Favorite Design Tools


Yep. Most of my projects end up with at least one sheet of paper like this. I write counts of blocks and patches. I scribble my math as I go. I sketch really crude drawings of blocks or corner arrangements. Sometimes I use graph paper to draw layouts, and when I do, the margins of those sheets are covered like this, too.

The calculator is an essential part of my tool kit, too. The quilt math IS NOT HARD! There are a small number of formulas. If you know where to find the formula (and YES there are several I look up every time) it is easy to plug in the numbers. No more long division like we did in grade school. Only the most basic algebra. You don’t have to solve geometry proofs or integrate the area under a curve.

Most of you know I use EQ7 regularly, too. Like a lot of electronic tools, one of the main benefits is ability to re-do your work quickly. Adjust a shape or block here, change a color there. You can do ALL THAT and more with paper and pencil (and colored pencils or crayons or markers.) You can just do it more quickly with the software.

Other design tools are several of the books I own. The books I like best are those with historical quilts for inspiration, and those with design principles, strategies and techniques, rather than patterns. Occasionally I troll Google images for ideas but not often. No Pinterest or Instagram, either. I’d rather spend my time doing than looking.

My favorite tool is my brain. What a wondrous thing brains are! πŸ™‚

What design tools do you use? Let us know in comments.


13 thoughts on “Favorite Design Tools

  1. snarkyquilter

    I do like to use graph paper and colored pencils. I view them as the adult version of the coloring book and crayon box. I’ve resisted computer quilt design programs simply because if I get everything worked out digitally I’m afraid I’ll never actually sew a quilt. I find I’m using my photos more than I ever did before, though more for design elements and color palettes than full blown designs. If I have lots of notes on a quilt I’ve made I put them in a loose leaf notebook, along with the date I made the quilt.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Just as you say, you can do all your quilting on the computer if you choose. I don’t. Very rarely do I work out a whole quilt, esp a medallion, before starting. Instead I usually use the software for problem solving on a particular border. But I’ll never abandon pencil and paper notes, like the ones in my picture. And I’ll never stop waking up in the night and putting myself back to sleep doing quilting planning and quilt math. πŸ™‚

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That’s a good idea. I’ve never been able to manage that paper thing, scrapbooks and journals and such. Even son’s school stuff — my husband always dealt with keeping any of those we wanted to save.

  2. KerryCan

    I have old drawings and notes for quilts, and they look so much like your photos! I’ve never used the software–when I was really into quilting, they didn’t make software for Macs yet!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I didn’t get a Mac until it was available for just that reason. I like the software for playing but it almost never determines my design. Even when I have a good plan with it, there are still a lot of adjustments. More likely I use it to audition a number of different ideas for a particular border, to get direction. Not very often I do the whole quilt that way, unless I already “know” what I want and want to check the sizing and math.

  3. katechiconi

    My favourites? Graph paper, pencil and eraser… Mostly, my quilts don’t follow a particular pattern, and I don’t much use traditional blocks, so the math isn’t really too complex. I don’t think I’ll ever want to use EQ, although I can see it’s a boon in the right hands! And I can visualise colour and layout quite well, which is why so many of my quilts seem to spring fully formed into my brain from thin air!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Lucky you! My quilts are born a little at a time, almost always. Even when I think I know where they’re going, often they surprise me, requiring completely different solutions than I expected.

      1. katechiconi

        I really think that the evolution of a quilt is a wonderful metaphor for how everyone’s brain works differently. I’m lousy at figures and don’t much enjoy geometry (although as you know I like symmetry!), but I am highly visual and can conceptualise things quite completely in my head. I’ve even had quilts appear to me in a dream, and had to get them down on paper in a big hurry before I forgot the magnificent vision!


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