How to Design a Quilt Block

Designing your own quilt block allows you to choose everything from the pattern to the print and texture of the fabric. If you choose to create a design based on historic patterns, the International Quilt Study Center (see References) suggests trying pinwheel, log cabin, square in a square, fan, and wild goose chase layouts. You don't need to limit your quilt block design to historic forms; you can also create layouts inspired by contemporary design elements. Follow the guidelines below to design your own quilt block.

Things You'll Need

  • Large 45-Degree Right Triangle
  • Scissors
  • Freezer Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Utility Knife

Choose the major design elements. If you want to create a geometric design based on historic quilts, you'll probably draft your pattern within four patch or nine patch blocks. These blocks contain a grid made from four or nine squares.

If you want to create a contemporary quilt design that doesn't adhere to a traditional grid pattern, simply make a rough sketch of your design.

Choose your quilt block's size. Before creating your patchwork pieces, you'll need to determine how big you want your finished quilt block to be. The dimensions you choose will effect the size of each patchwork element. Using a large 45-degree right triangle as your guide, draw an outline of your block on the paper side of freezer paper and cut it out.

Draft your design using the block outline as your guide. If you are creating a geometric design based on historic quilt patterns, first draw your grid. For a four-patch grid, fold your freezer paper block into halves. If you want to create a pattern based on a nine-patch grid, use the template available on the Whitman Mission National Historic Site's web page (see References). Once you have a grid you can divide it into different patchwork pieces. The Whitman Mission web page suggests making an x or drawing a diagonal line through grid blocks to create patterns based on triangles.

Many quilt designs won't work within the confines of a grid; this is especially true for designs that incorporate curved edges. The Indie House blog suggests drawing these kinds of designs on freezer paper and labeling each piece. Even if you're designing from a grid, you should label everything.

Cut out your pattern pieces. Using sharp scissors or a ruler and utility knife, cut along your design's outlines.

Choose your fabrics. You can choose your fabrics at any point in the design process, but it may be easier to envision the finished piece once you've designed your quilt block. Use printed fabrics sparingly. For the most stunning visual effect, printed fabrics should complement solid or slightly variegated colors. Too many prints can bury the design you worked so hard to draft.

Cut your fabric pieces. Iron the waxy side of your pattern pieces to your fabric's back side. With a pencil and ruler, draw 1/4-inch seam allowances around each piece. Indie Home advises you not to add 1/4-inch to the outer side of pieces that will make up the edge of your quilt block.