Big Cats and Small Dragons 16

I got a chance to work on the Dragon Quilt of Doomity-Doom-Doom and managed to finish up the first block!


Each of the blocks will feature the three colors my niece asked for (blue, gold, and green) in different positions. So each will have a different color border, and I’m deciding if I want to do the same ombre effect (thank you Sarah @ {no} hats in the house for the inspiration!) or mix it up. I will probably mix it up since the quilt is turning into something of a technique sampler.


I’ve finished the sketch for the second of the three dragons (other than maybe a few changes to the tail). On the quilt, it will be reversed, since this is appliqué. Some of the inside details will change (like the left foreleg) but I will draw the changes on the appliqué itself when it’s time to stitch. I only draw them in on the interfacing paper so that I can make sure everything is in relatively the right place for the outside line.

I was in a discussion recently with Gillian, who has finished her first drawing class. She is learning to draw from reference, but wants to learn how to draw from her imagination. This was always a mystery to me, but as I’ve been asking around and drawing more, I’ve found that the truth is that you still draw from reference, but then you modify to suit your needs. I certainly did this with the dragons in this quilt, and I thought I’d share a bit of the process in case you want to do something similar.


For these dragons, I had a general idea of a pose I wanted (cautious curiosity for the first one, sitting for the second, and the third will be curled up asleep). Following in the footsteps of many artists before me (Leonardo Di Vinci and DreamWorks to name a couple), I modeled the body of my dragons on cat poses. In particular, I looked at big cats, because they have a bit more stockiness than their domestic relatives, which is the look I was after.


For the face, I looked at alligators and crocodiles, and the expressions are built from human faces for the eyebrows, and cat faces for the eyelids. (Doing a google image search for “sad cat” will make you want to snuggle all the kitties, by the way.)


I also reference skeletal structure a lot, especially if I want to move limbs to a different pose. It’s helpful for proportion, knowing what bends what way, and where things jut out and how.


Not that I always get it right. For the first dragon, I made the body too long, and had to cut a chunk out of the middle of the interfacing to get the appliqué the right length.

A quick note on copyright: I’m not a copyright lawyer, and copyright is confusing and tricky. If you’re planning to sell a drawing or a quilt you make using references, use your own photographs or use lots of different references and modify heavily (definitely don’t trace). Even if you aren’t going to sell it, you should be conscious of copyright issues. If you want to trace or copy closely, look up creative commons license and learn how to find images covered by it. A good source for searching images available under creative commons is here: If you are ever in doubt, consult a lawyer. Disclaimer done! 🙂

Hopefully the second block will come together more quickly than the first. I’m running out of time on this quilt!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday with Lee @ Freshly Pieced.


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16 thoughts on “Big Cats and Small Dragons

  • Lorna McMahon

    Your first block is awesome, Anne! The ombre effect for the patchwork frame is genius. And the thread sketching is perfect! Thanks for sharing your process for drawing these dragon poses. Very interesting and informative! 28 days to go!

    • anne Post author

      AIeeeeeee Why do you do this to me?? Where do you go time?! I think I need to start increasing the amount of time I work on this quilt! One block every two weeks is not going to get this finished in time. o.O
      I’m having fun designing the dragon blocks, but I am still not exactly sure what’s going to be in the rest of the quilt. That’s not important, right?!

    • anne Post author

      Thanks Katy! And yes, I ended up just reposting the whole thing. Next time, I’m just going to let it get posted at the wrong time and not worry about it! lol

  • Sarah

    I’m 100% biased (disclaimer) but this is freaking awesome. You draw with such ease and I cannot (also, can) believe how well that translated into the dragon. And that ombre frame? Duh, make me wants to do it all over again ;D

    • anne Post author

      Awwww <3 you! Thank you! The drawing is not always easy, you don't see the half of an eraser I have left (it turns out interfacing bumpies mean you chew through erasers super fast). I think I drew his head 4 times, and each time bigger, and I'm still not sure if the proportion is correct. lol
      YES to ombre frames! I'm also going to be inspired by the frames you used on your shooting star quilt. Which is of course still the best thing on the internet.

    • anne Post author

      Thanks Jenny! 😀 The tiger picture cracks me up! I got as far as ironing the appliqué to the linen last night and then just couldn’t face sewing. I’m going to try again this evening and see if I can’t make some progress on this thing. I’m getting pretty concerned about my dwindling timeline!

    • anne Post author

      You’re so sweet, Jayne! I assure you, it’s just a matter of practice, you don’t need awe. 🙂 I’m having a lot of fun with these blocks, but soon they will be done and I’m going to be at my next design dilemma which is how do I design a quilt around them? lol
      Oh planning, who needs that?!

  • Paula

    Loving the finished block, the colours are really great and the dragon really is magical. Thank you so much for sharing your process for drawing and posing the dragons. I would never have thought to draw from reference to other creatures but of course as soon as you said it it made perfect sense to me and is something I might try mself in the future. You have really captured the inquisitive stance so well with your first, I can just see him inching forward and trying to nudge the ball with his nose.

    • anne Post author

      Thank you, Paula! I’m so glad it was helpful. 😀 I’m still learning how to use multiple references, and how to not just try to copy exactly, but it’s something that is fun to practice. 🙂 One more dragon block to go! I’m hoping to get it drawn out today! I’m really enjoying the process of this quilt, but not so much the deadline… lol

    • anne Post author

      Thank you Joanne! That picture of the tiger sitting up looks so fake it makes me giggle. 😀 Not that the photo looks fake, just the pose. He looks like a big stuffed animal! 🙂