Where I Get My Ideas

A while back I asked my blog readers to give me some feedback about what they wanted me to blog about.  One suggestion was to tell a bit about where I get my ideas.  That’s a hard question, because I can’t always explain my ideas and where they come from.   I can’t control when or if they are going to come to me.    I’m always a bit freaked out when I’m trying to be creative and my mind is _____  blank.  One thing I have learned is that they will always come – it’s just weather or not I can be patient enough to wait for them.  In fact, if for some crazy reason I decided I didn’t want to create, I don’t think I would have a choice in the matter.   I am at my happiest when the ideas are flowing and take advantage of when they do.     Anyway, I thought I would just share a few things that inspire my ideas.


First off, I’m a big sketcher and doodler.  If you could have seen my notebooks in college, they were totally covered in doodles.  My first pattern ideas “came to me” in an astronomy class.  We were given 1/4″ graph paper to sketch our homework assignments and I started sketching quilt pattern.  See:


This sketch turned into this quilt:


Love Blooms from the book Favorite Quilts from Anka's Treasures


Here’s another sketch that turned into this pattern:




Nine-Patch Posies from the book Favorite Quilts from Anka's Treasures

Sometimes I use the computer to make my sketches, but my favorite way is to just draw.  It doesn’t have to be graph paper, a newspaper or napkin will work too.  I even have a notebook next to my bed, just in case I feel the need to write something down.  (If I don’t write it down, I will forget it for sure.)   Joel has gotten used to the light going on in the middle of the night.  He knows I need to take advantage of when the ideas are flowing and doesn’t mind me madly sketching in the middle of the night.  I think God knew I needed a heavy sleeper.  The sketches are just a way to get me started on the pattern and often times the quilt ends up looking nothing like the sketch I started with. 


Next to my sketches, fabric is probably the biggest source of inspiration for me.  I buy fabrics by collections and often times the colors, prints, scale, etc will help me figure out what to do with them.  There are so many beautiful lines out right now, that I pick and choose my favorites, and then design a pattern around that particular line.  I try to use the most current lines I can find, so that the quilters buying my pattern can replicate the look if they want.  I really like the Moda precuts because I can just start playing and rearranging the fabric until something strikes me.  Sometimes I will dig through my sketches and see if one goes with a particular fabric line and go from there. 


Here’s my niece Addi inspecting my stash from Sample Spree


Another source of inspiration for me is traditional quilts.  This quilt was inspired by the Lone Star pattern ( may also be called radian star?)

Lone Star Sensation from the book Favorite Quilts from Anka’s Treasures

The traditional way that this pattern is made is more difficult than I want to mess with – it involves lots of bias to make the diamonds and y-seams.  Yuck!  I was inspired by the look of the traditional pattern and found a simpler way to do it (I love cheater techniques!).  I used half-square triangles to fool you into thinking you were seeing a diamond.  Here’s a close-up:


See my cheater diamonds?  It’s much easier.
I’m also inspired by window shopping.  Whenever I’m feeling a bit of designer’s block – I go to a favorite shop, where I’m sure to see lots of cute things and then I feel better.  I bought this pillow and bag because I was “inspired” by the color combinations.
Sometimes though, I just want to get my errands done with out being continually bombarded with all the cute color and pattern combinations all around me!!!!
Really, once you’ve trained your eyes to really start seeing, patterns emerge all around you  – See?
 ( By the way, that pattern is called Pickey Sticks from the book “On a Roll Again” – For whatever reason, my labeling option quit working 😦  )
See any similaries to this?    
Rugs are full of beautiful ideas – for example this rug in my entry.  I love the design, but haven’t been craving applique enough to attempt it.
Or, how about this tile floor in my bathroom?  I think it would make a great quilt pattern – someday . . . .
How about architecture – Someone told me that this log cabin-style quilt blog reminded them of a very popular symbol in greek artchitecure.  That’s not what inspired the pattern, but if I was lucky enough to go to Greece,  it might have.
(GiGi Girl from the book “Let the Good Times Roll)
I also like to clip ideas from magazines – like this one from a JJill Catalog.  I love the colors and the applique design.
I keep a folder full of clippings like this, along with all my sketches. 
I could go on and on, but I think it’s time to wrap up this post.  Just one last recommendation – if the ideas aren’t flowing, try chocolate.  It’s my solution to every problem. 
So, where do you get your ideas?

About Heather Peterson

Quilt pattern designer
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21 Responses to Where I Get My Ideas

  1. MichelleB says:

    I love your ideas and patterns! I’m not sure where mine come from, however, I certainly love sewing your ideas up!

  2. mariajhmom says:

    From you!

  3. mariajhmom says:

    I get my ideas from you!

  4. Stefanie says:

    I, like you, find inspiration anywhere! I like to look at something and figure out what it would look like if I changed “just this”! I love color and pattern designs, so you just have to figure out what to do with them.

    I also have note pads everywhere because you never know where you will find inspiration! It could be on wallpaper in someone’s bathroom or on dishes at a restaurant! Or in the middle of the night while you are watching TiVo!

