How to design your own quilt? 4 ways to begin (+ giveaway!)

Quilt-block details from Imagine Quilts

Have you dreamed of designing your own quilts?

Maybe you’ve wondered where other quilters get their ideas.

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s this:

Every quilter has a designer inside, waiting to come out and play.

So, how can you coax her out?

Imagine QuiltsDreaming up one-of-a-kind quilts seems second nature to designer and popular blogger Dana Bolyard. But in her new book, Imagine Quilts, she reveals that there is a creative process—several, in fact—that she relies on. Through 11 unique quilt patterns, she’ll help you rev up your own quilt-design engine in one of four ways:

1. Get inspired by your fabric stash
2. Use common techniques in new ways
3. Look around for inspiration—it’s everywhere!
4. Break the rules and have fun

Ready to grab some graph paper and discover how your creative process works? Dana is here today as a guest blogger, and she’s fired up about helping you turn your own quilt ideas into a reality. Welcome, Dana!

Dana BolyardI’ve never made it a big secret that I’m not a pattern-based sewist. I’ve probably said as much at least 50 times over the years on my blog. I usually have an idea for a quilt and then I sketch, compute, calculate, and scratch my forehead until I figure out how to make the idea in my head translate into a quilt.

Both as a quilter and as a blogger the number-one question that I get asked time and time again is, “Where do you come up with ideas for your quilts?”

Detail of Elephant Parade quilt
One day I realized that I had an abundance of gray fabrics in my stash. As that stack of grays grew and wanted to topple over, I was struck by the thought of elephants, and “Elephant Parade” was born.

My ideas come from everywhere! Sometimes it’s a color palette from the strangest of places. Just recently I passed by an old cinder-block plant. There were dozens of 50-gallon metal drums stacked on top of each other. The metal drums were peacock blue, tangerine, or purple, and each had chunky black lettering stenciled around them. I cannot get that image out of my head. I’m scheming to turn that vision into a quilt this summer.

Ampersand quilt from Imagine Quilts
Our modern world is full of graphic textual symbols. The ampersand strikes my fancy. What strikes yours: the # sign, the @ symbol, or…?

My favorite way to turn an inspiration into a quilt is with old-fashioned pencil and paper. I like graph paper best, but plain paper works well too. I always begin with a sketch and an idea of the basic dimensions that I’d like my finished quilt to be. When making “Patchwork Whale” for Imagine Quilts, I used the grids on the graph paper to figure out how to make the whale with basic patchwork.

Patchwork Whale quilt from Imagine Quilts
“Patchwork Whale”

► See more projects from Imagine Quilts

Colored pencils came in handy too, as so much of a quilt design comes together through color, value, hue, and saturation. That’s exactly how the white underbelly of the whale shows up—through the contrast in colors!

Inspiration for quilts is everywhere! I pay attention to colors, shapes, and repeated patterns in nature. Everything from water droplets on a leaf and colors in the recycle bin to a favorite quote or even a threadbare sweater in need of repair can be the inspiration that sparks the design of a quilt.

From Imagine Quilts
Imagine Quilts

My rule of thumb when buying fabric is that if I love it, I will find a way to use it. The same is true for my design process. If I love an idea, I find a way to make it into a quilt. I hope that through the pages of Imagine Quilts, you’ll find the inspiration to express your own ideas in quilts.

Thanks for sharing your design process and inspiring quilts with us, Dana!

Take a look around… what might inspire you to design a quilt right now? Share your answer in the comments and you could win a copy of the Imagine Quilts eBook! We’ll choose a winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win.

Comments are closed for this post.

Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The winner is Jess, who says:

“Mountains. I’m going camping / hiking this weekend and hoping to get some good alpine views. I still have the pictures in my head from last year. :)”

Jess, we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!


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