I might have spent a few too many years in school or maybe I read one too many books on design. Anyway, there are two things I like to do when I approach a new project. The first is called the research circle. It goes something like this. Research, follow one source to another, to another, to another, until your sources start referring to sources you've already consulted. Then you can be reasonably certain that you have seen all the information on any topic. My second process is to spend hours looking at all the images of my target that I can find. My target could be a new rug for a the living room, a chair, or a quilt design. After a while, I find that some designs stick with me, while others that seemed interesting at first glance have faded. With quilt designs you can search google or flickr and see thousands of designs in seconds. One of my favorite searches is "modern quilt design". I favorite all the quilts that appeal to me and then you can look at all your favorites on the same page. I find that I've often unconsciously gravitated to the same patterns over and over again. You can do the same thing browsing books at the library or store. Which patterns do you find yourself looking at a second, third or forth time?
When it comes to fabric, sometimes I have a quilt pattern in mind and then I go looking for fabric. This is what I did with my first quilt. The pattern said to use a mixture of pattern sizes and color for contrast. I knew what color palate I wanted and I went from there. Sometimes, I find fabric that I simply love and I look for a pattern that would show off the fabric. A perfect example of this is my first project for 2011. I'm making a quilt for my son. I have been coveting these fabrics in my local quilt shop for months, but I couldn't think of a project.