One of the most useful new things I explored was creating for myself a design sketch book. I have been scribbling quilting designs, doodling, and sample drawing for years on every scrap piece of paper close at hand, but I had never officially started a sketch book.
I thought that practicing designs I was learning or about to use in a quilt was enough. I'm no artist, and an official 'sketchbook' was a little intimidating. But as I've grown in my free motion skills, I've started to think of my own designs instead of copying those of my teachers and ideas I saw from other talented quilters. I've actually started sketching quilt design maps for projects I'm working on instead of either quilting as I go (letting ideas and the fabrics and piecing inspire me) or just laying out each quilt as I load it on the quilter.
Additionally, as I decide on a theme for a project, I've used the sketchbook to try variations for the designs I plan to use. Recently I made a Batik table runner I called "Sea Change" since I used colors of the ocean and sea glass. I wanted each different quilt area to be 'oceanic' in design theme, but needed several different types of designs, two borders, and three areas of Batik negative space that didn't fight with the print of the fabric. It was so fun letting my creative process find a voice, and I can use a lot of the ideas I sketched that I ruled out for this application, on projects in the future.
The other advantage that I never thought I would need, is the record making part of a sketchbook. I now have the drawings to go back to in an organized way, as a reference for future use. I have pages dedicated to border designs I've used and liked, and I've made notes in margins and kept track of where these have worked best.
And the another fun aspect of this process has been the discovery of the Adult Coloring Book craze to use motifs and line drawings as inspiration for free motion quilting designs! No crayons necessary! The Dover graphic design work books and collection books have long been a part of my publishing library, and now I can adapt those for free motion quilting elements as well!! Inspiration sources from my other creative endeavors are finally starting to 'cross train' and speak to each other. This is a pretty exciting break through for my process, and I'm going to be a little sad when I go back to work shortly and have to limit my playing with coloring books!
I didn't have to be an artist or have special training to find a way to make my sketches clear and organized, and to use the sketchbook to log and develop my ideas. I'm having the best time! I hope you are way ahead of me, or perhaps use my success to inspire you to try one of your own! Pass the colored markers, please...