After reading a few others' posts on this latest Sewing with Certainty link up, it seems I'm in good company with my design process. While I'm not against using patterns, I definitely prefer to put my own spin on things and I either start from scratch myself, or change up someone else's design to fit my taste. I've only really stuck with a pattern from start to finish when attending a class or occasionally when sewing a small accessory project, but for quilts, I'm almost always flying solo.
I keep a gridded notebook handy (I really love my Whitelines notebook - the grid all but disappears as you work), and I use it for just about everything sewing related, from doodles and color layouts to taking notes at quilt meetings and jotting down measurements. My desk could use a little organization most days, so having all my notes for everything sewing related in one location is very helpful!
I'm also an old-school MS Publisher fan. I know there are tons of other design programs out there, but I've been using this one for... hmm... flashback to the rainbow dot matrix printer cartridges of wayyyy back... well, not quite that long ago, but twenty years?? close to? ... anyway, for a long time and I know it like the back of my hand, so when I want to digitally lay something out, I do it there. The more I see of E7, though, the more I want to make the switch to a dedicated program for quilt designing!
Since my background is as a math teacher, my prep work tends to be fairly calculated. I don't make a lot of changes once truly underway, and as much as I admire those who organically piece by just throwing fabric pieces up and sewing seams where they overlap, I know that at least for now, that's way outside my comfort zone. (That said, I did enjoy learning more about the process of piecing this way in Craftsy's Creative Quilt Backs with Elizabeth Hartman - she makes it look super easy! And I suppose it would be easier to try out on a quilt back to ease into it ; ) I am really obsessive about balance, though, so while I rarely change my design layout once underway, when I create something with asymmetrical color, I do spend a lot of time rearranging my fabrics within the design to get the right look. I love having a design wall for this purpose. I make up my mind quickly for small stuff, but large projects I will sometimes rearrange color-wise over a period of days or weeks till I walk into the room and it finally looks just right.
Some of my goals this year include writing tutorials and publishing my own patterns, so I expect my design process will continue to evolve as I start creating with a different audience and end goal in mind. To start, the tutorial for my Table Setting Placemats will be up tomorrow - I'd love you to check back and let me know if my first try at explaining a sewing project is successful!