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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Quilt Design Inspiration is Everywhere!

 New quilters say it all the time:

"I could never design a quilt. I'm just not that creative."

My response to that is, "Look around! Inspiration is everywhere."

My online friend Kathryn recently went on a pilgrimage to Italy. She mentioned she'd taken photos of tile mosaics and other designs that would make beautiful quilts.

But guess what?

You don't have to go to an ancient city to find designs.

Potential quilt designs can be found, quite literally, everywhere!

  • I was sitting in church recently. In the pew across from me was a young man with the coolest argyle socks! They were dark brown with blue diamonds and bright orange details. I thought to myself, "That would be a great quilt."

  • I have an un-assembled quilt in a box under my desk. It's designed and kitted, ready to begin cutting, sewing and writing the pattern. The inspiration for it was a quilt I saw in a Kevin Costner movie. (But I'm not going to tell you which movie...yet.)

  • The hub once caught me taking a photo of a bathroom floor at a hotel where we were staying. "What are you doing?" he asked. I said I was designing a quilt. "Of course you are." he responded. "Why do I bother to ask."


I'm going to tell you a secret,

then I'm going to teach you 2 tricks that, hopefully, will have you designing quilts like a pro... today.

First... the secret.

Are you paying attention? Here it is:

There is nothing new under the sun.

If you are thinking, "I've heard that before. It's not a secret."

That just proves my point. There is nothing new under the sun.

The thing that makes it a secret is that you can use that information to design quilts.

You don't have to create a new, original, never been imagined before in the history of quilts, design in order to create a beautiful quilt.

If fact, I recommend you don't do that at all, ever.


Because if that's your goal, you will never create anything, ever.

There is nothing new under the sun. And it doesn't have to be new to be yours.

Take the carpet in my sewing room for example.

It's ugly. At least, I think it's ugly.

I'm certain at some point in the last 50 years someone thought it was a great design for a carpet. I know that, because we acquired it from someone who was pulling it out of their house and replacing it with ... anything else. (Read that as: we got it free when this was a boy's bedroom, before I ever dreamed I'd spend a day here.)

Now, while I think the design is ghastly as a floor covering, I've used the patterns in the design as inspiration in a couple of quilts, both as borders and as concepts for quilts.

I'd love to show you the quilts, but one is out for publication and the other hasn't been put to fabric yet. Soon... very soon. (Think Kevin Costner.)

The point is, rather than say, "That's an ugly design, I'll never stoop to use it in anything ever!" Isn't it better to look for designs around you  that can be incorporated into your work?

I know one "famous" designer who never does anything new. She just puts her spin on traditional designs and that makes it amazing.

Now,  the first trick:

Knowing that there is nothing new under the sun, and that design inspiration can be anywhere, it is a good idea to be ready to capture the inspiration when it strikes.

Most of us have a phone with a camera. Photos are a terrific way to capture design when it smacks you in the face.

But there are times when taking a photo just isn't practical or acceptable.

Like the socks in church.

It would have been unacceptable to take the photo during the service, and to catch the boy afterward and ask to photograph his socks would just be creepy.

The trick I suggest is to carry graph paper with you.

For years, I've carried a small, 8 page booklet made from a single sheet of copy paper. (Here's a link to a 1 minute video showing how to make it.) I write notes, drawings, lists and other things I want to remember into the booklet. It's just one paper so it's not like hauling around a journal. When it's full I transfer what I've collected to a permanent place, or to a place where I can develop the thoughts further.

Chatting with my friend, Kathryn, today made me think that perhaps a booklet made with graph paper would facilitate design capture. Whether capturing designs from someone's socks or from your imagination, graph paper would be a great help.

Here's the second trick:

Is there a block you love?

Do you go to quilt shows (or Pinterest) and look at the quilts and think "I love that block."

Do you know it's ok to make a quilt only using one block repeatedly? Yes, it is.

Not every quilt has to be a sampler with a dozen different blocks. While sampler quilts are very popular and also very cool, and a great way to learn important techniques, I repeat:

Not every quilt has to be a sampler.

I call single block quilts One Block Wonders.

I have a block I've recently fallen in love with.

In the quilt design software by Electric Quilt company, the block is done in chocolate browns and called French Silk Pie. 


 I'm sure it has other names as well.

I'm looking ahead to Autumn and I've had Thanksgiving on my mind. So my pie is orange and I'm calling it Pumpkin Pie.

(Note the Cat's cradle units in the corners. Here's the tutorial. You are welcome.)

Now if I were just to make a bunch of Pie blocks and sew them together it would probably be a just fine quilt.

But... If I were to make a bunch of Pie blocks and add a simple sashing between them (inspired in part by the ugly carpet), then we have a nifty secondary design and an amazing One Block Wonder.

AND... just like that... a quilt design is born.

In the coming months I'll be sharing a number of these One Block Wonder quilts.

I don't know for sure how many of them will actually become fabric. They are so easy to design that to try to sew them all would require a team of sewists.

But I'll share some and you can make them if you like. I'll make at least this one and one other.

So what is the take-away from this post?

4 things:
  1.  Design inspiration is everywhere. Be prepared to capture designs when they strike.
  2. There is nothing new under the sun. Innovation is over-rated.
  3. One repeated block can make a beautiful quilt. 
  4. YOU can design your own quilt! YES! you can.
If you want to get more inspired and encouraged in the design process, come over to Pattern Pastiche where we're in the middle of a Design Challenge workshop. We're having a great time! It's not too late to join up.

The workshop is a premium members only event. It's just a small investment to join (about $1.17 per month) and your membership includes a 1 year subscription to The Quilt Pattern Magazine, an online monthly magazine where I publish some of my designs.

Also, there are several premium groups coming up in the next few months that you won't want to miss.
  • Coming soon there's a Quilting Weekend (like an online retreat) with a pattern provided by the awesome Nan Baker of PurrfectSpots.com. 
  • Also starting soon, Joanne Maner will guide us on an adventure where we'll choose clues to follow to create our own quilt. That one is called You Choose and will be ongoing to March 2020.
AND... because you are a Seamless Piecing reader, I can offer you a discount code to entice you even more. Just use the code SP when you sign up and your discount will be applied. Awesome!

I love being a part of TQPM and I'm sure you'll be glad you gave it a try.

Don't forget to share a link to the blog and invite your friends to feed their inner quilter.

Patterns are copyrighted so please share just the link, not the patterns.

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See you next time!


PS. Wanna see where I hang out when I'm not at Seamless Piecing?

The Quilt Pattern Magazine is an online, monthly magazine where I publish some of my designs.
AND... it's not just a magazine. It's also a delightful, private, online community called Pattern Pastiche. Some of the best and nicest quilters around hang out there along with others, like me, who just want to rub shoulders with them.

It's a safe place to ask questions and get mentoring from those who know and care.
AND... If you go there from here you can use a special discount code just for Seamless Piecing readers. Here's the link. The code is: SP

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