Hi all! Today I’m excited to be sharing some details about my quilt design process as part of the DIY Block Design Challenge and Blog Hop by Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts. Alyce recently released an e-book called DIY Block Design (follow the link for information and purchasing details). The book focuses on the math behind creating quilt blocks along with encouragement and guidance for creating your own designs. It’s a great resource if the math part of quilting is something that you struggle with! (And for what it’s worth, I do far more complicated math in quilting than I ever did in my job as a computer scientist, and find it quite challenging!)
For this week, Alyce is focusing on sketching, so I thought I would talk about how I “sketch” my designs. For my own process, I (not surprisingly) let the computer do as much heavy lifting as possible, and so I do almost all of my sketching using Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector-based program which means that instead of storing images as a set of pixels (those little squares you see when you zoom in on an image in a photo editor), it stores everything as a mathematical equation. This gives some really great flexibility in the ability to resize up or down without it going all pixely, changing the color easily without it bleeding out the edges, and moving a specific object without worrying about the other objects on the screen. I find it a really great tool for designing quilts, especially when working with solids.
A quick aside: I do not necessarily think Illustrator is the best tool for designing quilts, it just happens to be the software I already knew, so it was easy enough to pick up when I was learning to design. However, there are many tools available! Just like sewing machines, all the design software out there has pros and cons and different ones are better or worse based on a particular person’s needs and wants. End of aside!
Okay, back at it! To get started, I almost always set some constraint (or limitation) to design around because otherwise I end up staring at a blank canvas for ages. I’ll pick something like a set of colors, a particular shape I want to work with, or a mood I’m trying to capture. For the example I’m using today, I was working with a fat quarter bundle, and I knew I wanted to use each of the colors. Only having a fat quarter bundle to work from also meant that I had a size constraint on my finished project.
When I create my file, I set the size to actual size of the finished quilt, knowing I can change it if necessary. In this case I set the canvas to 36″ x 36″ because that seemed a decent size while still being reasonable to construct with a set of fat quarters.
The next thing I do is set up my colors in the swatches. This makes it easier to change the colors of my objects later without losing any of them. Changing colors is as easy as selecting an object and then clicking on a swatch. Once I have the colors set up, I start playing with shapes.
I will often draw the shapes I want to play with off the canvas (so I have a master copy), and then copy and paste the block into the canvas. I draw the shapes at standard sizes like 3″ or 6″, but I can resize them later if I want to try a different scale. I spend quite a lot of time moving things around and rotating them to see how different shapes interact. I will usually start adding color at this stage as well, playing with combinations to see what colors I like next to each other, and how continuing the color through blocks makes new shapes.
At some point, I will find a shape or set of shapes that catch my interest, and I’ll start playing with the layout to try to finalize where I want things to be. Colors get fiddled with at this stage a lot too, often with layout and color being fine tuned together until I have the design I want. In this case, I finally settled on a quarter-ring shape to experiment with, and paired it rectangles and squares to give it some variety. I also added areas of the same color in the four corners to give the illusion of larger blocks.
Because I’ve drawn everything to size, it’s quite easy to convert the sketch to a finished pattern. I just need to select an object and Illustrator tells me what size it is. From there I just need to add seam allowances to know how big to cut each piece.
To make a cutting list, I grab each object from the sketch and group them by color. This isn’t exactly pretty, but it works really well for me. I have the computer next to me while I cut fabric, and I can visually check that I have all the pieces cut.
From there, it’s just a matter of sewing it all together and voila, quilt!
This is a really high-level overview of my design process, but almost each of these steps could easily be a blog post on their own and I don’t want to bore you all! However, if you have questions, please feel free to ask and I will answer them the best I can.
Also, be sure to check out the other blogs in the blog hop to hear about their design process as well:
Week 1: Inspiration
Week 2: Sketches
Week 3: Making
Week 4: Finishes
October 30 – Linky opens!