For example, a recent quilt, Larry, was a gift for Worship Pastor Larry, who is also a photographer. Larry plays guitar and I found a nice guitar-themed fabric, along with a musical symbols fabric that seemed to go pretty well together color-wise. With no particular block in mind, I knew I wanted to feature the guitar fabric, so I bought a yard and a half. I figured the musical symbols fabric would not be as prominent, so I bought a yard of it. Additionally, I bought a yard of camera-themed fabric to go on the back. Especially when I buy online, I will wait until I have the theme fabric in hand before I choose a block. I like to see the scale of the print in person, then go from there.
With the theme fabrics in front of me, as usual I went to QuiltersCache.com and searched the list of hundreds of blocks. I looked for a block whose name related to music or photography, that would be fairly easy to construct, and that would show off the theme prints. I chose Framed block, which has a large center square - a great empty space for the guitar fabric. If you're keeping track, the quilt has two references to music and two references to photography.
I use Electric Quilt 7 program to design the quilt, as I do with nearly every quilt. I've been using Electric Quilt for many years, upgrading as new versions come out. If I'm lucky I'll find the exact block in the Block Library, but most times I find a block that is similar, then edit - removing and/or adding design lines until the block is just right. Often I set up a 3x3 or 4x4 block grid, making large blocks up to 20" finished, usually all the same block, with variations in fabric for interest. Sometimes I combine two or three blocks to form a more complex overall design. I can adjust the size of the blocks and the border(s) to create the desired size quilt. I make throw size quilts - 60" x 60" for average height women, a little smaller for a child, and about a foot longer for men or taller women. With Electric Quilt I can play with the placement of fabrics and try out different colors and shadings. I may do a few dozen EQ sketches before I come up with a design that makes me really happy. The program will even give me an estimate of yardage for each fabric. Love that.
Once I settle on a design, I stick to the plan pretty well. I gather up the theme prints, printouts of the quilt and the estimated yardage, and go looking for accompanying fabrics, often solids and tone-on-tones to go with the theme fabrics. I check my stash, then shop for whatever fabric is still needed. I'm not a buyer of lines of fabric, such as Jane Doe's Wisteria collection, where all the fabrics are perfectly coordinated. My quilts are typically made of this and that, and I enjoy the challenge of putting together fabrics. I try to stick to my printout, but I stay flexible, especially if I can't find what I need between the two main stores where I shop. On the second and third passes, a fabric I hadn't even noticed before becomes a contender, and often ends up being one of my favorites in the finished quilt.
I love strip piecing and paper piecing. I also like to try unconventional piecing methods, sometimes making up my own. I've done a little curved piecing but I'm not confident about it yet.
I would say my style is traditional with a twist, since I often use theme fabric plus a lot of solids and tone-on-tones. I am not primarily a scrappy quilter, but if I do a scrappy quilt, it won't be totally scrappy. My eye likes a one-fabric background with scrappy details, or a scrappy background (such as a variety of off-whites) with identical blocks.
If I run short on fabric, I look in my stash for a suitable substitute, then try to distribute the new fabric as symmetrically as possible, as if I planned it all along. More often than not, the new fabric perks up the quilt, adding a spark that otherwise may not have been there.
I don't usually do anything fancy with the border. I usually add a plain dark solid to act as a sort of picture frame. Larry would have had a border, but I was short on time, and decided to leave it off.
The backs of my quilts are generally one plain solid fabric. The camera fabric that I used on the back of Larry was an exception, but I loved the fabric and it referred to Larry's photography.
I'm new to machine quilting, which I usually reserve for wallhangings. I'm much more comfortable tying knots in throw size quilts. I use embroidery floss in colors that match the quilt fabrics so the floss is fairly invisible.
For a quilt label, I simply write directly on the quilt back with a permanent pen. Nothing fancy.
Thanks for reading about my process. Now you have a good idea of how I create my quilts.