Drawing for Dummies (Like Me)

When it comes to free motion quilting, my most significant shortcoming is that I can't draw worth a lick.  Anything more than a stick figure, and I'm completely lost.  This non-talent of mine has caused me significant angst when it comes to quilting.  My piecing is pretty good.  My cutting is relatively accurate.  My color choice works out most of the time.  But drawing?  Oy.

It has helped me to gain some inspiration by watching videos from Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project.  Honestly, hasn't she contributed an incredible gift to the quilting community?  Also, I've figured out that websites that sell pantographs are good sources of inspiration.  One that I like particularly is Urban Elementz.  I can study the shapes in their pantographs and sometimes I can figure out something from there.

Today I wanted to tell you how I came up with the free motion quilting design for my swap quilt.  If you are a good artist, then this post will probably be comically simple-minded for you.  This is really directed at folks who are terrible artists . . . folks like me.

So even if I can't draw, I can write.  And I can do math, which means I know how to write numbers.  So when I look at a potential design, I try to break it down into its basic shapes and translate them into letters or numbers or both.  Take this design I quilted yesterday.

This design is really made up of five different curves.  First, is what I call the "point of entry"

You'll be coming from the starting point at the top and your line curves down to where you want to start your butterfly shape.

The next line looks almost identical, but it's a little flatter.  You'll be at the bottom of the curve, which is really just a downward facing and backward letter "C".  You'll draw your curve upward and to the left.

The next shape is just a backward facing letter "S", and the top of the "S" is smaller than the bottom of the "S".  So you'll make your backwards S starting at the top and head down from there.

Your next curve is a flattened out letter "C".

And the final curve starts at the bottom of the "C" and curves up.  It is a backward facing "C".  A sort of crescent moon shape.

Put all those shapes together and it looks like this:

To do the other side, just flip it all over horizontally.  Draw all the curves in the opposite direction until you get to what I call the "point of exit".  That is where your next design will start.  Just go wherever you want to on the quilt and start the whole process again.

Pay attention to where the curves lie in relationship to one another.  The bottom curves of the butterfly should roughly line up with the upper curves.  The two "S" curves on the right and left should be at roughly the same height.

You can draw the same design upside down by flipping all the shapes vertically.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, get over the idea that you will be able to sew this shape perfectly symmetrically.  You might, but you probably won't.  It won't matter.  You still will have drawn a butterfly using the skills you gained when you learned how to write.

Add in flowers or curves or loops or circles and you've got yourself a quilting design . . . no talent for drawing required.


Unknown said...

Makes sense to me...will have to try that. I'm not a "draw-er" either.

sew.darn.quilt said...

too cool!! Thank you :)


Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

I can't draw, either. I've been thinking that that is a major reason that I can't do FM quilting. Teachers keep saying to draw the feathers. Even if I'm looking at a picture of them, I can't draw them worth a darn. Oh well.

Teresa in Music City said...

Wonderful tutorial Barbara! I've got a small quilt I'll need to be quilting here soon, and I'll come back to this post and try it out!

Sarah said...

Nice tutorial Barbara! I think somewhere along the line I was taught or just figured out to aim for unsymetrical designs cuz it was easier than fussing over being symetrical. Works great for me!

Nita said...

Can I free motion quilt if I just leave my presser foot up?