Are you thinking about making a new fabric book, but don't know where to start?

The first step is to find a theme or story for your book and this mini course will give you a technique to come up with the perfect one.

Whether you are someone who has too many ideas and can't pick the best, or someone who finds it difficult to come up with any ideas that you like, this course will show you how to structure your thoughts to find an awesome theme.

This 5-step process lets you explore various ideas, evaluate them and chose the best, you'll also end up with a collection of images and ideas for the pages and artwork for your book, so you'll be ready to start making! 

It's the method I use for all my Stitchbook planning. This isn't somthing I've just made up for this course - it's a tried and tested technique I've used for years to come up with the theme and content for my fabric books and journals. It's been super-helpful for me and led to some great decisions

What you'll learn:

  • What a theme is and why it is important in a fabric book.
  • How to generate a wide range of initial ideas
  • How to use your initial ideas and research
  • How to evaluate your ideas

This course is suitable for anyone interested in making any type of fabric book, be it a photo memory book, sketchbook or art journal. Whether it is a book for yourself or as a special gift, a family album or an creative experiment. This process will help you confidently choose your perfect theme.

PDF Worksheets: To follow along with the steps you can use the PDF worksheets available in each section. Just view the PDF, download and print and you can fill in the blank sections.  This is optional however, and you can also follow along with a notebook and pen!

Are you ready to find your awesome Stitchbook theme and start making your fabric book dreams into reality?  Then read on....

Introduction to this Mini Course

Why is it hard to make creative decisions?

There is a lot of decision making involved in all art and craft disciplines. What to make? Which materials to use? Which colours? And I think it is struggling to resolve these questions that is the main thing that stops us from starting new projects.

There are two reasons people find it hard to make creative decisions.  Which one do you identify with?

1.      You have too many ideas and find it hard to decide which one to choose. You might think one idea is great, then get distracted by a different one and start to think that one would be better.

2.      You find it difficult to come up with any ideas you think are interesting (perhaps you think of yourself as not very creative). You might get overwhelmed by the pressure of having to think of exactly the right idea and worry yours are not right.

This method can help both sets of people!

Personally I am a too-many-ideas person. I get too excited about 10 different possibilities and I find it hard to choose which one I should focus on. Following this method helps me to evaluate which path to follow and lets me explore a range of ideas before picking one.  If you are this type of person the key thing for you to do is try and find images or ideas that you DEFINITELY want to use and committing to them!

If you are someone who struggles to think of creative ideas this framework will also work for you. By breaking the process down into small steps you will be able to develop your theme in a unintimidating way.  The key thing for you to focus on is coming up with a large pool of images and words that you can use to find a theme you feel good about. Don’t worry about evaluating as you go, just work through the steps and write/find as many images as much as possible!

What is a theme?

I discuss what I mean by a theme and why it is important for your Stichbook.

Step 1: Background Questions

The first stage to finding your perfect theme is to define the context for your book so we'll start off with some simple questions.. Who is it for? Why are you making it? What sort of book will it be?

The three most important questions at this stage are:

1.      Is the book going to be for you or for someone else? It’s very important to be clear who your book is for. If you are making it for someone else you’ll need to make sure you focus on the things that they like rather than what you like.

2.      Is it to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary? Stitchbooks make great presents. If it is for a specific occasion this might make your theme easier to come up with. You can focus on things like ‘This Is Your Life’ or ’30 Years of Friendship’.

3.      Do you want to use photographs to create a memory album or create an art journal.  This is important to know as you’ll need to make sure you have the right photographs for your theme.

Think about these questions and record your answers. 

Download and print worksheet 1

Step 2: Key interests and memories

The next stage is to list as many things as you can about the person the book is for (you or someone else).

Think about that person’s favourite things. Are they mad on Mountain Climbing? Chickens? Spiderman? Eating pizza? Think about their favourite places, animals they like, films, music and other culture. Do they like nature or prefer cities? Do they have hobbies? How do they fill their time?

If you are making a memory book then also list things like important life events, key people and relationships, special holidays or achievements.

If you are making an art book also write down anything you/they might be especially knowledgeable on. Do you have a degree in literature? Belong to a sports club? Are a member of a craft guild?

All of these things will be useful later on.

Write a list in to record your thoughts.

Download and print worksheet 2

Step 3: Research your way to a great idea

I’m super into research when it come to planning my books, and I think it is a vital part of the process. You should look at lots of different images and ideas to explore possible themes and get inspiration for what might suit your project.

