Saturday, January 3, 2015

How important is a sketch? Photoshop? Electric Quilt?

One of the most important things I learned from my 2014 master class with EB is the value of sketching before making a quilt. I have never been a wing it kind of girl so using sketches in this class was not the first time I sketched out an idea before beginning a quilt. Although in the past the sketches were mainly outlines of the pieces with no thoughts to adding in values. The class changed that. Now I make my sketches including the values.

Some artists have an idea in their head and just pull out fabrics and start the quilt without sketching anything. I have to have a plan and really enjoy the sketching phase. I think if I tried to just throw things together I would end up wasting more fabric than I do now.

April’s “Spiritual Sanctuary” is a good example of using sketches with values. I had done 3 value sketches and decided to go with the light ceiling and dark and medium supports.







But even before I did the 3 value studies I edited my original outline sketch in Photoshop.  I love how you can crop your sketch as well as changing the proportions. I have often exaggerated the vertical dimension by elongating the height and keeping the width the same as it was.



So now to pick fabrics. I have discovered Electric Quilt (EQ) software to be useful in helping me decide on fabrics before I even cut anything. In fact before I even open the closet with my fabric stash.  I trace my sketch in the EQ software and then try out different fabrics and color schemes. I tried out several ideas and settled on the blue and green one.




EQ only gives you an idea of what to do. There usually are modifications that are still needed for the final quilt. But at least you don’t have to pull out every fabric in your stash to figure out what works!






The final quilt. You can see that it is a good match to the sketch and to the one that I did in EQ. So editing in Photoshop, sketching with values, and trying out fabrics in EQ have been the tools that I used last year and will continue to use this year.


Do you do value sketches? Have you ever used EQ to plan your quilt?

Thanks for reading.





  1. Do I value sketches? My sketches have generally been, um...sketchy! ;-) Yours are my world, anyway. So...just beginning to sketch out my ideas for MC #1...I'll let you know!

  2. Now that the Master Class is over, we'll see what I do when not prompted.

    I gave up on EQ and other quiltmaking software. I was spending all my time trying to figure out what it could do, limiting my design to what I could manage on it. I'm sad about that because I like the idea of switching out colors.

  3. I usually start with a sketch or photo - but it's more for the shapes, not the colors. The colors come when I pin the fabrics on the design wall. I used to do a lot more planning with colored pencils, but realized that once I start working with fabrics, my choices often change - so now I get to the fabric part as soon as I can.

    For example, I'm working on an abstract tree quilt right now, and spent most of yesterday pinning different fabrics up, taking photos, changing some of the fabrics, taking more photos, etc. Eventually I found a combination that pleased me. No matter how much sketching I did, I still would have gone through that process with the fabrics.

  4. I don't think I've ever done value sketches per se - in fact I don't often sketched out a design in advance preferring to let an idea develop on the design wall. Any shading on sketches I have done was probably done without much thought, not really playing with value. I think in color so value sketches seem foreign to me. I know how quickly the value of a piece of fabric can change depending on what fabric shows up next to it - that's my excuse I guess. However, maybe I wouldn't struggle so much on some pieces if I did the value sketch first.

    I used to use EQ quite a bit when I was doing more work with blocks or to work out borders. I too found the ability to audition color combinations on the screen of great help before I started searching for fabric. My current style doesn't seem as conducive to working in EQ but I do find myself playing in Paint Shop Pro quite a bit.

    An excellent post about your process, btw.


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