I probably spent 45 minutes looking through snail pictures before I had a clear sense of what I wanted my snail to look like. Once my mental image had solidified, I did a freehand drawing on plain white paper. I don't have that drawing anymore, but trust me - there were a lot of erasure marks as I struggled to get it just right. I have never called myself an artist.
With the drawing in hand, I printed out a piece of knitters graph paper that had the right number of squares in the right dimensions to give me the size of blanket I thought I wanted. (Truth be told, it wasn't a fancy knitter's graph paper - it was just an Excel file in which I'd manipulated the cells to be the correct size and then printed with the gridlines.)
Does this seem old school to you? It kind of is. And it gets even more so! Because I took my drawing and taped it to my living room window. Then I taped the graph paper on top of that and traced my snail on to the graph paper. I find the next step painstakingly tedious but necessary: using a pencil, I matched up the drawing with the squares on the graph paper, like so:
In this picture you can see the beginnings of my next step as well as my brainstorm. First, the next step - once I had the snail outlined, I transferred the design into Excel. The heavier marks you see in the picture are from me coloring in each box after I'd made the appropriate notation on the computer. Why yes, yes this does take a lot of time. A. Whole. Lot.Of.Time. I've decided it's worth, it though.
And the brainstorm? See that baby up in the corner? I decided I couldn't resist making this a mama snail with a few babies trailing behind her. Cute, right? Of course, it added a new wrinkle - this blanket design was now going to be significantly wider than it would be tall. Which mean that grass and sky would be necessary:
So now I had some snails, some sky (in the form of clouds), and some grass (not pictured, but trust me - it's there).
Next up? A color scheme...