Creating a Quilt, Part 1 — From Photo to Sketch

I recently completed the class “Inspired to Design” with Elizabeth Barton through Quilt University.  The class is about the process of creating art quilts, starting with an idea, working up sketches, using value studies, creating color schemes and finally constructing the quilt.

I really enjoyed the class and I completed a quilt based on one of the designs I worked on.  In this post and the next two I’ll walk through my steps in creating this quilt.

I started with a number of photos, including this simple photo of some overgrown zebra grass in my backyard.  I liked all the lines and the sort of ordered chaos in the leaves.

The next step was to create a drawing, using the photo as inspiration.  I hand traced the photo using Adobe Illustrator.  I used Illustrator rather than pencil and paper for a couple reasons.  First, I’m more comfortable drawing with the computer–I guess it’s easier for me to correct and change things with this tool.  Second, and more importantly, once the drawing is in the computer I can easily and quickly manipulate it–changing colors, repeating elements and so on.  Here’s my drawing.

Next we worked through variations on our sketches — zooming in on a portion, rotating it, fracturing it and so on.  Here are a few of my variations on my grasses sketch.

As we developed all the sketches we were to evaluate them as to how well each conveyed our main idea, and also using the basic principles of good design.

Once we narrowed down our list of potential sketches, we started evaluating them using value studies — coloring the sketch with 3 or more shades of gray.

Here are two different value studies of my original sketch.

In the next post I’ll go through the process of finalizing the design, and in another post, I’ll cover the construction process, including selecting colors, and creating the quilt.

I change many things, discard others, and try again and again until I am satisfied. Then, in my head, I begin to elaborate the work in its breadth, its narrowness, its height, its depth… I hear and see the image in front of me from every angle, as if it had been cast, and only the labour of writing it down remains. — Ludwig van Beethoven