Search for some of the things you listed in the last stage on google images and Pinterest to find related ideas, interesting artwork, quotations and anything else relating to the words in Step 2.

This is when you should dig around in the family photo archives to find suitable pictures. It’s no good planning a whole photo album on a particular holiday if you realise you only have 2 useable photos.

If you are a too-many-ideas person you should focus on finding specific images that really inspire you.  Perhaps an amazing illustration, a vintage poster, a colour scheme or a photo that you definitely want to include.

If you are a not-enough-ideas person you should focus on finding lots of connecting ideas to your listed items. For example if you have written down ‘Swimming’ you can try and find images linked to swimming – but not just a person swimming (diving, the sea, swimming pool, swimming costume, Olympics, Lido, mosaics, fish), or family holidays of beach holidays, fishing trips or anything else to do with water.

Don’t worry if you find amazing things that aren’t based on items from your lists (this ALWAYS happens to me when I go on Pinterest!) – add those as well. This stage is all about generating loads of images and making sure you have tried out a wide amount of ideas, so the more the merrier!

Create a research board to collect and refine ideas. 

Download and print worksheet 3

Step 4: Make a possible Themes list

List 10 possible themes from the material you have gathered. Look at the reference photos, the key interest section and your background questions. Don’t try to evaluate your ideas at this stage, just get them down on paper.

Look at the list you made in Stage 2. You can use some of the things you wrote down as key interests but it doesn’t have to be the main thing you’ve written down - it could be one facet of it or something related. Maybe you love cooking – your theme could be types of cakes, old-fashioned sweet shop, 10 favourite restaurants, or childhood food memories.

Choose 2 that you think will work the best. (This might not be your favourites!)

Choose based on your background question answers - what would the recipient of your gift prefer? Which one do you have the right photos for? If you are making a surprise gift for someone else this might be an issue. It’s no good planning a book about your Aunt and Uncle’s Wedding if you have no way of getting photos from it without asking them (ruining the surprise!)

Bonus Stage: Tweak your ideas…

Sometimes you might need to refine your ideas to make them suitable for your book. There is a space for you to do this in the workbook.

Your chosen theme needs to be broken down into a relevant number of parts for the number of pages - so a theme like  ‘Transport’  would work because you could have one example of a vehicle on each page or double page. Something like African Countries wouldn’t, however because there are 54 countries and you would need to be far too many pages to cover all of the information. Keep it simple. Perhaps instead of trying to represent all African countries, you could just focus on one part (west or east Africa), One specific country, or a collection of specific facts or stories.  If you need to tweak your two ideas to make them more suitable. 

Make a list of 10 possible themes and tweak if required.

Download and print worksheet 4

Step 5: Make a mind map

Finally you are going to create a mindmap of all of the things you can think of to do with the 2 ideas you chose in Step 4. You can draw sketches of possible pages or images, list associated thoughts, feelings, quotations, special dates,  materials etc.

The point of this stage is to try out each of the ideas to see which will give you the best range of images and which one you get most excited about.

If you struggle to come up with ideas for one of your mind-maps, don't force yourself to keep going with it, instead, focus on the other theme and make sure that one is full of detail.

Complete two mind maps, one for each idea in step 4.

Download and print worksheet 5 & 6

Your Final Theme

When your 2 mind maps are finished, you need to choose which one will be your final theme.

I almost always find that one of them has much more writing than the other because it has captured my imagination, or has so much more imagery.

If one of the mind-maps stands out as much more full, then is the theme for you! 

If your maps are equally full and detailed, look at the following to help you decide the best:

  • Which has the widest range of image and text ideas?
  • Are there going to be enough different types of images? (e.g. not just 50 different types of tree).
  • Is there a good mixture of different photographs?
  • Is one more emotionally relevant?
  • Which has the best range of colours and textures?
  • Which one can you imagine yourself making?

You should now have chosen your perfect theme!

And a bonus – your mindmap will be full of ideas for you to use in your book. You might now already have a list of pages, materials or text/ quotations for you to include in your pages.

I have faith in this creative process but if you get to the end and still can't find your perfect theme then you can check out my 150 Awesome Stitchbook Themes Ebook, available at my Etsy site. It is a pre-written list of 150 themes, both for photo/ memory albums and art journals that I have designed to inspire your next wonderful fabric book.