Finding Quilting Inspiration


Hello, dear blog-readers! As always, I loved reading your comments on last week’s post. Thank you all for sharing your own stories of battling your expectations of perfection, your alternative names for The Galloping Horse Test, and for connecting with me. What fun!

This week I want to talk to you about finding inspiration when starting a new quilt. The first spark of creativity can come from so many different places, or sometimes even combination of places. But we all have to start somewhere! So let’s dive into a few of my favorite sources of inspiration.

Quilting for a specific person/purpose

Most of my quilting projects have a home before I even start them. Maybe my own dining room table needs a new table runner, or there is a birthday coming up, or (most commonly for me) someone I love has a new baby on the way.

Knowing the recipient ahead of time can often be inspiration enough, especially if you know that person (or the mama/papa-to-be) well. Recently, I made a quilt for an expectant mom, who also happens to be a dear friend who had her baby only 9 days before I had my daughter.

All I had to do was ask her what the nursery theme was going to be, and voilà! Inspiration!

In this case, it was Wizard of Oz themed, and because we didn’t know whether baby was going to be a boy or a girl before the birth, I decided to try to be abstract and gender neutral with the theme so baby could enjoy it no matter what. Baby ended up being a sweet boy, who is now almost 11 months old. Quilt result below!

Find a pattern

Even when you have a recipient in mind, you’ll have to pick a pattern eventually. But sometimes finding the right pattern can be the very first step in the creative process, even before you know who the quilt will keep warm, and that pattern can inspire the whole project. I love to find new patterns by checking out what is hanging at my local quilt shop, visiting quilt shows, browsing the racks, checking out the Quilter’s Mart pattern of the month, reading magazines, and stealing Nancy the Quilting Goddess’ books.

The perfect pattern can click the start of a story in my mind. At first sight, I can imagine the colors, if I need loud prints or subtle solids, whose bed it might cover, and how I’ll quilt it. Then it’s just a matter of executing!

Finding an inspiration fabric

Sometimes instead of the pattern kickstarting you, you’ll find a fabric that gets you going. It could be a simple, solid fabric in a color that speaks to you. But for me, more often, it is a print that catches my eye.

Usually my inspiration fabrics are multicolored, which makes it easy to fill in the rest of the fabrics. Then it is just a matter of finding a pattern that works with the chosen fabrics - or maybe making up my own design! - and I’m off to the races.

Picking an inspiration fabric can be fun and exciting, but it can also be a challenging place to begin a project. I plan to write an entire post about inspiration fabrics down the line, so stay tuned!

Raiding scraps

If you’re anything like me, you treasure your beautiful fabric, and may find it hard to throw away. I even keep a drawer full of extra binding strips! I’m not sure what I’ll ever use 12 inches of binding for, but if a need ever arises, I’m covered.

More interesting than extra binding strips are the leftover scraps of yardage that didn’t get used during an earlier project. ¼ yard here, ½ yard there, several cuts intended for one project that ultimately got replaced by a different color - you know how it is!

Every once in a while, it can be fun to raid those scraps for a small table runner, or a quirky quilt. I love doing this for a quilting version of spring cleaning, and the results can be really fun!

Buy a kit

When you’re at a loss, and your creativity has run out at the most inopportune time (like the last of your bobbin thread!), kits are great! They come with a pattern and pre-measured (sometimes even pre-cut) fabric, and you’re all set. Guaranteed to be beautiful - inspiration in a bag!

What are your favorite sources of inspiration? Do you find inspiration anywhere I didn’t think of?

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  • Carolyn Knees
Comments 9
  • Toni Macartney
    Toni Macartney

    I havnt made anything substantial in almost 20yrs have just moved and feeling quite overwhelmed by my stash and the broken promises of making quilts for my five children and 13 grandchildren just where do I begin

  • Sandra Mazer
    Sandra Mazer

    I use my small pieces of binding to bind either my baby quilts or my scrappy quilts. It just adds another feature to the quilt. Happy scrap gathering. Am really enjoying your blog.

  • Sandra Mazer
    Sandra Mazer

    2703 Laurel Park Road

  • Linda Cross
    Linda Cross

    I have been looking for a couple of years for a pattern to showcase a fabric I’ve bought that I absolutely love. It is a true challenge.

  • Debra a Hebel
    Debra a Hebel

    875 Euchee Chapel Rd. I have several inspirational moments. Mostly out of wanting to do something for someone else. Now it’s a Pro-life ministry(Walk- For- Life) T-shirt wall quilt years 2005-2018 due in Sept for the new walk. It will have the middle area for the history of the Center. I’m excited will be colorful, tacked with Baby pic buttons, each shirt will have sashing of different colors, and stenciled in small baby stuff like rattles ,bottles,stork,and etc. A friend with her beautiful hand is writing the history I wrote up on it for me.

  • Sudie Sanclemente
    Sudie Sanclemente

    Good morning. I’m enjoying reading your blogs. My problem is that I stay inspired. I see so many beautiful quilts that I want to try, but not really having the time since I have a small home business. So I’ve decided to take those patterns and downsize them to make wall hangings.

  • Edie Karlin
    Edie Karlin

    I love quilting one of my favorites is my christmas quilt would love to post a photo but don’t see how to do it

  • Linda Schwartz
    Linda Schwartz

    It made me smile to see you keep your binding strips; I keep it all. I even keep the little snippets and throw a little outside for the birds. I have also used the little pieces of binding strips, it makes for a fun pot holder or wrapping a pocket on a bag etc.

  • Eunice Hartley
    Eunice Hartley

    Another source of inspiration for me is the environment/nature. When I am in Florida the sea and all the coastal colors are my inspiration. When I was in Alaska recently the mountains and eagles were calling to me.

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