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Blog, Exploring Quilting Basics

Exploring the Basics Blog Series- Picking a Pattern

Welcome to our series Exploring Quilting Basics! Previously, we looked at ways to choose a project. Coming up next in our basics lineup is deciding on a color scheme. Or if you would like to start from the beginning and work through all the topics, you can find them all here


Hi Friends!

Last week, in our Adventures in Quilting with Kate and Tammy Exploring the Basics post, Tammy and I chatted about Choosing a Project.



Once you have decided what you are making- a baby quit, a lap quilt, a quilt for a friend or just for fun- now you need to Pick a Pattern. There are so many patterns out there to pick from- how does one decide?

In last week’s post, I brought up three things to think about when choosing a project: time frame, level of difficulty and budget. They also apply as you drill down in the process to picking the pattern you want to make.

Time Frame

When picking a pattern, you always want to keep in mind your time frame for this project. Are you just making the quilt for fun or is it for a new baby due next month? If the time frame it tight, you want to be sure to keep a simple pattern in mind and not get seduced by a lovely but time consuming project.

Gardenesque Quilt from the book Smash Your Precut Stash
Gardenesque quilt from Smash Your Precut Stash


Quilting is fun but we can make it less fun when we add undue stress to the process. And that includes trying to make a quilt in a short period of time that is not a quick and easy pattern! But easy does not have to be boring. 

Level of Difficulty

This concept goes hand in hand with time frame. You want to pick a pattern you can make in the time frame you have available, if the time frame is an issue. If time is not an issue, then you need to decide if you want to make something that is a challenge or not.

Sometimes we just want to make a quilt, maybe we want to use up some of our stash and we don’t want to challenge ourselves. We just want to have fun! And that is OK! 


Meander quilt pattern- a pieced FQ friendly quilt
Meander quilt


Sometimes it is good to challenge ourselves. To try new techniques. If you are trying something new, be sure to do one of 2 things- make a test block out of scrap fabrics so you can learn the technique and not stress you are ruining your quilt or buy extra fabric so you can make a test block using the fabric for the quilt. It the test block comes out great, make a coordinating pillow! If not, no harm, no foul, try again until you get it and then make the blocks for the quilt.


Looking at patterns at a shop? Open the pattern, if the shop allows, and look thru the directions. Does it look like something you could do? 

Note: Not all shops allow customers to open patterns. They really do have good reasons. If the pattern gets bent, dirty or ripped or ruined any way, they can’t sell the pattern. If the pattern bag breaks (which is so easy to do!), they can’t sell the pattern. If a customer takes a picture of the directions, or writes down the sizes, they lose a sale.


Are you on a tight budget? Let’s chat about that. 

First, shop your stash! You probably have some patterns in your stash that you could use for this project. And remember, if you no longer like the colors of the cover quilt, or if you like the fabrics but that fabric line is no longer available, you can still use that pattern. Pick new fabrics in similar colors or go with a whole new color scheme. We will talk more about color next time.


Pattern Stash!


Second, shop your friend’s stash! Maybe your quilting buddy has a pattern you would like to borrow. 

NOTE: I said borrow. It is never OK to make a copy of a pattern for a friend. That is a copyright infringement even if no money is exchanged. Some people think if they don’t charge for the pattern, making a copy is OK. It is not. I know most of us have done this at some point, but that still does not make it right. There are a lot of myths about copyright out there; this website, Phoebe Moon Quilt Designs, has an easy to read article about it. 

Third, a good pattern can be used multiple times. I have some patterns that are my GO TO ones if I need a quick baby quilt or gift. Purchasing a pattern that looks good with different fabric combinations, is quick and easy and is stylish, can be a good investment. And a good pattern makes your life easier- the designer already figured out all the fabric amounts and block sizes and border strips for you!


Every good quilt pattern gets tested before it is printed!
Pattern Testing!



So how do you decide on a pattern? Do you browse thru your stash of great quilt patterns and books for inspiration or do you head out to your favorite local quilt shop to see what’s new and inspiring? Or do you pop online and browse your favorite quilt blogs and website?

Browse on Instagram?

Search on Pinterest? 

Where do you like to go for inspiration? Let me know in the comments.

As you search, keep in mind all the things that can affect the outcome- the time frame you have, what level of difficulty you have time (and inclination) for and your budget. 


A few thoughts as you search for the pattern you want to use. We are often first drawn to a pattern based on the colors and fabrics the pattern designer used. Keep in mind, most patterns will look great in other color combinations! 


Four FQs in yummy colors


So, as you look at patterns challenge yourself to look past the specific fabrics and colors and see the design. Do you like the overall design? 

Ok! Once we have picked a pattern, now we need to decide on a color scheme. Next time we are going to talk color!

Want to read what Tammy has to say on picking a pattern? I am sure she has some great thoughts- she even has a video! Click here.


Happy quilting,


2 thoughts on “Exploring the Basics Blog Series- Picking a Pattern”

  1. Picking a pattern can be so hard! Especially when you just want to sew. It can get a bit easier if you have a particular person in mind or a particular fabric you want to use. I design a lot of my own or just pull simple ones out of my head. 🙂 I never lack for inspiration though. I have a pile of “want to make” patterns so huge I’ll be quilting until I am 200! 😛

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