Every quilter has her own style of creating unique quilts. You can begin with simply making blocks or units and putting them together. After all the blocks are put together, then choose a border. Or quilts can be planned from the beginning very carefully on graph paper with every block design and color choice decided upon before beginning cutting fabric. Many quilters use both methods and some quilters will only work with one method or the other.
If you are making a quilt from a pattern or a book many of the creative decisions are already made for you and all you need to do is to "plug in" your fabric and color choices to the formula of blocks and borders already planned. There is nothing wrong with this method of making quilts. Many beautiful quilts are made exactly like a commercial pattern using the quilter's personal fabric and color choices.
If you are going to start your quilt by making blocks or smaller units you will definitely need a design wall. A design wall can be made by covering a large 4' x 8' sheet of foam board with flannel, felt or fleece. The large sheets of foam board are available for purchase at home center supply stores. Two sheets of foam board would give you an eight foot square design wall. If space is available in your studio, a design wall large enough for a full size quilt is very helpful.
Another alternative for a design wall would be to purchase a wide window shade, and cover it with flannel, felt or fleece using a spray adhesive. Then install it over a wide door or window. This can be pulled down and used as a design wall -- then rolled back up to be out of the way when not needed. Your quilt pieces will remain on the wall when rolled because the back side of the window shade would be smooth and not attract the fabric pieces. Be sure to roll the shade down and up carefully so the quilt pieces don't fly in all directions.
As you piece a block or partial block units place them on the design wall. Move them around. View them through reversed binoculars, or a camera viewer, a reducing glass (opposite of a magnifying glass), or purchase a door peephole. A door "peephole" is a security viewer that is installed in doors so you can see who is standing outside before opening the door. Door peepholes are available at home centers. An inexpensive one is usually less than five dollars.
Many quilts are designed from the center out. You choose the fabrics and colors you wish to use in the main part of the quilt and after piecing the blocks or units and stitching them together, take your pieced portion to the fabric store and choose fabric for the border that works with the center area of your quilt.
On the other hand many quilts are made by choosing a beautiful print for the border and the colors and fabrics for the main part of the quilt are chosen to coordinate with that. And many basic quilting books use exactly this method. Choose a beautiful print and "pull" colors from that print to make your blocks and center area. The authors are working on the premise that the fabric designers know about color theory and the colors used within a fabric print will follow one of the variations of the color wheel such as "complimentary" colors, "analogous" colors, and "triad" colors.
Some quilt designers and authors recommend a "polychromatic" color scheme -- using all colors. The premise is the more colors you use the more colors you may use. Multi color and scrappy quilts are very beautiful although on some opinions very "busy". Your opinion and preference is most important. Make only quilts that make you happy!
When creating a quilt, choosing colors and fabrics can be difficult for many quilters. There are certain colors that each person particularly likes or dislikes and it is my belief that we should choose colors that we like. If we don't like the colors or fabric combination we won't want to continue and finish the quilt. I know a quilter that always uses blue in all her quilts, and another always puts pink in her quilts. Some quilters prefer green and that color is predominant in her quilts.
Occasionally you will want to deviate from your usual colors and try something different and that is OK. I very seldom work with brown or gold but had a great time making a "challenge" wall quilt that required the use of those particular colors.
Color selection in colors you don't usually use is not difficult because good color sense carries over into color combinations that aren't your special favorites. If your color selection is pleasing to you then it is OK. Remember it is your quilt and you are making it. If you don't enjoy the colors and fabrics in your quilt it might not get finished. And finishing is better than perfect.
Quilt Inspiration -- ideas to use as a theme for your next quilt
Sometimes quilters have a difficult time imagining a new quilt because they think they aren't very creative. All quilters are creative. Just the fact you are making quilts makes you creative. Even if you simply choose new colors and fabrics and "plug" them into a pattern, you are still using your creative abilities.
Below I have listed a number of ideas for a springboard to encourage your creative muse. One of these ideas just might be the basis for your next fabulous prize winning quilt.
Seasons, Holidays And Activities
Make a quilt featuring a season of the year such as spring, summer, autumn, or winter. Try making your quilt with colors of the chosen season that are non-traditional. For example do not use blue and white for winter or gold and orange for autumn.
Make a quilt featuring a specific holiday such as Valentines, Winter Holidays, or Patriotic holidays. Try choosing non traditional colors for your holiday quilts such as pink and fuchsia instead of red and white for your Valentines quilt.
Make a quilt featuring an activity you enjoy such as knitting, crocheting, baking bread, or picking fruit. Most of us have some special memories of activities that are special to our family or our locality.
Pick a profession, doctor, lawyer, nurse, or teacher. You could also choose, mother, father, grandparents, or quilter. Feature the profession with symbols of that profession and use colors that make you think of that profession.
Make a quilt from your dreams. If you dream about running, or fires, make a quilt about them. Symbols in your quilt do not have to be explained. Only you might know what a certain symbol means.
Choose one of the five senses. Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. Quilt what you see, quilt things you hear, make your quilt with textures to feel, and feature foods you like to smell and taste.
Make a quilt depicting an unusual life event such as a recent illness, surgery, or divorce. Many times working on a quilt or wall hanging will help in the healing process.
Make a quilt in memory of a loved one who has passed away. Use the loved one's clothing in the quilt or part of the quilt. It will help with the mourning and healing process of losing a loved one.
Make a quilt depicting a happy life event such as a graduation, marriage, or the birth of a new baby. Be sure to feature the date and important details on the quilt.
"One moment in time" quilt -- just choose something that happened for one moment and make a quilt to depict that experience. Use symbolism for pertinent details and be sure to feature the date.
A "Natural Disaster" quilt could be made featuring an earthquake, hurricane, or fire. A lot of symbolism can be included. Remember to place name of the event and the date on the quilt.
Choose a quotation. Make your quilt an expression of that quote. Include the quote in the quilt or not -- whatever you wish.
Make a quilt based on the title of a song, a phrase in a song, or an expression of the song. Include the title of the song or wording in the quilt if you wish.
Quilt a poem or nursery rhyme -- don't include the verse in the quilt. Make your quilt representative of that poem or rhyme.
Sometimes we get in a habit of designing our quilts in the same color families. Here are some challenges to get you out of your "comfort zone" when working with color.
Take a large box of crayons -- with your eyes closed, choose a crayon. Make a quilt using that color with fabrics and designs that interprets that colors name.
Go to the paint store and choose a paint chip with a color that has an interesting name. Make a quilt depicting that color and color name.
Buy beautiful fabric that "speaks" to you. Sometimes there is a wonderful bolt of fabric that almost jumps off the shelf into your arms. Take several yards home and drape it over your design wall or off a shelf. When you go into the room you will see your new fabric and sometimes very quickly you will find that a wonderful creative idea has come to mind that is just right for that fabric.
The above list is simply a starting point. You may start with one of these ideas and take it off in another direction entirely. You will see that you are creative and you can easily come up with a unique idea.