Quilting Out of the Flower Box

I am in a unique business. I teach quilters how to quilt on the longarm quilting machines. After the basic skills are learned, the most frequently asked questions are: “How do you know what to quilt on the quilt? What will best compliment the piecework? How do you go about choosing the designs?”

Sometimes the customer has a definite plan or specific designs in mind, but more and more often the longarm quilter is left to choose what they feel will be the best.  Actually, this is a sensible approach since experienced longarm quilters are exposed to hundreds of quilts and ideas for quilting. They develop a good eye for what truly will enhance the piecework and become the experts on quilting designs.

I suggest to my longarm students, and I believe it would be a good idea for all quilters, to start a “design library” of their own on quilting ideas, pictures and designs. This can be accomplished several ways:

1. Use a three ring binder with plastic pages. This way you can simply slip ideas into the pages. I have sketched out quilting ideas on everything from gum wrappers to napkins and envelopes. This way I don’t have to take the time to redraw my inspiration.

2. Keep a little sketch notebook handy in your purse all the time. The more you look for quilting ideas, the more you will see the art around you.

3. I also keep a three ring binder just for pictures that inspire me.  I seldom read quilting magazines more than once, although (like everyone else) I do keep them for future reference. When I see a quilt where I feel the quilting is particularly well done, I tear it out of the magazine and put it in my own private gallery for inspiration. This way I don’t have to try to remember where and when I saw it.

4. Quilt shows are always inspiring! I try to get good pictures of the quilting that I particularly like. This is getting easier with the new digital cameras.  I have another gallery to inspire me at my fingertips!

5.  Take pictures of all the quilts you do for customers. They love to see their own quilt in your portfolio and it will give them ideas on quilting. It is impressive. It also helps you to remember some of your own good creative ideas. When hundreds of quilts turn into thousands, it is easy to forget.

6. If you want to be a creative quilter, you will draw everyday. Keep a drawing pad handy by the phone, by your desk, by your bed, anyplace you frequent – and use it. The more you doodle, the more your doodles will turn into dollars!

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