The creation of any quilt has 5 phases:
- Concept : picking a design, colors, and size
- Piecing : sewing together fabric shapes to make the quilt top design
- Construction : attachment of backing and batting to make a stuffed fabric sandwich
- Quilt stitching : decorative sewing to hold the layers together and form a design
- Binding : the fabric strip that holds the three layers together at the edge
Step 1: Concept art
Think hard, look at design books, scour the web for inspiration, and come up with an idea that speaks to you. Don't limit yourself to reading and thinking about quilts, look at artworks of all kinds; most pleasing images can be adapted to a quilt concept. Once you've got an idea, sketch out a line drawing about the resolution of something you'd see in a coloring book. You can think of a quilt as a picture colored with fabrics, so broad swatches of cell-shading-style solid color will work a lot better than shadow gradients.
Keep the complexity relatively low and remember that things with lots of curves will be harder to construct than those made of straight angular lines. If you're a beginner, start with something small and simple--this may seem like obvious advice but I know I always stress myself out by letting my ambitious get ahead of my skills. An awesome idea can still be simple to construct, so lean heavily on the concept and pick something clever but structurally simple (I know, easier said than done).