DYO Sampler Quilt Sew Along ~ How to Design Your Own Quilt

on April 1 | in Contests & Giveaways, Sew-Alongs, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns, Spring Quilt Sew-Alongs | by | with 17 Comments

Sarah Schraw of Sarah Quilts shows you how easy it can be to design your own sampler quilt for our Spring Sew Along. Start planning your own DYO Sampler Quilt, and share progress via #dyosampler in social media or with a comment on our sew along post. Your participation enters you to win some great prizes!

You can learn more about Sarah in her introduction, and be sure to ask any of your questions in the comments below. (Sarah will check in here periodically.) We have a huge round-up of free block designs and tutorials to share so be on the look out for more inspiration for your new DYO Sampler Quilt, coming soon!

Sampler quilts are so hot right now: classes, clubs, quilt alongs and block of the months. That kind of sewing is really fun, but sometimes you just get the urge to sew your own design. It may be simpler than you think! It all starts with a little graph paper, calculator and a pencil.

A drawing program like Threadbias is great for this too, although I like to start with a pencil first and use the computer program when the design has already taken shape. (Threadbias is giving three 3-month subscriptions to the Threadbias Quilt Design Tool for our Spring Sew-Alongs!)

Determine an approximate size for your quilt, knowing that you can always adjust it later to accommodate the specific block sizes you ultimately choose. My Neon Sampler is 56 x 72 (throw size) so I drew a rectangle with 28 boxes x 36 boxes; each box represents a 2 inch square.

Start drawing blocks, starting with the largest and filling in the blank spaces from there.

To keep it simple, choose block sizes that are multiples of each other. I chose 2-4-6-8-12-16.

When you are drawing blocks, you can completely ignore the seam allowances. You only take the seam allowances into account when you are cutting and sewing.

As you draw, be sure you can visualize how each unit will attach to the adjoining units. My quilt has four main sections that I assembled separately and then joined at the end. Choosing mathematically related numbers (like I did) will help this go much more smoothly. Technically you could use any combination of block sizes that fill up the space, but then you’ll need to use partial seams for assembly.

Here is what the Neon Sampler looks like drawn using the Threadbias design tool.

And here it is marked up to help me visualize the assembly:

Don’t forget that my numbers here represent finished sizes. When you’re drafting, you always draw in terms of finished sizes while remembering in the back of your mind that there are seam allowances to be taken into account when you cut your fabric. For example, for each of my 2-inch blocks, I cut 2.5 inch pieces. After sewing them with a 1/4 inch seam, they finished 2 inches as shown in the drawings.

There are tons of great sources for blocks to use in your sampler quilt:

  • The patterns, books and magazines already on your shelf.
  • A block encyclopedia such as 500 Quilt Blocks (my favorite).
  • Quilts and blocks you’ve pinned on your Pinterest page.
  • The orphan blocks in your scrap pile (perhaps from previous sampler quilts you never finished).
  • Your own block designs.

To make it even easier for you, Sew Mama Sew is compiling a list of 25 free online block tutorials. That list will be provided tomorrow. There are also some very exciting incentives to get you designing. (Hint: #dyosampler)

After designing and sewing my Neon Sampler I’ve noticed that quilt math in general is coming much more easily to me! I’m doing the Gypsy Wife Quilt Along and I love the added confidence that comes with understanding how everything is going to fit together in the end.

It’s such a fun process and I really hope you’ll join me and design your own sampler quilt. #dyosampler: coming soon!

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17 Responses to DYO Sampler Quilt Sew Along ~ How to Design Your Own Quilt

  1. Carol says:

    Know I am a little late but woul love to join this sew along. Learned so much just reading this post. I have started a impro quilt using the same technique but not so detailed. I am going to take what I have and put it on graft paper. Thanks for your help. How do I get into the group?

  2. Jean says:

    This makes it look like something I could actually do.

  3. Nita says:

    So…you decide on the size and placement of the blocks first and then you look for block patterns to fit those sizes?

  4. Mara says:

    This is exciting I love Designing my own things and a quilt would be so fun to try out, thanks for the math help.

  5. Sarah Schraw says:

    Krista – could you add some filler fabrics to make it a little bigger? Maybe some strips like mine? Or I have a lot of 6 inch blocks that are just some of my favorite large scale prints.

  6. Krista says:

    I have about 15 blocks done on the Moda Designers Blog Hop from last year and I lost steam because I didn’t want a traditional set. This has inspired me to take what I have and use it here. I have already finished my initial design on paper. I’m a little disappointed that I am going to put a lot of work into this and it is only going to measure 36 x 45 inches. Well, I guess it is time for a wall hanging!

  7. katie says:

    I have been thinking of doing this for a while with the orphan blocks that I have in my stash and this may be just the way to make that happen — thanks for this exciting challange

  8. Donna says:

    Last night I sat down and changed up a pattern so I could use a jelly roll I purchased for my granddaughters quilt. Seeing your example of drawing it out gave me the idea. Thanks so much
    for sharing your process. Love how it spurs us own to create something new 🙂

  9. That tip to think through how everything will fit together is golden. The first time I designed, I forgot to do that initially and then had to shift everything around to avoid partial seams. Have fun on the sew along!

  10. hmmm…you have my attention 🙂 This is a great post, thank you! I think I may join in and play along!!

  11. Lyndalee says:

    I love this. Idea. I have some beautiful orphan blocks that I want to use. I want to have some open space for my quilting.

  12. Lizzie says:

    You know, just as I was drooling over some of the samplers I’ve been seeing lately, a little voice said–but you could make up your own this time! And I caught a glimpse of your neon sampler on IG. Dagnab it, I’ve got to take part, even though my Barn Door isn’t done….. 😛
    I’ve got my graph paper out right now.

  13. Bobbie says:

    I am in love!!! I can’t wait to do an improv quilt it’s been on my list of to-dos!

  14. Awesome quilt, Sarah! I love the vibrant colors and the photography is excellent. That was a great explanation of how the design process works. You make it sound as easy as it is =)

  15. Kris says:

    This looks like so much fun. I admit I sort of improv when I have some odd blocks but it would be fun to do a whole throw like this. I have lots of stash (still) and need to keep moving forward on this. I might give this a try but I don’t Instagram….:(

  16. Kerry says:

    A really flexible and creative approach to a quilt sampler, and thank you! So glad you love our Quilt block book!

  17. Adri H. says:

    Nice! I’m thinking of turning a bunch of my scraps into two stroller quilts (approx. 36″ x 36″) for friends who are also expecting… we’ll see if I can get them done before I’m due! 😀

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