Designing a School Bus: A Peek into My Creative Process


I’m so happy Friday is finally here!  Even though it was only a 4 day week for me, it has felt like a 10 day week.  Why does a shorter week always feel longer?  I leave early tomorrow morning to head to QuiltCon and I’m so excited!!  This is the first time I’ll be attending an event like this and hopefully not the last.  I only wish that I could have been there the whole 4 days, but maybe next time!

Another perk to going to QuiltCon is that it’s in Savannah, GA which is very close to some of my relatives.  I’ll be visiting them while I’m there and dropping off the buses I’m posting about today.  Now, I’m going to give you a little peek into my creative process when designing!

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An Idea & a Plan

This all started with a message from my cousin saying “Can you make this?”  There was a picture of a stuffed crocheted school bus attached.  This is something that happens on a regular basis.  Sometimes there’s a pattern to buy, but most of the time it’s just a picture they found on Pinterest.  In this case, there was a pattern, so that’s no big deal.  However, she needed 3 and she needed them ASAP!  I suggested making them out of fabric to save time & money.  This was fine because she just needed a soft bus.  After everything was settled, I started sketching!

I like to use graph paper for quilting projects and this would go together much like a quilt, just in 3D.  Usually I decide on what scale the square will represent (thank you drafting!).  In this case, each square equals 1″ in real life.  This makes it easy to break the pieces down and get accurate measurements.  Then I list all the pieces out by color, quantity, and sizes needed.  I just have to remember to add 1/2″ for seams when writing down the measurements.

Once I had a plan in place I pulled the fabrics I needed and got them all ironed.  Before I cut out the fabric, I need some labels to help me stay organized!

Labeling Pieces

I like to label my pieces as I’m cutting them.  This keeps me from having to figure out what goes where when I get ready to sew.  Usually I mark a grid onto some scrap paper like the picture below.  By the way, this pencil is one of my favorites to have on hand.  My eraser end gets more use than the lead end and that’s why I had to add a new one!

Anyway, I number the squares and cut them out – with paper scissors!  This old mint tin makes a great place to keep the labels and pins.  When I’m following a QAL I make labels to keep up with the different block names or month it came out in.  That way I know how far behind I really am!  ; )

Now that my labels are ready, it’s time to measure twice and cut once!

Cutting Out the Pieces

I use my rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat to cut out most of the pieces.  When it come to odd or round shapes, I have to get a little inventive.  That just means I find something around the house that’s about the shape I need, then I trace around it!  : p

This little container was perfect!  I used the top for the wheels and the bottom for the hubcaps.  I decided to make the hubcaps out of felt since the edge will be exposed.  A permanent marker is the best thing I’ve found for marking on felt.

I’ve got everything cut out and labeled.  I didn’t label the windows or tires because there’s only two pieces for each of them.

The next thing I do is layout everything as it will be sewn.  Since I’m making 3 buses, I stack everything that’s the same.  This allows me to sew parts together in a chain, much the same way I did for the charm square tote.  The bus just has more parts.

I realized I forgot two important parts in the sketch.  Did you notice?  I forgot the top & bottom to the front end!

I added it to the original sketch.  This also shows how I mark through the pieces with a highlighter as I cut them out.  I also number the pieces on the sketch for reference.

Dealing with Scraps

Does anyone else that sews have a system for their scraps?  I keep this basket on my sewing table, so I can divide scraps out while working on projects.  When it gets full, I put them in their proper places.

This is the system I use, which I’ll admit is a little obsessive.  I have a bin for small scraps (bottom left) & another one for long strips (bottom middle).  Then I have a stacked bin system divided by color for medium sized scraps (top right).  If I can fold it more than once and have a good bit left, I put it back on my fabric shelf (top left).

That just leaves the pile at the bottom right.  These are pieces that most sane people throw away.  Not me!  I keep them in baggies because I have an idea for them swirling around in my head! : )

Ok, that’s enough digging through my brain for today!  I’ve got to go pack for QuiltCon!  Have a great weekend!





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