The Creative Process

For the past little bit I have been thinking a lot about the creative process. Or more specifically, about my creative process. I have never considered myself to be "creative" in the typical sense of the word - all through school I was more into math and science. I never took an art class.

Sundown - 2014 Pantone Quilt Challenge
I made this quilt several years ago and it is still one of my favorites - I spent some time every day couple weeks tweaking the fabrics before I felt ready to start sewing.
In high school I took creative writing and had a really wonderful teacher named Ms. Russell who taught me how to approach being creative from a more analytical perspective. In her class once you wrote something, you had just completed the first step in a very long process that involved lots of editing, peer reviewing, introspection, time, effort, and work. There might have been a creative spark at the beginning, but most of the process was the whittling down and refining that happened afterward.

This approach to creativity worked really well for me and I went on to be the editor of my high school literary magazine and then the honors journal at my university. She gave me tools that have translated extremely well into my quilt pattern designing process. Thanks Ms. Russell!

I use either EQ8 or my trusty grid paper notebook for all of my pattern designing and when I sit down to start working on something, I just start trying out blocks. Generally, I don't like anything I am making, but I save it all so that I can return to it later.

A week (or a month or several months) or so later, I will look back over what I had been working on. Most of the time I will still think it's all garbage, but sometimes I will think, "That isn't good, but now I have an idea of how to make it better." Sometimes I go through this process several times and end up with something I like. Most of the time it's still garbage.

Check out the example below. This is an evolution of The Mary Quilt. It changed over time until it arrived at its current form.

The Mary Quilt Evolution - Kitchen Table Quilting

When I sit down to work on a quilt design, I almost never have an idea of what I want to make (I can think of two exceptions: my Betty and Even-Steven patterns). I had some ideas when I started working on my Tessa pattern, but I wasn't sure exactly how the pattern was going to work. You can see I played with scale and some different ideas before I finally decided on the design.

The Tessa Quilt Evolution - Kitchen Table Quilting

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration. How difficult will this be to piece? How will I be able to write instructions to piece it? Can I use precuts (this is a hard one for me!)? Will it use fabric efficiently? Will I be able to fit all of the diagrams into a paper pattern without it being 80 pages long? Etc. Some of the final tweaks are practical, some are aesthetic.

I wanted to share all of this with you because I feel like the quilting world can be a little frustrating. Everyone is creating things all of the time and it is A LOT. But I think we all have something we can contribute, whether it is through patterns, fabric choice, etc. There is so much room to be creative, it just takes a whole lot of time and work.

What is your creative process like? I would love to hear your experiences!


  1. As an interior designer who owned a business for 35 years, my mind is always churning with ideas. My creative process always starts with a print fabric. Then you pull the colors and other fabrics from it. I have difficulty with solids because I spent 35 years mixing and matching patterns, always starting with the focal print. I loved the Victorian age we went through in the 90's, putting 5 or more patterns in one room, all going together and starting with the one print or stripe. Lots of fun in the process!

    1. What a perfect day job for a quilter! I have difficulty with solids sometimes too and will occasionally pull out prints for a quilt, then switch to the corresponding solids. It helps me make the solids work.

  2. I tried and tried to work with the EQ7 that I bought years ago and it doesn't work for me. I have to start with a doodle of an idea or blocks or a specially curated stack of fabrics. As I build the quilt from the ground up, I continually am on the look-out for what the quilt is asking for and so my process is fairly fluid I suppose. Reading about others creative process is endlessly fascinating to me. Your walking us through how those quilts evolved is very interesting. Love seeing and reading about it!

    1. EQ7 was definitely a little wonky, they have really improved things with the new version but there is still a learning curve. I love the way you describe your creative process, thank you for sharing!


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