Over the course of the last seven years as the editor of several quilt magazines, I’ve had so much fun designing quilts, home décor, and accessories. Whenever the opportunity arises, I always put my hand up to volunteer because I think it gives me a good perspective about what a good designer goes through when coming up with a final product. For any designer, making quilts for a magazine is always a challenge. Magazines have size requirements, often the fabrics have been chosen ahead by an editorial team, and frequently, there’s that element of time being “of the essence.” In other words, the parameters may be set, but there is still a lot of room for creativity!
When I design, I usually ask myself a few questions
- How will the quilt be used?
- What design elements will best showcase the fabric line?
- Who would be attracted to this kind of design?
- Where will the quilting have a place to be a star?
- Is this a design that I could pattern easily without too many illustrations?
Most of those questions are self-explanatory, but the last one is often the limiting factor: If I can’t pare the instructions down into reasonable steps with strong visual illustrations, then they will be less effective and efficient for the reader. And to make that a bit more complicated, I’m not an expert at computer programs that create those illustrations.
But I do know how to use a pencil, graph paper, and calculator… and I have access to a great design team to back me up!
So here’s the scoop on how I came up with and executed the quilt design for one of my modern quilt patterns, “Oh Boy.”
The title of this quilt says it all: Oh Boy! Babies bring joy, excitement, and opportunities for celebration quilt. I hoped this quilt would be used, so the size had to be something a baby could be easily wrapped in, but not so big that if it were thrown on the floor the entire family would trip. (Not sure what size to make? Check out this handy chart on quilt sizes.) I settled on a 40” x 49” rectangle.
Next, choosing the colors
Who doesn’t love brights? This little guy needed a splash of color – no baby blue for him – so I went with the Geogram collection by Samarra Khaja for Lecien. I edited down a jelly roll to a few patterns in each colorway and saved some of the extras for the border. Next, I reconsidered my “no baby blue” statement and chose the palest-of-pale blue for the background.
Designing an alphabet
This took some time, especially since it was all done on graph paper. I wanted to feature all lower case letters and make them as simple as possible… but I also wanted them to nestle together. One aspect I love is the way the rounded corners of the letters allowed bits of background to peek out.
Making it work on paper
This is not an overly complicated design, but it was challenging to pattern. After I worked out all of the math, double-checked the yardage, and sewed up my sample, I enlisted the help of our technical editor, Rose DeBoer, to help make the illustrations. She had great suggestions and made the pattern much more clear. Lesson learned: everyone – even an editor – needs a good editor!
Space for the quilting
I knew “Oh Boy” needed the professional touch when it came to the quilting. I didn’t have the time (or confidence) to fill all of that negative space with expert-looking swirls and flourishes. That’s when I turned to Tia Curtis, a professional longarm quilter who’s worked on many of my quilts. Giving her the space to add her own special touch to this quilt was a design element I planned from the beginning.
Finally, the quilt made it to its new owner, Charlie. Isn’t he adorable?
If you want to check out some of the other designer quilt patterns I’ve created over the years, you’ll find an awesome collection of my designs in a pattern bundle at The Quilting Company! Not only bed quilts, but also a Scandinavian-inspired pillow, an urban table runner, and even another baby quilt I called #Hashtag. After all, every baby needs a spare quilt!