Jumpstart Quilting Designs with an Easy Sketchbook Exercise

30 Nov 2011

quilting designs color scheme
Ana's sketchbook collage of color schemes for quilting designs.
pokey boltonI usually have a variety of quilting designs kicking around in my head at any given time. But often, when I finally get around to actually designing a quilt, I draw a blank. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by fabric and surface design choices. Other times, I just don't know where to start.

That's when I turn to my sketchbook. There I have usually put some doodles, color swatches, or even notes to myself that remind me of ideas I've had in the past and that give me a place to start from.

Ana Buzzalino, a textile artist with a strong sense of color and an eye for modern quilting designs, has an easy system for jumpstarting her creativity through her sketchbook. Today, I'm going to share her quilt design inspiration technique with you, adapted from her article in the December/January 2012 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine.

You'll need:

  • A sketchbook
  • Old magazines, brochures, postcards, photos
  • File folders
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick or liquid glue
  • Paint chips
  • Fabric stash

quilting designs color scheme
Fabric swatches for a green color scheme based on Ana's collected images and
paint chips.
1. Gather your papers and scissors and start cutting out images that appeal to you. Sort them by color and put them in folders, by color.

2. Once you have several images in a particular color palette, take out your folder, sketchbook, and glue. Make a pleasing arrangement of the images on a page or a spread of the sketchbook and glue them down.

3. With sketchbook in hand, go to the paint section of your local hardware store and select paint chips that closely match the color scheme you've chosen. Paste these in another page of your sketchbook. This allows you to see how colors in the same family can vary in lightness, darkness and tone.

4. By now, working with this color scheme should be giving you a good idea of what fabrics to look for and which ones will work together in a quilt design or in quilt motifs. Pull out your fabrics that are in that scheme and decide which ones will go into your quilt. As you pull the fabrics, cut about a 2" square and glue it into yet another page of your sketchbook. Now, when you go shopping for more fabric or for thread in that color scheme, you will know exactly what colors you need.

This exercise is so much fun and an easy way to start keeping a sketchbook if you don't already.

Of course, color scheme is just one aspect of quilting design. To learn more tips, check out Ana's new Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video, "Machine Stitching and Painting Quilts: From Start to Finish."
And you can also get advice, tips, and resources from our new Quilting Designs page on the Quilting Daily community.


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