So, how DO I come up with quilt designs?
Quilt designs from prompts and challenges
Writers often get their creative juices flowing with published "prompts," which pose characters/settings/situations. Similarly, sometimes my design ideas come from prompts or challenges that I set myself, as in the 12-week challenge I just finished. I had ideas for several of the weeks of the challenge, but then started to ask family and friends for "prompts" when I started to feel the well dry up. They did very well (thanks, everyone!) and I discovered that challenges set by others works pretty well for me.
Quilt designs from details all around you
Sometimes ideas are in the world before my eyes, as with the "Elemental" design based on an antique door hinge at my hairdresser's shop, or a light fixture in the rest room at my dentist's office, or the ceiling at a convention center. Stay tuned for a quilt series around architectural and decor elements.
Quilt designs from constraints
Sometimes they come, interestingly, from constraints posed to me. Most often (for me) that has been in the form of the precuts or a specific fabric, as in quilts I've designed for Cut Up and Quilt for various occasions: shop hops, bus trips, and the like.
"Going Up" was designed around three constraints, or maybe I should call them considerations: 5" squares of solid colors, easy to piece, and modern (because the shop has quite a modern flair.)
"Hair Raising" needed to use some extra kits of 18 fat eights of Halloween fabric, and have a bit of a scary edge to it. (Someday I want to do this in icy blues.)
"Hop, Skip, and a Jump" focused on fabric designed just for the All Iowa Shop Hop, with accents of solid brights. The nature of the shop hop fabric was such that I wanted it to be used in large pieces. Again, I thought it should be easy to piece, so the bright colors were in long strips and the corner triangles were of a size such that corners and points didn't have to match.
|Hop, Skip, and a Jump|
The ten (well, in the end, eleven) quilts in the "Ten for Ten" series all came from a "limitation" of using 10" squares. In that series there was a great deal of "What if..." going on: what if I cut here after I sew that? Or what if I sewed it THIS way, instead? In other words, there was much of trial and error. I have a stack of iterations of Underwater Basketweaving that could cover Alaska. I'm working now on a series "Jelly Plus," designing quilts that use a jelly roll and some other precut. "Jumble Sale" started it out, and the newest one is "Zipped," which will be published this weekend.
Quilt designs in series
I'm sure everyone is different creatively, and you must find what works best for you. For me, for example, designing in series gets my creative cogs turning. Perhaps it gives me a structure for trying many new ideas, without having to find completely new concepts for each quilt. Perhaps it's just that my mind wants to categorize and organize ideas. (I was a librarian for more than 40 years, after all.) Whatever the reason, it works well for me. I have the attention span of a two year old, however, so the series necessarily have limits, and then I want to be on to something else. You may get bored with series, or find that one series can last you a very long time.
"Zipped" is not only a Jelly Plus but the start of a series of quilts based on fasteners. I liked zipped and I decided to go more general for more ideas. What is a zipper? It's a fastener. What other fasteners are there? My brain is mulling designs with names such as "Clipped" and "Snapped" and "Stapled."
Quilt design ideas from "failed" designs
Confession time: I have a lot of bad ideas, and designs that are just flat out ugly. I could let that discourage me, but each less-than-useful idea is one design I don't have to bother to make. Sometimes it's just sheer volume and perseverance that create the best designs; seldom is a first iteration a success. My design book and my libraries in Electric Quilt are filled with designs that will never see fabric BUT they may spark another thought or idea, that leads to a better one.
And, an aside: Don't hesitate to listen to what a quilt or design tells you. Fellow quilters, you know what I mean! I don't like to sew on borders, and when Spaghetti Straps told me it wanted four of them, I cried. But I did them, because the quilt was the better for it.
"Paper Chains," a design that will soon be published is different than originally planned. The block remained the same but the layout changed after I pieced all the blocks and put them up on the design wall. I liked it well enough, but then the "What if...." muse in my brain started whispering to me--and then she started shouting at me. (You have a muse, too, you just have to listen for her.) The name changed because the fabric/precuts I ended up with were not what I went to the shop to buy. :-)
|Paper Chains (in progress)|
In short, don't sell yourself short: you ARE creative, if you let yourself just play. Let ideas percolate. Don't worry about whether someone else is going to like your design, just do it. I have complete faith and confidence in your creativity!