Design basics 1 – exploring a theme

A few weeks ago, I started a textiles courses at City Lit focused on colour and pattern.  It has been a great eye-opener!  Through that and the directed study I’ve been doing as ‘homework’ I’ve been learning a lot about the basics of design.  It’s bit of a pandora’s box, as I’ve now got a list of things to look into and learn which never seems to stop.  I’ll be creating a series of posts on design basics to share as I learn more. So we have to start somewhere – and that somewhere is an idea, or a seed of an idea for you to develop.

Exploring a theme

The first technique we were shown at City Lit was mind-mapping.  As a former management consultant, this sits very well in my brain, as I’ve used this endlessly in workshops as a brainstorming technique. The idea is pretty simple – you start with a central idea (this could just be a word or a few words). From this idea, you identify a number of main ideas which branch out from the centre. These can be whatever comes to mind that is connected with your central idea. Each new word can spawn new connections and idea which can branch out in an infinite number of ways.  Connections and themes will very soon start to emerge from your map.

Angelique's mind map

Central idea for my trees mind map

If you’re a very visual person you’ll get on well with mind-mapping, some people love them and others just never quite get them! If you want to see some great mind maps, which are almost an art form in themselves, check out this site which I came across:

We were given our course theme for this term as Tree, Root & Branch

There are so many ways to interpret this!!  I tried following two things – one capturing how trees appear in nature throughout the seasons and two – picking up on the mythology and symbology of trees in English folklore.  Just starting very simply with the obvious things (roots, branches, seeds…) the map turned out pretty interesting and not at all how I expected!

My trees mind-map

Once you start to see patterns in what you’ve come up with, some themes to explore may start to jump out at you.  I found two things which I started to colour in on my mind-map. First one was leaves and canopies – the idea of the dappled light which you see on a sunny day in the woods. The second was the Wicker Man – fire, fire burning bright!  Great inspiration!

In my next ‘design basics’ post, I’ll show you the technique of thematic postcards, as a great way of expanding your ideas with colours, textures and patterns.

Happy stitching,



1 thought on “Design basics 1 – exploring a theme

  1. Pingback: Design basics 2 – thematic postcards | A quilted future

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