Saturday, 12 November 2016

5 tips for designing your first quilt

When I was planning my first quilt, I felt overwhelmed by the vast array of patterns, techniques, styles, blocks, and trends out there in the big world of quilting. I call myself a maker, not a quilter, so I've often felt like a bit of an outsider to this craft. But I'm a very creative person, so I've never felt the desire to use a quilting pattern or kit, or to copy a design exactly. I prefer to design my own. When sketching and pondering my second quilt, I realised that I had picked up a few tips that could be useful to other quilting beginners. I hope that this makes designing your quilt fun and inspiring!

First off, click here to see my Inspiring Quilts board on Pinterest, where you can get an idea of my design inspiration.

Here are 5 tips for designing your first quilt...

1.  Pick a simple, repetitive design
If it's your first time quilting, don't push yourself too hard at the first hurdle. Simple blocks like log cabin or half-square triangles invite endless options for designing.

2. Keep to a strict colour scheme
Using a limited colour scheme allows you to be bold with your shapes and lines. Many quilt patterns divide up fabrics into 'light' and 'dark' values, but I'd go further and consider colour very carefully. You don't want all the hard work of the quilt piecing to get lost amidst the excitement of too many different shades. 

3. Enjoy patterns - but choose plain fabrics too
Quilting has some of the most exciting fabrics around! It's so easy to get carried away with all the prints and patterns available; I know I did. But mixing in plain fabrics in the same hues, or contrasting ones, will give clarity to your design lines- and in fact will make the patterns pop.

4. Use natural fibres and fabrics
These will wash and wear better; are breathable and absorbent; and will age beautifully. Most quilting fabric is cotton, but I've successfully mixed in linen too. I also don't restrict myself to quilting fabric, and often use leftovers from dressmaking projects as well as a great array of second-hand textiles. Napkins, tablecloths, old bedsheets (cut from the edges) and men's fine cotton shirts are all good options.

5. Challenge yourself, and enjoy it!
Making a quilt is an involved project, requiring long-term commitment. I often feel that big projects are an exercise in patience and letting go: embracing any flaws that emerge, and moving forward in your practice. Your first quilt is probably not going to be perfect, since the first anything is rarely perfect. But you'll have lots of fun trying out this craft, and you'll probably be a better maker for it!

What's your favourite quilt block? What did you think about when you were designing your first quilt?

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