The Creative Process

The Secret to Complex Patterns


I had so much fun recently at the restoration grand opening of a historic home in our town.  As any quilter will do, I walked around GETTING IDEAS!  Whooo-hooo!  They had lovingly restored complex quilt pattern-like wooden flooring made from a variety of woods (the darker ones created shadows in the designs!).  There were beautiful antiques all throughout the house true to the time period, gorgeous chandeliers, elegant fireplaces & the feeling of a very grand home.  My favorite feature was the wood work on the walls in the dining room.

That evening, as I was chatting with a gentleman who worked for the bank that had endowed the restoration, he remarked that the old world craftsmanship was just breathtaking & he didn’t know how they had done it.  I agreed with the breathtaking part, but was happy to show him how they had done it.  I moved over to the wall & showed him how the long sections of wood were 2×1 inch boards of hard wood- probably oak or maple- running lengthways with shorter sections intersecting to make the square shapes between them.  Within the intersections there were square pieces of board that must have been a 1/2 inch thick or so.  They had also used 1/4 inch round trim to make a beveled edge between the intersecting boards & the square centerpiece.  (So rotten of me but I just could not resist teaching.  Lol!)

This man’s jaw dropped open & asked how I knew all of that- just as another man eavesdropping from part-way across the room interjected, “What do you do for a living?”  The man who joined our conversation turned out to be the restoration architect who didn’t dispute a word of my description.

To answer both the first & second man’s questions, I explained that I was a QUILTER! & the design was quite simple to translate- minus the seam allowances!  (Lol.)  The architect nodded his head & we proceeded to have a great conversation.


Complex projects- whether it’s woodworking or quilting- can be really intimidating.  I was trying to show the man that if you look at the individual pieces & how they go together it becomes a doable project.  This is the secret to progress in all labors of love.

I spent years wishing that I knew how to knit beautiful lace shawls, hats, scarves & sweaters.  I first started learning how to knit when I was 6.  I thought it was easy when I was just doing the knit stitch every row.  Then I learned how to crochet- & forgot how to knit…  (Slight detour!)  It took me more than 35 years to pick it up again & even then I was extremely intimidated by what I wanted to do because I just didn’t know how or where to start.  The patterns that I liked were long and complicated.  They contained stitches that I could’t even imagine.  The patterns changed every row.  “HOW do you even manage to enjoy something like that!?!”  I wondered.

And so, I let the intimidation of what I didn’t know how to do stop me from achieving what I wanted to do for a very long time.  Then I made one crucial change.  I decided that I would never knit the same pattern twice- that each time I started a new project I would look for a pattern that contained 1 new stitch or variation.  I decided that 1 new thing to absorb was doable.  And I was right!  It didn’t take as long as I thought before I knew what all of those crazy terms were, was enjoying those long patterns that changed on every row, & had made it to lace!

It was just a matter of learning 1 new step at a time.

So- you can walk into your favorite quilt store, look at medallion quilts, fussy cuts, or paper piecing & convince yourself that you’ll never be that good, or you can pick a project that gets you 1 step closer to the kind of projects that you want to be able to do.  It’s really that simple.

When you take enough of those steps, eventually you get to the point where you can even design because you’ve made so many mistakes & taken so many things apart in the process of putting something together that you understand how it all works- not just how to follow the pattern.  That’s why I was able to see how the woodwork on the wall & floor was put together.  It just takes time & practice to learn the properties of each material- how they can & can’t be put together- & then you can manipulate it any way you’d like.  You can design your own dreams!

The real question is- Are you willing to do the workone step at a time?


A few of my one steps…

Feather & Fan- one of my first lace projects!  While pattern oriented projects are not my strength, I have pushed myself to learn lace knitting & am quite proud of this pattern in particular. I think it is beautiful!

This is the first set of cables that I tried- yes- the first!  I am definitely crazy sometimes.  Took a little while to get the hang of it, but so proud of it!

I can no longer crochet- the motion is different from knitting & bothers me post-surgery, but I was really happy with this simple, but beautiful pattern that I did years ago!

As I stated above, I’m not great with patterns.  I prefer to create my own design; but I’ve pushed myself to learn arts like this so that I can expand what I can design.  Here’s some piecing work- my first 2 stars!











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