How to Design & Start an Art Quilt

Many of my students and readers online in my Facebook group, Joyful Art Quilting have been asking how to design and start an art quilt. It’s a loaded question, which begets many other questions. I think this question is so large it may actually be a series of posts. So let’s dive in…

First of all, you should ask yourself, what do you love? What gets you excited visually? Is it color? Is it texture? Is it a landscape or a person or pet? Of all the infinite choices, you must start with an idea that gets you revved up. Maybe you already have something in mind? ( see my last post about the pilot’s view from the cockpit) Or maybe you have seen someone else’s work that you just adore. Do you have your idea/subject in mind yet?

Second, how will you make this piece? What style or techniques do you want to use? Quite often the look you want will drive the techniques you choose. For instance, to make clouds that are quite soft and fluffy, I chose to use white wool roving bits lightly sewn onto sky fabric.

Or you may choose to machine piece an entire art quilt because you want all the edges finished, because it makes the color and movement the star of the piece.

Once I have these ideas in mind, I might decide to sketch on paper to get them more fully realized. All ideas are rough at this stage and subject to change. Quite often, though, I will start with a photograph or collection of photographs of something that has inspired me. Lately it has been the landscapes of Hawaii. Then I have another series of questions I ask: how realistic do I want this to be?, do the colors have to be real?, should I abstract it partially? completely? The final answer to those questions will determine the look and feel of my final art quilt, as well as the techniques used. (The piece at the top of the post was realistic, but the colors were not).

Sometimes you may have an idea of what you want your finished piece to look like but no idea HOW to make it. Don’t let that stop you. Learn the techniques you need from all the classes, books and videos that are available to you now. Half the fun of making something is learning as you go. A smaller “study” type piece can be helpful if you’re not sure. The great master painters often painted smaller studies before embarking on a large expensive piece.

Next time, I will write some more about the actual design process, editing for good design, and other considerations before actual construction begins. I hope this helps you on your journey to making the art quilts that inspire you.

If you need help with your quilting project, just remember I am available for 1 hour sessions by video chat or in person. Just shoot me an email and we can set up a time:

If you are or if you know the program chair for your guild, please review my class selections ( ) and book me for your guild. I am still available for some dates this year or next.
Permission to duplicate: You certainly can use this blog, just be sure to credit me and include this link, Roxane Lessa.

Don’t be shy! Come and join my:

My New Facebook Group

Oh and before I forget- I have a new Facebook Group called Joyful Art Quilting. You can head on over there to discuss your projects in more detail and see what others are up to.  It’s a fun, non-judgmental place to meet and share.  Here’s the link to go join the group:


If you want to take a class with me- CALL ME at 919-602-2260.   I can teach for a small group of your friends, like I did a while back for my friend Joyce Marks and her quilting buddies.  We had a blast and I tailored the classes to her group’s interests.

And you can always take an online class with me- see below!



Here’s what one guild VP had to say recently:

I’m usually Johnny on the Spot but missed the boat last week re these BIG THANKS.  Loved your presentation. Heard very positive and supportive remarks from the guests…thank you again for the well-defined and creative presentation.  Look forward to seeing you again. 


Here’s a link to my contract with current lecture and class rates:  Contract

My Pinterest: You can take a look at my pins, which are organized on different “boards” HERE.

About RoxaneRoxane-Web-Images-007

Roxane is a full time studio textile artist, teacher, and author, with two girls, who are both growing up too fast!  She recently appeared on Quilting Arts TV, and has taught at the Houston quilt show.  She is also a BERNINA ambassador. Her work is in several private collections and she loves doing custom commissions.  For more info go to

Permission to duplicate: You certainly can use this blog, just be sure to credit me and include this link, Roxane Lessa. Hey, if you like this blog, please hit the FB or Twitter icon in the top right sidebar and share with others! That’s why they are there…..:)

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