Rebecca from Chasing Cottons joined us on the blog earlier this year when she designed her beautiful Birdcage Pillow Pattern for our Pillow Month. Today she’s back to share a bit about how she designs and writes quilt patterns in hopes that it will inspire you to create your own designs. Rebecca walks you through the process she took to design this lovely quilt shown below. We’re pleased to offer a 20% discount on all Chasing Cottons PDF Patterns in the shop; you can pick up a Curlicue Crush or Sand Castles quilt pattern today!

Hi, Everyone! I’m excited to be back at Sew,Mama,Sew! today, sharing with you one of my obsessions… Designing and writing quilt patterns.

I, like all of you, LOVE fabric. It’s all so amazing and I wonder how could a fall in love with each new range that is released. I’m not sure what it is about fabric that I’m drawn to– The designs and prints? The colors and vibrancy? The feel and texture? Whatever it is, I just can’t get enough.

One thing I found a few years ago when I went to my first quilt show was that there were so many amazing fabrics… Yet i couldn’t really find a quilt design that I felt suited any of them. I found a lot of them were ‘old school’ in their design, just with new fabrics. To me it was like they hadn’t really considered the fabric when designing the quilt. I have tried to keep this in mind as I design my quilt patterns. One of the best parts of quilting is buying the fabric so its so important to choose a design that will let the fabric shine.

    Once I have chosen the fabric, I decide:

  • What parts of the fabric do I like best?
  • How can I best show this off?
  • Is there one particular design I want to emphasize?
  • Am I using pre-cuts or yardage?
  • Is the print on the fabric small? Perhaps a busier design and smaller pieces would suit… Or should I highlight the smaller prints by framing them with borders?
  • Is the fabric a large scale print? Should I cut my fabric into bigger pieces to showcase the whole print design?

These are things I take into account when I’m considering which design would work best.

Next, on a scrap of paper, I start drawing designs and combinations. Squares, rectangles, diamonds, curves… Until I find something I am happy with and something I feel suits the fabric that I am using. One of my recent quilts was made using the gorgeous Sherbet Pips range from Annela Hoey. I used a charm pack and some coordinating fabric.

I start by drawing a few designs on paper and then into my graph book. I use a 5mm graph book (I’m not sure what size that is in the U.S.). I find the 5mm is just the perfect size and proportion for designing my quilts. I use the scale of:

5mm square = 2 inch quilt square

So, if I draw a rectangle 2 x 5mm squares across and 3 x 5mm squares down…

My rectangle will measure 4” x 6”.

For this quilt, I had 42 charm squares to use. As the prints were small I wanted to border them to make your eye focus on the cute pictures.

I then draw my design into the graph book. These graph books are awesome! I use this book constantly throughout constructing the quilt. You can work out how big your quilt is going to be. I use it for cutting guides, fabric sizes… Lots! I talk more about my inspirations and my design process here.

Next, I take my designs to the computer. I use my husband’s architectural CAD drawing program. I haven’t used any other quilt design programs as I find this works best for me. I draw up my finished quilt design from my graph book to scale in the program.

I then copy the drawing and I start pulling it apart into pieces and sections to form a Quilt Assembly Diagram. I try and keep this diagram simple so at a glance you can see how the whole quilt is put together.

I sometimes use parts of the Quilt Assembly Diagram to break down sections that may require further explanation. Using the CAD software helps make the quilts accurate and descriptive.

Throughout my quilt patterns you will find black and white shaded, computer-drawn diagrams instead of pictures of my quilts as diagrams. I prefer to have it this way, as I find the black and white diagrams are like a blank canvas that allows your own imagination to work. You are immediately able to put your own fabric into the design. It’s kind of like trying to think of the lyrics to a song while you have another song playing on the radio. Your mind focuses too much on my own quilt instead of the possibilities you can create if you see pictures instead of diagrams.

Designing quilts and writing patterns has added another element to making quilts that I just love and find so enjoyable. I hope learning about my process has helped you take the plunge into grabbing a graph book and starting to dream up your own designs… The possibilities are endless!

It’s Digital Delivery Sewing Month!

Today we’re offering 20% off all Chasing Cottons PDF Patterns in the shop!