Sunday 16 November 2014

Where do quilt ideas come from?

Reading Molli Sparkles post yesterday, on losing your own unique voice in a sea of social media, following too many people and skimming content as opposed to absorbing a design idea, got me thinking about where creative quilt ideas come from.
No one creates in a vacuum.  We all influence each other.  Social media has a huge influence, for me so too, do Quilt-A-Longs, Challenges, Magazines and what friends are working on.  Sometimes you absorb something and don't even realise.

I was working on my triangle-a-long quilt earlier this year, and while backing up my Macbook decided to have a clean out of quilt patterns I had downloaded and found this Anna Maria Horner pattern.

My first thought when I saw it was, Oh that must be where that came from then!  Though I didn't remember downloading it, I must have and it must have stayed in the back of my mind somewhere when I was colouring in!  I made sure to link to Anna Maria's pattern when writing about my Triangle -A- Long quilt in blog posts.

My nearly finished quilt (still have to bind it!) is also heavily influenced by the Colour Intensive class I took with Stitched in Colour where we explored rainbow colour palettes in detail.

I find it a little odd that some of my favourite paintings and photographs don't have much of an impact but maybe that is because I'm only exploring quilt design a short time and trying to explore traditional blocks and modern quilts is plenty time consuming already for my poor brain.  I do find weight and balance and moving the eye around a space from photography, does influence how I see symmetry and asymmetry in quilts.

One thing that struck me though is that I am haunted by one block in particular that worked its way into my head well over a year ago.  I can't seem to get rid of it.  Like the rainbow colour scheme it doesn't seem to be done with me yet!

I like to play with shapes and colour in drawing software.  Last year, I was working on swoon blocks and large star blocks (Happy Quilting's QAL's) and came up with this star crossing block.

I tested it with whatever remnant fabric I had on hand to see how it would work and then did nothing with it.  I still have this large yellow block on navy in my stash looking for a home.

Then when my cousins 10th birthday came around in October it popped up again and became a cushion using left over jelly roll strips.

Last Christmas the Modern Quilt Guild of Ireland group had a swap and it became a table runner (yes this is the same block - dropped the pinwheel and made it 2 tone in the background triangles.)

Fiddling on EQ7 last week, trying to learn how to use the custom function, I found myself drafting it up again.  I normally do everything in solids but this time around I tried painting in fabric just to see (something I can't do on Touchdraw!)

This is the result, a giant block for a bed quilt.  As I made the block 72", a solid centre would have been too much and Gordon hated the pinwheel in my original design, so a friendship star in the centre seemed to fill the space quite nicely, plus I couldn't resist a few dotted above and below it.

Anybody know which way friendship stars are supposed to turn?  I've seen them go both ways but most traditional blocks I've seen have them spinning the other way to mine!    Now this orange one is calling me to make it.   So much so, I went and ordered Wrens and Friends fabric - yards and yards of it!  Changing the colours again and you get the aqua star in a star (exactly the same block construction only different colouring in the background!)

Having committed myself to a make and a purchase I probably should have stopped there but of course didn't.  I made it a bit smaller and coloured it again.  Here it reminds me very much of the Swoon block that inspired it in the first place!

And a little bit more colouring, some sashing to space the blocks and a different quilt again!  I really like this one too though I'm not sure how the giant hearts would work in scale with the stars.  Only one way to find out, I guess!

After a year and half this block doesn't seem to be done with me just yet!

And I've been telling people I'm not great at making the same thing over and over again.  Ha!  How wrong I've been.

Have you ever had something live in your head like this.  Has it morphed into anything you make over and over again?  I'd love to hear about it!


  1. I really loved reading about your creative process. I wish more people did that. I should do that. lol
    Also you're right, nothing is created in a vacuum. I had a similar moment of introspection upon reading Molli's post, coupled with a post I read from a glass bead artist blog I read about how she goes through waves of introspective writing and extro-spective creativity. (I'm making up words to paraphrase, but basically that.) I thought that was an interesting take on it. I definitely go through phases and waves where sometimes I listen and sometimes I speak, and sometimes I also get overwhelmed at all the noise and just want to be alone. :) There are no absolutes, just know where you're at and work with it.
    Apparently I'm in a babbly mood, because I also want to say that yes I definitely find themes that pop up over and over again in my own work, and I will spend quite a bit of time experimenting and wandering through some design ideas that just won't let me go. Some of my best work is in those phases!

  2. I get a lot of my quilt ideas from reading blogs and seeing what others are doing. I am currently on a no buy fabric diet and most of my quilts tend towards the scrappy side. I need to get my EQ7 reloaded on my computer. I am thinking that would be an awesome tool for designing. Thanks for sharing your process.

  3. Fascinating post Ruth. I get most of my inspiration from my travels, I am constantly finding potential quilt patterns in old buildings. All I need now is the time to actually do something with it all :)

    Love all of the variations of your block.

  4. I don't tend to use the same block again no, but I do really like all your designs using the same block, it seems very versatile.

  5. I don't like doing same things again so try to do different thing every time. Except log cabins, they keep comin back. And which is not good for a product seller. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying what you are doing there is not interesting. Very fascinating actually. Keep going!

  6. Hi Ruth, I didn't read Molli's lastest post yet, but it might be about what I've also been thinking a lot lately. It does bother me when it seems we've to follow everyone else path otherwise we aren't doing something cool. It might be an excellent idea if most of all favorite quilters would write about their creative process like you did.It's funny I was thinking about something similar, but I know a post like that would take me days. I hope I can do it in the future. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!Btw, I love the big block quilt. You should definitely execute the pattern!

  7. I find most of my creative ideas come when I don't have time to sew or blog so I'm not looking at an other influences for a while - or my brain is still trying to be creative when my body can't (lol) Seeing everyone else's ideas all the time seem to block my own, so I found it interesting reading MS's blog post too.

    1. Hi Serena, I definitely think you can't talk while you are listening, that's how it feels to me, thing is I think we listen way more than we realise. There are times when I need input and times when my brain pulls up something I didn't know I had already assimilated. I was reading on a blog yesterday while waiting in Brimingham airport for 6 hours! that creative ideas come when 2 different things collide. Looking outside to other crafts or art and putting it with what you already have seems to be a big springboard. I guess I'm happy exploring shapes and dabbling a bit at art quilts at the moment - surprised I don't see as much of an influence from art and photography in general - guess that's where I'm at this year. People seem to be cutting back on social media a lot but flocking to IG so its interesting that we want to rest our brain from outside influences but still want to play!


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