How to Design Your Own Quilts


Quilt patterns make our lives easier, but there comes a point where we want to make our own designs. Whether you’re a beginner or have been quilting for years, you can make your own quilt design and layouts.

Here’s how to design your own quilt:

Master the Basics of Quilt Construction

Before you can really start creating your own quilts, you need to master the basics of quilt construction.

If you’re still a beginner and really want to design your own quilt, it will be helpful to have an understanding of patchwork quilt block structure. This will help you understand how your blocks will fit together, which can be very helpful when designing and sewing your quilt.

It’s also important to master the art of pressing – a subject we discuss often. If your blocks aren’t carefully pressed, your end results won’t be accurate.

Another thing to master: seam allowance. Quilts have a narrower seam allowance compared to garments (1/4″).

Finally, you’ll want to work on your cutting. Rotary tools will save you time and allow you to complete projects much faster than cutting each piece individually.

Familiarize Yourself with Quilting Patterns and Techniques

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Yes, you can certainly create your own quilt designs, but why not use other quilt patterns as inspiration? At the very least, studying patterns will help you become familiar with the terms and techniques used by most quilters.

Start with the patterns for your blocks, and then you can move on to patterns for complete quilts.

Research and Understand Fabric Properties

Different fabrics have different properties, weights, strengths and weaknesses. It’s helpful to understand the properties of different fabrics when designing your own quilts.

Most quilters prefer to work with cotton fabric because it’s breathable, easy to work with and washer-friendly. But there are other types of fabric that you can work with, including silk.

A few things you should understand:

  • Prewashing is essential, especially if you’re working with dyed fabric.
  • Fabric grain will help improve the accuracy of your results (more on that shortly).
  • A bleed test will prevent colors from bleeding into each other in the wash.
  • How to perform a burn test to identify fabrics when you’re unsure of their content.

I want to take a minute to talk about fabric grain because patterns often refer to different fabric grain terms.

Warp Threads

Warp threads are long threads, which are stretched on the loom and secured. These are the fabric’s lengthwise grain, or the threads that run along the length of the yardage.

Weft Threads

Weft threads are woven back and forth, perpendicular to the warp threads. These threads are the fabric’s crosswise grain.

Straight Grain Edges

Sometimes referred to as straight-of-grain, straight grain edges are the lengthwise grain and crosswise grain.

Fabric Bias

Fabric bias is defined as the direction at a 45-degree angle to the straight grains. Often, patterns and quilters will use the term bias cut whenever the cut doesn’t run along a straight grain.

It may not seem important, but having an understanding of fabric properties will make it easier to read patterns, and progress in your design and quilting skills.

Study Colors

When designing a quilt, you have to think about more than just the block patterns – you also have to consider colors. The right combination of colors will create a beautiful, striking quilt. The wrong combination can ruin a project.

Brush up on your color theory to better understand which color combinations work best together.

Some tried-and-true color schemes that work well for quilts include:

  • Monochromatic: Uses a variety of shades and tones of just one color. You can never go wrong with a monochromatic color scheme. You can also play with the shades and tones of the color to create a gradient effect.
  • Complementary: Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel.
    • Blue and orange
    • Red and green
    • Yellow and purple
  • Analogous: Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel.
  • Triadic: Broken down into primary, secondary and tertiary schemes.
    • Primary: Red, yellow and blue
    • Secondary: Green, purple and orange
    • Tertiary: Indigo, yellow-green and red-orange
  • Light and dark: Contrasting light and dark colors often work well for quilts. Examples include black and white, or navy and beige.
  • Warm and cool: Warm colors range from yellow to red, while cool colors range from blue-green to purple. Warm colors that contrast against a cool background really pop.
  • Neutral: Includes grays, natural colors, creams, ivories and browns. These colors can range from light to dark. They’re peaceful and work well with just about any other color.

Choosing colors is an important step in the quilt-making process, so take your time and choose them wisely. I’ve found that Color Play and the Ultimate 3 in 1 Color Tool has helped me a lot with color selection.

Explore Different Quilt Layouts

What kind of layout do you want for your quilt? If you’re unsure, you may want to look at different layouts for quilts that you like.

Before you even start thinking about your quilt’s layout, you need to understand mattress sizing. You don’t want your quilt to be too large or small.

Of course, you can design your own layout. But you can also derive inspiration from popular and common quilt layouts, such as:

  • Hunter’s star
  • Kaleidoscope
  • X’s and O’s
  • Double four patch
  • Star crossing
  • Medallion
  • Strippy

Become familiar with different layouts, and choose one that fits your vision for your quilt.

Make Your Quilt Sandwich

Once you’ve finalized your design, it’s time to make your quilt sandwich. When building your quilt sandwich, you’ll need to consider:

  • What type of batting is best for your project?
  • Are you going to use a wide fabric for your quilt backing, or will you also piece the backing?
  • How will you baste the sandwich? Will you use pins, straight stitches (best for hand quilting), or an adhesive?

When making your quilt, it’s important to get this step right. Essentially, you’re putting together your quilt and getting it ready for sewing.

Once you’ve made your quilt sandwich, it’s time to start sewing. Creating your own quilt design can be rewarding and satisfying, so give it a try.

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