How to Design a Quilt
If you are a quilter then you have probably had an idea for a quilt that you want to make. How do you go about getting that quilt out of your head and onto the page or screen? This post will share with you everything you need to know about how to design a quilt so you too can become a quilt designer. If you are into this sort of thing I have two more posts that you might LOVE! THIS post will teach you how I track my sewing projects. THIS post will show you how I organize my craft room with a bullet journal index! P.S. scroll to the bottom to see the video where I explain all the things in this post!
How to Design a Quilt
How to make quilting designs:
There are a few methods for designing quilts. My favorite method is to draw them by hand with graph or dot paper. See below for all the instructions for how I use graph paper to create quilt designs.
You can also use a digital design software. I most frequently use Adobe Illustrator when I am designing on the computer. AI is my favorite for designing paper piecing patterns (like this FLAMINGO.) Any digital software you use has a steep learning curve. You have to learn how to use the software efficiently before you can create a usable quilt pattern. But if you can get through learning how to use the software you will be able to create any quilt designs you can dream up!
Supplies needed to design a quilt:
The options for customizing your Happy Planner to make quilt designs are endless. As you create quilt designs you will figure out what your style is which will help you to find the perfect options for customizing your quilt design planner.
How to design a quilt on graph paper:
Graph paper is a fantastic way to plan your quilts. The squares provide a great visual of what is possible when piecing your quilt. I also use dot grid paper to design quilts as the dots are easily converted to squares and often I find the dots less confusing than lines when counting and designing.
I use my Happy Planner to design quilts. I like that I can take the pages out and move them around. I also like the versatility of adding half width pages to list supplies and cut measurements. Plus they are just freaking fun and I love that!
A few notes:
- Graph paper is not great for designing quilts with curves. It is possible but it is not easy and not great if you are just starting out.
- It is perfect for squares, half square triangles, and strip quilts.
- The block on the graph paper represents the finished block/quilt. Be sure to add your seam allowance and note that your Half Square Triangles and Flying Geese will have a different seam allowance than your simple squares and rectangles.
- Remember that you will have to sew these blocks. Are the blocks you have designed within your skill level?
How do you calculate quilt blocks?
Using graph paper is a great way to plan quilts because it provides an easy visual for calculating your quilt blocks. Each square on the graph should represent the same measurement. When I am graphing an entire quilt I stick to whole numbers so a graph square would be equal to 1″, 2″ or even 3″.
When you are graphing one block you can go the other way where one graph square equals 1/4″ or 1/2″.
Once you have drawn your entire block using the same measurement to represent each square you can calculate the sizes of your pieces. Count the graph squares to get the measurement of the finished piece size.
Then add 1/2″ to the finished measurements to get your seam allowance and the measurement of the fabric you will cut. So if you have drawn a 3″ square you will cut a 3.5″ square.
How to design your own quilt pattern:
Now you have all the ins and outs. Here is what you need to do start to finish:
- Decide on a scale. Each square represents ___ inches.
- Draw your block keeping the tips above in mind, try to stick to straight lines when just starting out.
- You may have to start over. I often draw the same quilt/block three or four times before getting it right. The eraser is a necessary evil in quilt design just as the seam ripper is a necessary evil in sewing!
- Calculate the size of the blocks you have drawn. Then add your seam allowance to create your list of pieces that you will need to cut.
- Make a plan. How will the different sections of your block go together? Take note of the order of sewing to create your block. You can label pieces by number, letter, names (such as hour glass), or come up with your own funky names (such as weird triangle bit). Although if you come up with your own names you will have to explain those if you plan to share the pattern!
- Test one block before cutting your entire quilt. We are human and errors do happen so doing a test run will save you from wasting a ton of fabric.
- Fix any errors.
- Write your pattern. This can be a simple word document where you number each step. Or it can be more detailed with pictures and diagrams depending on your skill level with computers!
- Go forth and quilt! Share your pattern and share the joy!
- Repeat over and over because you will be addicted!
How do you become a quilt designer?
There are so many different ways that you can become a quilt designer. Drawing a quilt on paper and creating it makes you a quilt designer. But if you want to be more of a “professional” quilt designer here are some tips.
You need to have a strong base knowledge of how to sew and quilt. And you should have an eye for detail.
When you are ready to get started as quilt designer you should use the methods above to start creating your own quilt designs. You could also use a digital quilt planning software like Electric Quilt or something similar. I often use Adobe Illustrator to create quilts, blocks, and especially paper piecing blocks.
Once you have designed your quilt and written the instructions you want to test it out. Then have several more people test it out. You may understand your instructions but having a few more eyes read and test the pattern will help to make sure that the pattern has no errors.
Now that your pattern is ready to go and free from errors there are several things you could do. My first two quilt patterns were published on Moda Bake Shop. You can see them HERE and HERE. This is great to get eyes on your pattern and get some feedback but it is unpaid.
You can submit your pattern to quilting magazines such as American Patchwork and Quilting. Many quilt magazines will pay for unique patterns that are not published elsewhere.
Reach out to fabric companies or fabric stores (especially online stores like Fat Quarter Shop) with your pattern. Make sure you have nice photos of the finished piece.
You can start a blog or an Etsy shop/Shopify store to sell your patterns. This one is a long difficult road because you will have to build an audience and do a lot of research to get your pattern seen. However this is the option where you own your pattern and can make as much money on it as you are able to hustle for. All of the above options help with this last option. Having a place for people to look you up after they see you on Moda Bake Shop or in a magazine is helpful for exposure and building your audience.
Check out some of these great quilt posts.