Tag Archives: design process

Designing your own blocks

Have you heard?? Alyce from Blossom Heart Quilts has a new e-book out, that is a great reference book for designing your own quilt blocks. If you have ever wanted to start designing your own blocks or quilts, this will provide you the confidence and the skills to help you get started.

DIY Block Design cover

I am so honored that Alyce asked if I could share my design process with you all. Before walking through a design, I want to share some of the things I learned over the last 18 months.

Lessons Learned

  • Designing a quilt and making it into reality is my favorite part of making a quilt.
  • I really like abstract and minimalism designs.
  • Participating in Quilt Design a Day group, helped me discover my style, what I like and don’t like.
  • It is like many creative activities, you need to practice and engage you brain on a regular basis. This does not have to be daily but for me I try to work on something 3 times a week or more.
  • Previous works by other artists are important to study.  Whether its quilts or art or architecture, it helps you experience different perspectives that may narrow down what you like or help expand your work.
  • Never be afraid to try experimenting with different color palettes, you may be surprised.
  • Keep your mind open to the world around you and what you see every day. Most of my designs come from things I see every day. Vacations are also great – fewer distractions.
  • Always carry paper and pen, you never know when you will be inspired. My phone is also a key part to my design process, allowing me to capture what I see, to use later.

My Design Process


As I mentioned, I am inspired typically from things around me especially while on vacation. While traveling in Lisbon, Portugal, I captured this monument. I loved the geometric design of the monument and the contrasting palette.


  • I love taking my own photos, and leveraging them for design inspiration and also color palette. You took a photo, as something captured your eye…so I try to leverage those things I liked in the image. To get a color palette from my photo, I use Anne @ Play Crafts Palette Builder tool. The great thing about this tool, it provides me HEX & RBG codes to use in my design tool and the Kona Solid color that I can directly order.
  • My design tool of choice is Quilt Canvas. It is an online tool with a monthly or yearly subscription model. I started out with monthly and recently changed to a yearly subscription. It always takes time to get use to a tool, but I find it worth it. Other than providing me the ability to design, it provides me a professional way of getting my designs ready for submissions or my blog post. I love playing with solid colors and the prints in the supplied fabric library, I can see it in a more realistic view.
    PLEASE NOTE: there is nothing wrong with paper and pencils, this is just what I use. If I am not online I do use paper and pencils to capture the thoughts when I have them.


Sometimes I have an immediate design in mind when I see something. Other times, I may need to explore before I am content with my design. Of course, there’s the 3rd result where, after playing, I just am not satisfied and I am ok with that. It’s all part of the process and learning what you like or don’t like.

This image of the monument, did take me a while to get a design I was happy with. The split triangle really captured my inspiration. Here are the steps/designs I explored.

Initial Design – Cross

Exploding Cross and expanding the color palette

Simplifying the design and playing with placementQDAD_01August2015(3)

Expanding design edge to edge

Final Design – Reducing Color Palette

There is nothing wrong with any of the designs, but this last one felt the most right for me. I find often that the right design is an emotional choice.

Next Steps

This is likely going to be my design for my Michael Miller Quiltcon submission. Some decisions I have to make:

  • Scale
  • Which techniques do I need to use – Standard piecing, Applique or Paper piecing.
  • For standard piecing I take out my note-book and capture measurements and fabric requirements. This also helps, if I am submitting or creating a pattern.
  • I am likely paper piecing the triangles for this design – so I will export the relevant shape and import into illustrator or iDraw to add the pieces/steps with the 1/4 ” seam allowance.
  • Decide on any changes. Most commonly, I would change color palette or introduce prints.

That’s my process. Let me know if you have any questions. I can highly recommend giving it a go, there’s no right or wrong. DIY Block Design can help you through each step and process so you can have the amazing satisfaction of creating your own block!!DIY Block Design inside peek

Check out what other’s have to say about their design process. Lot’s of great information in this blog hop:

October 1 – Let the games begin!

October 2
Heidi @ Fabric Mutt
Christa @ ChristaQuilts
Angie @ Gnome Angel

Week 1: Inspiration

October 7
Ros @ Sew Delicious
Leanne @ Sewn By Leanne
Amy @ And Sew We Craft

October 9
Jennie @ Clover & Violet
Jane @ QuiltJane
Melissa @ My Fabric Relish

Week 2: Sketches

October 14
Jen @ Faith And Fabric
Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts

October 16
Sandi @ Crafty Planner
Anne @ Play Crafts
Jess @ Elven Garden Quilts

Week 3: Making

October 21
Joy @ Quilty Joy Joy
Linden @ Vine Lines Quilting
Cassie @ Cassandra Madge

October 23
Keera @ Live Love Sew
Janice @ Better Off Thread
Michelle @ Factotum Of Arts

Week 4: Finishes

October 28
Kelly @ A Place Of My Own
Abby @ Color Bar Quilts

October 30 – Linky opens!


Design Process Part II

I am a little late on this post, what can I say, I was caught up binge watch a TV series on Netflix (while being a little under the weather). It was totally worth it!!

Anyway, as mentioned in my earlier post on the Yellow Bus designs, I am going to share another design and show you how I got to my final design. This one is a little different, in that it was more playing around with the color palette choices than the overall design. Remember, I am very much about finding the geometric shapes and I like minimalistic design.

Today’s image and color palette is bought to you by Jennifer Em Lanak, published on the QDAD facebook group.


