Art Quilting — Creating a Design

Sometimes you just can’t find the perfect design or you want to create something unique to the person you’re making it for. When this happens, you may want to create your own design. But how do you go from conceptual artwork to a completed quilt block? In this article, we’ll review several videos we’ve put together to make it easier for you to get through this process.

What You Need for an Art Quilt

  • 6×10 inch paper
  • Pencil and marker
  • A scanner
  • Graphic design software
  • A tablet for coloring and digitizing (optional)
  • Digitizing software
  • Fabrics for background and applique
  • Threads to match and contrast
  • A photo or handwritten note to include
  • An envelope of an appropriate size

Creating a Design Part 1: Drawing the Artwork

Main Takeaways

  • Use a 6×10 inch piece of paper to create the design
  • Start with a pencil in case you need to make changes
  • When you have what you like, trace over it with a marker
  • Use swatches when coloring your design to match thread
  • It’s okay to start coloring with broad strokes that go outside the lines and fix them later

Art Quilting Video Summary

In this video, Rachel, one of our artists, discusses how Anita Goodesign’s Art Quilt package was designed so that each block could be used as a greeting card that could be opened up to be used as a framed piece or quilt block. 

Rachel starts with a 6×10 inch piece of paper, drawing out the angel with all of the touches, making sure that they translate into embroidery. She then traces the outline with a marker. With a pencil, she draws in the free-motion quilting so that she can erase and start over if needed. She uses the swirls seen in other areas of the design as inspiration.

The design is then scanned into the computer so that she can color it in Photoshop. She creates a duplicate layer, adjusts the contrast, then deletes the layer on the bottom and sets the current layer to multiply. This allows her to add another layer beneath the current layer. She can paint that lower layer with her colors while leaving the outlines on top blank. She then selects swatches that most closely resemble the thread she will choose later.

The color palette is selected, starting with the background color. Rachel uses a brush tool to continue coloring in the design. You can add additional colors to create texture and depth to the piece. Once it’s colored in, it’s time to digitize the design.

Creating a Design Part 2: Digitizing

Main Takeaways

  •  For a sketched look, use a running stitch and digitize every stitch
  • Avoid automated fill stitches such as satin and fill stitches
  • Don’t try to make every line perfect because variation adds to the artistry
  • Set aside a long period of time to complete this process

Art Quilt Part 2 Video Summary

In this video, Steve Wilson takes Rachel’s angel design for the art quilt and used specific designs to digitize them. He uses a range of stitches, including satin and fill stitches, along with hand digitizing to get the level of detail found in the design. Using a pen or stylus, he draws in each of the stitches. This gives a lot of artistic appearance to the piece rather than using automated stitching features. With each stitch, it gives the wings a feathered look. 

You can use a contrasting color to complete drawing in the individual stitches if it makes it easier to see. It shows how things are created from scratch, because you essentially draw with thread and create a beautiful design. 

Steve uses a tablet to make the process faster rather than a trackball or mouse. Designs can take a full day to complete. He then brings in all of the colors

He starts with the tacking stitches for the appliques, then the quilting stitches. The quilting stitches have different design elements that work with the embroidery design. Steve completes one color at a time, adding other colors to create depth and dimension. To keep the appearance of sketching, Steve uses a 5 to 7 ply thread. 

Creating a Design Part III: Choosing Colors

Main Takeaways

  •  Choose fabrics first, then match threads to those fabrics to ensure a good match
  • Select your matching and contrasting threads for a hand-sketched look
  • After your applique fabric is stitched down, carefully trim it as closely as possible for a good result

Art Quilt Part 3 Video Summary

In this video, you’ll learn how to choose thread and fabric colors that come as close to the original artwork as possible. After choosing base fabrics, choose matching thread and contrasting thread so that the fabrics and materials don’t stand out from each other. This allows you to create a hand-painted or hand-sketched look.

Next, you’ll stitch out your design. The video shows the outline stitches being laid down, followed by each applique fabric being put into place and trimmed carefully with scissors. Once you’ve completed your stitching, you’re ready to go on to finish your quilt.

Creating a Design Part IV: Finishing the Quilt

Main Takeaways

  •  When creating the photo tabs on the inside, tape down the fabric to avoid catching the presser foot
  • Trim your excess fabric carefully to get the best results
  • Only take the facing off of one side of the interfacing at a time to prevent unintentional adhesion
  • Make the inner binding slightly wider than the other side to ensure it’s caught by the thread from the other side
  • Consider whether you want to add a stitched greeting or tabs before starting on the inside or adding the binding

Art Quilt Part 4 Video Summary

In this video, you’ll learn how to finish up your quilt block card. After you’ve finished the front, you’ll create the inside in a matching fabric that has a stippling effect. You’ll then add a frame that you can place a picture or handwritten note into. After the outline stitch is done, you can add your main fabric for the inside of the card. You’ll then stitch the outline of the frame and place the fabric pieces for your corners, taping them down to prevent the presser foot from snagging them as it stitches. Once the fabric corners have been stitched down, carefully trim them to remove the excess fabric. 

Next, you’ll fuse the inside and outside together, typically with Wonder Under or double-sided fusible interfacing. You fuse one embroidered piece to one side of the interfacing, peel back the other side of the interfacing and fuse it to the other embroidered piece. Trim your seam allowance to 1/4” to bring it down to card size and allow your binding to only be 1/4”. Your binding fabric should be cut to only 2″ wide due to the narrowness of the binding.

Start your binding at the bottom and then go around, stitching it together at the ends. Pin the binding in place, then stitch it down, leaving space at the beginning and end to stitch the binding together. You’ll stitch to within 1/4” of the corner, then turn the piece and the binding, pinning it down again to continue the binding.

Once you’ve gotten all the way around, tuck the binding around the edges of the piece and pin it in place. You’ll then stitch in the ditch all the way around on the front to secure the binding. With your quilt complete, you can insert a photo or handwritten note into the frame, or you could alternately have stitched a greeting into the piece. You also have the option of adding tabs to the inside to turn it into a wall hanging. 

Access More Creativity & Inspiration 

With these videos at hand, you can quickly and easily create completely customized designs for your projects and quilts. But what if you only want to make a few pieces that are completely yours, or if you’re in a hurry and need to find the perfect artwork for your needs? Our All Access Club Membership gives you easy access to a huge range of designs, as well as first peeks at new designs that are coming out. Sign up today and let your creativity soar!