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How to Design an Original Quilt Pattern by Hand

Claudia has been quilting for almost 30 years and writing about it for more than six. She has won a number of awards for her work.

Learn everything you need to know to design your own original quilt pattern by hand.

Learn everything you need to know to design your own original quilt pattern by hand.

With so many quilt patterns available these days, many people no longer design their own quilts. It's easy to go out and buy one of the hundreds of brightly colored books or glossy magazines filled with inspiring pictures and patterns. Quilt shops and shows offer up individual patterns for sale with step by step instructions to make it easy to create a quilt.

Patterns are a great quilting resource and I have made many quilts using someone else's pattern, but I would much rather use my own design and it's much easier than you may think.

Whether you are brand new to quilting or a seasoned veteran, these tips and tools will help you design your own original work of art.

What is a Quilt Pattern?

A quilt pattern is an original decorative layout or design for fabrics. It serves as a template to follow when constructing a quilt.

Supplies you'll need

Supplies you'll need

Getting Started

Designing a quilt is like drawing a picture. Just use your imagination or get inspiration from things you see. I keep a notebook with me at all times so I can jot down an idea or draw a quick sketch before the idea slips away. Once you have something in mind it's time to design your pattern. While this hub focuses on designing a contemporary quilt pattern, a quilt pattern can be anything you want it to be and falls into one of two very basic categories:

  • Traditional - Pattern based on traditional or historic designs
  • Contemporary - Pattern based on modern designs

The supplies you'll need to get started are graph paper, pencils, a ruler and an eraser. You'll also need colored pencils, crayons or markers once the initial design is finished.

Step by step instructions for designing an original quilt

For this demonstration the inspiration was the brick wall on my fireplace.

  1. Find your inspiration and take a picture or draw a quick sketch.
  2. Think about what size quilt you want to make. For this demonstration I'm doing a wall hanging measuring 25" by 30".
  3. Determine what size the graph squares will represent. For this demonstration, 1 square = 1".
  4. Draw the outside border of the quilt design, 25 squares by 30 squares. (Step 1 in photos)
  5. I would like each brick to be 3" by 5" so I draw the first brick on the graph paper, 3 squares wide by 5 squares long. (Step 2 in photos)
  6. Using the photo as my guide I continue to draw bricks until the quilt border drawn is full. (Step 3 in photos)
  7. Take a look at the design. This example looks a little flat to me. I have also seen it before so I'm going add some more design elements. Have fun adding more design elements. You may have to redo it several times before you settle on something you like. (Step 4 in photos)
  8. Adding some diagonal lines added more dimension to the design. It's time to add color to the quilt. Make copies of the completed black and white drawing and keep the original. Don't add color to the original so you can go back and make more copies if you can't find the look you want. Keep in mind during this step that each shape outlined represents a piece of fabric. The more shapes, the more difficult putting the quilt together will be.
  9. This design has been colored three different ways. Note how color placement can dramatically effect the design or look of the quilt. (Versions 1, 2 and 3 in photos)
  10. Choose which one you like best and you're done. It's that easy to design your original quilt pattern!

This is just one of an infinite number of designs you can come up with.

Designing quilt patterns: by hand or by computer

While this hub demonstrates how to design a quilt by hand, The Electric Quilt Company™ and other companies sell quilt design software that makes designing quilts quick and easy.

It's a personal decision whether or not to design by hand or by computer. Designing by hand is a more tactile process some prefer. With computer software, the process is faster and the designs and colors can be changed just by the click of a button.

Examples of original quilt designs

The following three quilts are examples of contemporary quilts that I designed by hand. The photos show the sketches and sewn project.

"Key West" Original Quilt by the author

"Key West" Original Quilt by the author

"Key West"

The vivid colors, loud noises, an anything goes atmosphere and palm trees swaying on my honeymoon in Key West were the inspirations for my "Key West" Quilt. When I got home I got out my graph paper and started the design. I prefer to work with geometrical shapes, not rounded ones which is why I use graph paper. In the picture below there are 3 drawings. The pencil drawing on the left in the picture below is the first version which had softer edges. I then fidgeted around with it to fit in the squares on the graph paper so I could make it more geometrical (Center drawing). Finally, I fit the palm tree and the border on the paper and colored it in to see a finished product (Right drawing). The result is "Key West" which I proudly hang in my home.

Original Sketches for "Key West" Quilt

Original Sketches for "Key West" Quilt

Scroll to Continue

"The Shape of Things to Come"

Fabric was the inspiration for this quilt. I normally don't work with solid fabrics, but I had a collection of them that were waiting to be used. I was also trying my hand at various design and structure techniques. This quilt was not designed on graph paper. It was drawn to scale on drawing paper. I then used tracing paper to trace the shapes and sewed them together using a "paper piecing" method. I really like the way it turned out with an almost art deco look to it. This project is still a work in progress and has not been quilted yet.

