How to make a quilt pattern from a photo, step by step (video)

Do you ever get that not-so-inspired feeling when you sit down to plan your next quilt? You’re not alone! Sometimes we all get a case of the design blahs. But learning how another quilter gets her inspiration can be a fantastic way to jolt yourself out of your stitching rut.

Case in point: take a look at this photo.

Photo inspiration for Lawn quilt
Photo by Heather Scrimsher

Do you see the makings of a quilt?

Heather Scrimsher, author of Graphic Quilts from Everyday Images: 15 Patterns Inspired by Urban Life, Architecture, and Beyond, certainly did. She used this photo—with its strong vertical elements and the contrast between the dark tree bark and the bright green grass—to create “Lawn.”

Lawn quilt
“Lawn” from Graphic Quilts from Everyday Images

Heather’s quilt-design technique is appealingly straightforward: she looks at photos of everyday objects, simplifies the messy details into just four basic shapes (squares, rectangles, circles, and triangles), and then starts stitching.

Watch as Heather explains her design process, transforming this photo of tangled, thorny branches…

Photo inspiration for Thorny quilt
Photo by Heather Scrimsher

Into a clean-lined, modern quilt.
Thorny quilt
“Thorny” from Graphic Quilts from Everyday Images
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Reading this in email? See the “Design your own quilt: from inspiration to design” video at the Stitch This! blog or watch it on YouTube.


Now it’s your turn! You choose: make one of Heather’s photogenic quilts—she’s done all the work for you—or dig into your stash of photos for inspiration. Everything is fair game—from your vacation snapshots to family photos to pet portraits—and don’t be afraid to take some shots of the everyday objects that surround you. As Heather notes in Graphic Quilts from Everyday Images, “Sometimes even the mundane can become extraordinary when enlarged or colored in a different way.”

Do you want your photo-inspired quilt to capture a single detail of the photo, or the entire scene?

Masonry quilt
Photo of an historic building by Heather Scrimsher and “Masonry” quilt from
Graphic Quilts from Everyday Images

Will your design be abstract or faithful to the photo?

Falling Leaves quilt
Photo of leaves by Heather Scrimsher and “Fall Leaves” from
Graphic Quilts from Everyday Images

Playfully colorful or dominated by calm neutrals?

Interlinked quilt
Photo of a chain link fence by Heather Scrimsher and “Interlinked” from
Graphic Quilts from Everyday Images

Inspiration is everywhere—you just have to “picture” it!

Here’s a photo to get you started, taken a few miles up the road from Martingale headquarters.

Katherine's photo
Photo by Katherine Evans

Share a photo you find personally inspiring with us on Facebook or Instagram, or tell us about it in the comments!

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