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!