From Start to Finish: How A Design Develops

So my last post was over a month and a half ago, but I haven’t been slacking! I taught “Fun Stuff” for two different groups, one in North Carolina and one in Oklahoma, finished a design for a magazine, a new design for release at Summer Market in Columbus, and part of a design for the Needle Arts Mystery Retreat in July. Plus the usual business things of filling orders, advertising, arranging trunk shows, calling customers, and other details that keep me from the fun part of my job – stitching!

I’m getting ready to stitch a new design to release at Summer Market, and thought it might be of interest to write about my design process. Sometimes designs develop a little differently, but this design is pretty typical for me and therefore a good one to use to describe the process. This is something I’m asked frequently, “How do you come up with all these designs?” So here’s how it works for me.

This design, Diamond Delight 10, is one of a series. The series has certain parameters, so it starts there. Each design in the Diamond Delight series is the same size, about 11″ square, and is based on the same shape, a diamond in a square, so I began there. Although each of the Diamond Delights is the same size and basic shape, they are all different in how the theme is expressed. For Diamond Delight 10 I decided to carry the “diamond in a square” as far as I could, so there are several “diamonds in a square” nested within each other. This general theme was sketched out before I designed, stitched and released Diamond Delight 8 and Diamond Delight 9. Because it was the culmination of the series, I decided to save it for the last one.

With the basic shape and theme decided I began laying it out on the computer. Like most stitchers I have favorite stitches that I go to again and again. Some stitches are versatile and can be layered with different threads for a different look; some for the ease and quickness of stitching, and some for the texture. I usually begin with defining the different stitching areas, and for Diamond Delight 10 I decided to use different stitches for each of the different diamonds and squares. This time I chose stitches that are favorites because of their versatility, not necessarily for their quickness of stitching (and I may regret that later because I’m really in a time crunch!).

Next I choose what will go in the defined stitch areas. This piece is unusual because I have long wanted to play with adding a different fabric to use as a design element. More about that in a minute. With this in mind, I wanted to steer away from really complex stitches, and instead selected stitches that will be better suited to the layering I have in mind. I decided to go for more texture and pattern rather than complexity.

As a designer who releases patterns to the public rather than teaching pieces, any time I veer off the normal path of supplies readily available to needlework shops I have to be very selective. Is the material likely to available in a fabric store, in a commonly described color? Is it something of a classic nature that has been available for a long time, and likely to be available for a long time to come, or in other words not too trendy? Furthermore, the material must complement the stitches and the finished piece, not overpower it, but be a part of the design. Tulle fits the requirements. It is readily available, not trendy, in colors that are easily described, does not overpower the design, but can be layered, stitched through and used in other versatile ways.

I’ve been pondering different ways to use tulle in a design, to stitch through it, over it, under it. Diamond Delight 10 will incorporate, hopefully, some of these musings.

Next time – how I add color to a design!

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