"The Shape of Things to Come" Original Quilt Design by the author

"The Shape of Things to Come" Original Quilt Design by the author

"Static Electricity"

Inspired by the the fabric piecing technique known as "paper piecing", I wanted a challenge to do a more intricate quilt design. This one is still under construction with only the quilt blocks being done. Using the design techniques described in this hub, the drawing on the left is what I hope my completed quilt will look like and the one on the right is what one quilt block looks like.

"Static Electricity" Original Quilt Design by the author

"Static Electricity" Original Quilt Design by the author

Design your own original quilt

Designing an original quilt by hand is fun and rewarding. I hope that this hub has inspired you to design your own masterpiece. It's easier than you think.

Happy Quilting!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Claudia Porter


Claudia Porter (author) on September 26, 2014:

Hi KarenTBTEN - Graph paper is my favorite tool when designing an original quilt. I have a few pads of the paper around my house. Thanks for reading and enjoy designing your own quilt.

KarenTBTEN on September 26, 2014:

I would have thought it too difficult to actually create a design but the way you drew out the bird with lines on graph paper looks doable.

Claudia Porter (author) on November 29, 2012:

I appreciate it Nolimits nana! I have fun designing my own things. Thanks for visiting.

Nicolette Goff from British Columbia on November 28, 2012:

Beautiful originality! I love the one with solid colors - so vibrant!

Claudia Porter (author) on November 02, 2012:

Thanks so much nifwlseirff! I appreciate your comments.

Kymberly Fergusson from Germany on November 02, 2012:

Gorgeous quilts and block designs - particularly your Key West and Static Electricity quilts! So talented!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 24, 2012:

Thank you so much for your votes, share and pin Rema! I really appreciate it. I hope that this hub will help you with your first quilt. It really is a lot of fun.

Rema T V from Chennai, India on August 24, 2012:


I would like to call you a Great Talented Friend instead of your profile name. So wonderful is your hub that though I am new to all this, I think I will follow along with you at least to learn a few things about this wonderful art.

In fact I drew inspiration from a hub by mvillecat who also happened to comment on here and decided that I should some day learn quilting.

It is so attractive and seems doable once you have a little interest and are willing to devote some time for it and of course willing to learn it from pros like you. The instructions are clear and to the point. Awesome illustration too.

Wonderful hub. Voting up, awesome, sharing and pinning. Cheers, Rema.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 22, 2012:

Thanks so much RealHousewife! Thanks to Tammyswallow too. You're right, quilting is forgotten or taken for granted sometimes. I always have a few projects going at one time. This is one I definitely need to finish. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on August 22, 2012:

That is so beautiful! I love quilting and posted a photo of one of mine on FB and I was directed to this hub! (Tammyswallow:)

You did an amazing job with the hub! Quilting is one of those things that's almost forgotten:) I make them for fun and right after I finish one, I just start a new one. I'll for sure think about making a more creative pattern next time!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 21, 2012:

Lyricwriter - Being a man absolutely does not go against you when making a quilt. In fact there are many successful (and famous) male quilters out there. I say go for it!. Thanks so much for the comments and let me know if you give it a try!

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on August 20, 2012:

I love these beautiful quilts! You do such a great job on them Glimmer. I wouldn't mind trying my own, making my own designs. Doesn't sound too hard, but I have one thing working against me, I am a man:) This would be worth trying. Enjoyed this hub. Great job on the directions and very well written. Voted this up and all the way across but funny. A class "A" hub Glimmer.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 18, 2012:

Teaches - Thanks for the vote. I'm glad you liked the idea. Now I have to start getting my act together and sew it.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 18, 2012:

Thanks so much Jamie! I really hope you give it a try. It's not that hard. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

Dianna Mendez on August 18, 2012:

I love your creativity on this quilting design. Your taking it from a brick wall is just perfect! Voted way up!

Jamie Brock from Texas on August 18, 2012:

Congrats on the Hubnuggets nomination! I love the quilt in the photo, it's beautiful! This is one of things I've never tried, I've always been intimidated but your instructions make it sound a bit easier than I thought... may have to give a try sometime :) Voting UP and useful!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 18, 2012:

Thanks so much ripplemaker! You'd be surprised at what you can do. Give it a shot!

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on August 18, 2012:

I wish I have the talent to do this but I am amazed at the design and the patterns. What can I say? So pretty....

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To all who would like to read and vote, this way please

Claudia Porter (author) on August 18, 2012:

Thanks tammyswallow! I'm very honored and excited to be nominated.

Tammy from North Carolina on August 17, 2012:

I just noticed that this hub was selected as a Hub Nugget candidate. I hope you win!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 15, 2012:

Thanks so much for the comments Your Cousins! I like any style of quilting. I hope you'll give this method a try.

Your Cousins from Atlanta, GA on August 14, 2012:

I love "The Shape of Things to Come" because of its modern look. I appreciate the time that you take with your craft. I am sort of a freestyle quilter who puts fabric pieces together by sight. This is a great hub which teaches me how to start out right. I am excited about following your series, and hopefully, I will be able to improve my skill.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 14, 2012:

Thanks so much Carly. I need to get to work on the fabric part now. Just waiting a couple more days to see if I get any more votes. It will be interesting to see which design gets picked. I know I have a favorite, but I won't tell just yet.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 14, 2012:

Tammy - I really appreciate the comments. You should give it a try. If you do I'd love to see your work. Thanks so much!

Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on August 14, 2012:

This is amazing and so much fun. I love the interactive part of your hub. I voted for #3 because I liked the vivid color, but #2 is a close call for me.

I took a quilting class when I became pregnant with my first child. I just thought that is what mother's do, quilt and cook, LOL. The class was full of fascinating women from diverse backgrounds and ages. I was never good at it, because I can't cut straight or sew straight, and when all your not-so-straight-fabric does not line up, at the end it is hard to put the pieces together.

I do however like to make organic quilts than traditional. But I so appreciate and admire traditional quilts because I know the amount of time that goes into them.

I can't wait for our collective hub page quilt is done. It will warm us all. Just in time for the fall. :)

Tammy from North Carolina on August 14, 2012:

That is so beautiful! The older generations of my family were quilters but I never learned how to do it. Your designs are excellent! Makes me want to learn how to do this!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 14, 2012:

Thanks so much ttoombs! I hope this quilt turns out well and inspires you to make one too!

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 14, 2012:

Glimmer, this is beautiful work! I've always admired quilting and would love to learn one day. I will be following this really awesome series!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 13, 2012:

I appreciate your comments and pin GoodLady! I'm glad you like my work. Hopefully your sister will enjoy it too. Thanks again!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 13, 2012:

Thanks for the visit slackermom! I really hope you give it a try. You may just love it and it's a great hobby.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on August 13, 2012:

Such beautiful work. Love your designs - so artistic bold and personal and thanks for making it sound more or less easy. Voted and sending to my sister who is a quilter. Pinning.

Lisa Palmer from Attapulgus GA on August 13, 2012:

I love all the beautiful designs you have here. I have always wanted to take up quilting but have actually been intimidated by it. Maybe I will give a try. Great hub.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 13, 2012:

Mama Kim - Thanks so much for the nice comments! I'll be excited to see it to completion too. I just have to get away from the computer and into the sewing room.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 13, 2012:

HouseBuyersUS - I hope you do give it a try. It's a lot of fun. Thanks so much for the comments.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 13, 2012:

Thanks so much danielabram. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 13, 2012:

Thanks so much Josh! I appreciate it and thanks for voting. I better get my fabric out and start sewing!

Aloe Kim on August 12, 2012:

Quilting is one of the few crafts I've yet to touch... this hub is very inspiring! I just had to pin your key west quilt ^_^ it is so beautiful. I'm excited to see this hubpages quilt to completion. The hub itself is very well written, voted up, useful, beautiful...

HouseBuyersUS from Centreville, Virginia, USA on August 12, 2012:

Nice step by step suggestions you have mentioned in your hub for designing quilt patterns! This patterns are wonderful and will look great in home walls. I will try this out to decorate my home...thanks for this hub...nice job...up!

danielabram on August 12, 2012:

This is a great hub about designing quilt patterns! Kudos

Joshua Zerbini from Pennsylvania on August 12, 2012:


Hey, beautiful quilts here Glimmer! I enjoyed reading how you construct and prepare a quilt. I voted for version 3, because I love the color blue! :)

Thanks for sharing Glimmer, I will be following you in the series! I have shared this one!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 12, 2012:

mvillecat - I appreciate the comments and vote! Give it a shot, you're probably a lot more creative than you think you are! Good luck. I never considered myself very creative.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 12, 2012:

Thanks so much Jackie! I hope you do try one. It's loads of fun!

Catherine Dean from Milledgeville, Georgia on August 12, 2012:

Your Hub is quite stunning. Although I quilt, I am not that creative. Lovely, I voted up.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on August 12, 2012:

Those are beautiful and I saw some lately like your small ones that were done to look like the beach, with lace as waves and tiny flip flops and sand buckets sown on, for the wall of course and I just have to try one!

Claudia Porter (author) on August 12, 2012:

Rebecca - I hope you have some of your grandmother's quilts. I love the look and feel of older quilts and I always think some of them have lovely stories to tell. Thanks so much for the comments. I appreciate it.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 12, 2012:

Thanks for the visit millionaire! If you try it, I'd love to see pics.

Claudia Porter (author) on August 12, 2012:

Thanks so much for the comments, vote and share Janine! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I hope you do give it a try. It really is easy, but I understand about the time. Seems like I have less of it now that I've been at hubpages for seven weeks.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on August 12, 2012:

Wow, my grandmother made a few quilts, but I don't know how she did it. Your method and instructions look so cool. I suppose that is why the quilt turned out so well!

Shasta Matova from USA on August 12, 2012:

These are beautiful quilts. I enjoy trying my own designs as well, although I generally wing it instead of planning it like you do. I will definitely have to try these. Thanks for the beautiful photos and directions.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on August 12, 2012:

Wow, GlimmerTwinFan, these quilts are amazing, loved the pictures of them and your step by step instructions were just so detailed and perfect. Wish I had the time or talent to try, but am totally sharing and voting up too!!

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