    Thanks for sharing your inspiration with us!

  5. Mary-Kay says:

    A lot of my ideas also come from the fabric. And then some of my ideas come from you. But mostly when I see a piece of fabric that I like or a whole fabric line, I have to try to envision in a quilt before I buy it, otherwise it would just sit in my stash. Oh by the way I like the log cabin quilt with the flowers. The flowers give it some pizzzaz.

  6. A Betty says:

    Most of my ideas come from the fabric and the feelings it evokes- nostalic, old fashioned, comforting, etc. If I see fabric I love, I search until I find a pattern I also love to go with it. Seeing that beautiful quilt on the bed reminded me that we haven’t seen the bedroom make-over. Did you complete it or are you still working on it? Very interesting post. If I could draw, I might be more creative.

  7. Sherri says:

    I’m usually inspired by looking through quilt books…but I’m thinking a daily dose of chocolate would really help!

  8. annie says:

    Anthropologie is a great inspiration to me. Also the inability to buy everything I see…..makes me use my stash and make do!!!! I think some of my most memorable quilts come from USING UP!!!! Annie

  9. Jackie says:

    Thank you for sharing all your ideas. I love how you showed your sketches and then the finished quilt. I agree with you that ideas are really all around us. That is generally what I like to do look around me. When my son was young he once came home with a geometric drawing, all colored in, wow what a great quilt that would make. That was my thought. A light bulb moment.

  10. Gretchen says:

    Thank you for this post. I love seeing your sketches turned into final quilts. I usually find fabric that I love and have to have and then find a pattern to fit the fabric. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!!!

  11. Leslie L says:

    Where DO I get my ideas? I wish I could get more of them. I would love to write quilting books someday. I’m a writer professionally, so the writing part would be easy. But the ideas! It’s hard to come up with original designs. Maybe I’ll try some of your techniques for “seeing” ideas everywhere. And eating lots of chocolate. Thanks for sharing! In a future post, I would love to hear how you go about putting together a book. (Back to that writing thing again…)

  12. Beth says:

    I’m glad someone else doodles! I’m not a GREAT doodler..but I LOVE it! Right now I am sketching a quilting design taken from the side of my new dishes! maybe I’ll blog about where I find ideas too…thanks for the idea…::::grin::::

  13. Kathleen says:

    What an interesting post. I am SO glad that there are talented people like you out there who can create wonderful patterns and fabrics to inspire us.
    I do find myself seeing patterns in anything and everything, but I’ve yet to put pencil to paper and see what I can come up with.

  14. Carrie P. says:

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. I am looking all the time at different things around me. I took a picture of a building which I thought had some great designs on it. I look for ideas for applique which I love to do. Your photos are all beautiful too.

  15. Cara says:

    Thanks for sharing! It is nice to see someone else who has always been a doodler! I use to get in trouble since I had doodles all over my homework! LOL! I get my inspiration from all around me too and most of the time without realizing it an idea pops into my mind and I have to madly doodle it or sketch it or I forget. If I am blocked I go and do something else and I find not trying to create, I create. Again thanks for sharing with us!

  16. jo says:

    I have an early childhood learning website and people always ask me the same question…where ideas come from….
    I could answer the same way you just did…from everything around you. It’s great to know that someone else turns on the the light in the dark and has a sketch book by the bed! I thought I was a freak. Thanks for making me feel a little more “normal” and thanks for the wonderful quilt designs.

  17. Becky says:

    I design about the same way you do – seeing something interesting, or taking a traditional block and moving it around somehow. And, like you, I think graph paper & colored pencils (or a scribbled grid) fit how I work.

    In addition, my inspiration often comes from words. The two quilts in my office were both inspired by song lyrics (one is a trip around the world which was designed around the phrase “give me eyes to see the world surrounding me”). I’m designing a baby quilt right now for a friend based on a phrase she seems to say all the time.

    But, when I’m too busy to design something custom, my inspiration comes from your books. Just finished a few things from “Charmed & Dangerous,” and hoping to start things from “Let the Good Times Roll” next.

  18. Christine Thomas says:

    I have lots of stuff running through my head but am not quite there yet to get it from head to paper to fabric. Yes…we are ALL glad there are people like you who can execute their ideas so well. Thank you for such a great post. Thank you for such a GREAT blog…truly inspiring and extremely educational. It is very motivating.

  19. Linda says:

    I get inspiration from what ever I’m doing at the time, whether loving the pooch, reading and seeing things described in my mind, or even from clouds or a really nice day – even when it’s bitter cold like recent. But whatever it is you do, Heather, keep it up! I like what you’re doing!!

  20. I love to sketch ideas too! love reading this post – thanks for sharing 🙂

  21. Victoria says:

    I put a link on my blog to you. this was a great post! What machine do you sew on? I can probably find it searching through your blog. I need a new one… its so confusing! hows the lake? hopefully my cabin hasn’t slid off into it…

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