The Basic Steps of Quilt Design

Using patterns to create quilts is a wonderful way to learn the techniques and art of quiltmaking. However, there may come a time when you want to make a quilt using your own design. Perhaps you have a quilt in mind, but haven’t been able to find a pattern to create it. Or, maybe you have been inspired by a piece of furniture, a work of art, or specific fabric.

Quilt Design

If you’d like to dabble in quilt design, here are a few tips and techniques to get started.

First of all, you need to think generally about design elements you like in quilts you’ve seen.

Do you like open space in your quilts? Do you prefer light, medium or dark background fabrics? Are there particular patterns you love? It’s a good idea to make notes about these topics in a design notebook or journal. For quilt design, the best notebooks are those that are comprised of sheets of graph paper.

Most quilt designs start with the basic element of the quilt block.

Once you have a block idea in mind, sketch it out proportionally. Using graph paper is the best and easiest way to get a good representation of your design. Decide on a finished block size and what measurement each square on the graph paper will represent. (For example, each square may represent 1/2” of the actual block.)

Remember to draw your block according to finished measurements, leaving out the seam allowances. When you make a list of cutting requirements, you’ll add in those seam allowances. (For example, a 3” finished square portion of a block will need to be cut 3 1/2” x 3 1/2” to allow for 1/4” seam allowances on all sides.)


Always make a test block before beginning your quilt. Cut pieces according to the measurements you’ve calculated, sew them together, and see if your finished block size is what you had in mind. If your test block works out, you know you are well on your way!

Next, you’ll want to decide on a quilt layout.

How many blocks will your quilt have? How many blocks will be in each row? How many rows will you make? You can sketch out your overall quilt design using a large piece of graph paper. At this time, you can decide on border elements as well. Think about whether you’d like plain or pieced borders, and how many borders you’d like. Remember that you’ll want to keep your first quilt design simple. As you design more projects, you’ll find that the process gets easier.

You might also want to try using a quilt-design program, such as Electric Quilt. By following along with the instruction manual and online tutorials available, you can teach yourself to use the program and design your quilts electronically.

Explore more elements of quilt design, including how to select the best motifs, colors, fabrics and fillers, with an online quilting class. Color Play for Quilters and Designing Modern Quilts are great classes for practicing and perfecting your own quilt designs! You may also enjoy our blog post on how to quilt without a pattern.

Come back to the Bluprint blog tomorrow for a look at Lone Star quilts!

There are many options for creating your own quilt designs! What type of quilt will you design?

  • (will not be published)

No Comments