also did a lot of designing ‘on the spot’, in the same way a dress designer might design on a mannequin – trying, cutting, placing and pinning, revising as I went on. I can’t show you that one yet, of course, because the piece is part of a contest.
How do you design your quilts?
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*Patterns for ‘Funky Flowers’, ‘Hello Baby’ ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and ‘Forget-me-not’ are all available in my Etsy shop here.