Step 1: My design was based on the horizontal lines, the bar in the middle and the concrete bars at the bottom.


Step 2: In Quilt Canvas, I quickly came up with this design. I knew this design would work. I initially went with a neutral background of white thinking the blues and the gold would pop.

Step 3: The only thing, about the overall design, I did not like was the bottom to top feel. So, I rotated it 90 degrees.

Step 4: I really liked the rotation, but the white, now, was just too white. I needed to play with the color palette some more. What about using the lightest blue instead of white?

Step 5: I wasn’t happy with this either it was still the wrong balance for me. I decided to use the color that was the most different in the palette, the gold as background. QDAD_9FEB2015(4)

Step 6: While I liked this, I thought the background still needed to be a little darker, and I played a little with the lines adding the lighter blue back in, thinking about the light and dark balance.

Step 7: I definitely liked the darker background, but I didn’t like the lightest blue color in the lines. In addition, the vertical bar and the intersection of the gold was wrong as the flow seemed broken. I changed the vertical bar to gold for a better flow and changed the blues to be just the two darker “light” blues. This was my final design.

Process Overview:

So, what do you think? Do you think you can give it a go? It doesn’t need to be on a computer program…paper and pencils are just as much fun and a great tool. Anyway, you know where to find us….QDAD Facebook page.

Please Note: If you would like to make or use one of my designs, please email me (ml_wilkie(at)hotmail(dot)com) or leave a comment below. I am happy to talk with you on options and provide the relevant measurements etc. or have you test out a pattern. Also, if you use one of my designs, please use the following text to credit me the design: “Designed by Michelle Wilkie @ Factotum of Arts”.


My QDAD Process: Yellow Bus Designs

Over the next two days, I thought would try to share my design process for Quit Design a Day.  Remember, we try to spend no more than 15 minutes on a design. We use the color palette provided each day. You can use all or select colors from that palette, and you can add white or black. We can use the photo for the color palette as inspiration, or do your own thing.

As I step you through my process, remember I am very much about finding the geometric shapes and I like minimalistic design.

Today’s image and color palette is bought to you by Jennifer Em Lanak, published on the QDAD facebook group.

First step, what shapes do you see in this photo?  Two keys areas drew my attention, from which I created two designs for this photo/color palette. Let’s step through each one.

Design 1

The first thing I saw, were the three stripes on the side of the bus and the windows on the side with the 3 sections.


So to get started I open up Quilt Canvas (tool by Threadbias, I use this for all my designs). I only use a 12 x 12″ design palette – typically I find this big enough to get my ideas down and then I can expand them to real size, if I make them.

Step 1: Based on these design elements this is my first step, laying down the components I see with initial colors. I know now that with a saturated color palette I typically use a neutral for the background for balance, in this case the gray from today’s palette.

Step 2: I was surprised at how much I liked the palette today and the balance of the colors. I realized to maintain the balance, my 3 stripes from the bus side, needed to be smaller (width) and closer together. This gives the black less prominence and balances those lines with the addition of the negative space at the bottom.QDAD_13FEB2015(2)

Step 3: While I like the 3 windows, I didn’t quite like all the color placement and I had that other red, I could use from the color palette. This landed up being the final design.

Step 4: Just to be sure sometimes I check a couple of other colorway options. I was seeing if I kept the yellow bus feel with the yellow background (switching with the grey)….but decided I liked it best as in Step 3.

Process Overview:


Design 2

For this design, I saw the geometric options with the grate (grill) of the bus.

Step 1: I liked the lines with the squares at the ends. So, I laid those down with an even spacing over the 12 x 12″ design area. I used the yellow and black as in the picture for the center, longer lines. You may notice that I started off with the lines and square rows being a little off-center. I try not to start centered.QDAD_13FEB2015_Grill(2)

Step 2: I did not like the all yellow and black center, so I thought maybe to break it up a little I could use a stripe of grey as well.

Step 3: Still not really happy with the balance I thought, what if I move the grey  stripe off centered, having the yellow and grey more 50/50 in the background?

Step 4: I still was not happy with the balance, still thinking it was the background stripes, I decided to move and narrow the grey stripe. Now the stripe splits the left squares background in 1/2 and the black stripe background in 1/2. At the same time I realized I didn’t like the squares in the various colors in the left with this extra (grey stripe) detail. I made them all black except for the first, leaving the lighter red.

Step 5: I thought I was done at step 4, but I actually came back a little later (about 20 mins after posting) and decided I need less lines in the design. I made one more change to simplify it and give a little more space. I deleted the last line. This is the final design.

Process Overview:

So what about you, grab a pen/colored pencils, or your pick of computer program…what do you see in the bus inspiration and how do you use the color palette. If you do the exercise, come over and post it on the QDAD site or do your own blog post about your process.

I will do another post on my design process tomorrow, a different one.  I hope this inspires at least one person to give it a go. I promise it gets easier the more you do it…and there are definitely days or designs I do not like but that’s part of the learning process. So go on, give it a go 🙂

Please Note: If you would like to make or use one of my designs, please email me (ml_wilkie(at)hotmail(dot)com) or leave a comment below. I am happy to talk with you on options and provide the relevant measurements etc. or have you test out a pattern. Also, if you use one of my designs, please use the following text to credit me the design: “Designed by Michelle Wilkie @ Factotum of Arts”.