A quilt can be pretty well any size, shape, colour or design that you wish it to be. That’s the beauty of quilting – it’s your project and you can make it to be whatever you want it to be.
However, quilts are often divided into categories of contemporary, traditional and art quilts. Needless to say, there are many subdivisions within each of these.
The simplest quilt designs of all (to look at, but not necessarily simple to make) are the gorgeous Welsh quilts made of plain fabric with all the design in the quilting. Your quilting stitches and patterns need to be really good for these as that’s the foxus of the quilt.
Probably the next most simple quilt design is a panel. Here you buy the panel with an overall design and you just have to add wadding and backing, quilt it and then bind it. These are usually baby or small child quilts and are great if you need a quilt quickly or if you want to practise your quilting. If you don’t have a baby in mind for one of these, hospitals and charities are always grateful for them.
Of course a lot of the fun in quilting is the patchwork piecing, so here you have to decide on quilt blocks.
Quilt blocks tend to come in squares, but of course there are no hard and fast rules. I have made quilts using rectangles and there are many quilt designs based on a hexagonal block – six sided.
So we decide on a square block: what size? Quilt blocks can come in any size of squares, although 4″, 5″, 6″, 9″ and 12″ are probably the most common. This means the overall block is that size, not the individual pieces of fabric. Within a 6″ square you might have a dozen shapes of fabric pieced together.
You could have an overall design taking up the whole of the quilt top, where there is repetition of quilt blocks, but no one part of the quilt could be left out or changed. These usually have fairly large blocks in the construction.
You could choose to use one block throughout the quilt, varying the colour within each block to provide interest for the eye. Sometimes this creates secondary patterns which also catch the eye. Or you could use a different pattern for each block (known as a sampler quilt). I have seen some truly extraordinary examples of these at quilt show. Or you could choose a path somewhere between these options and have a few different block designs.
Then there is the quilt design choice as to whether to separate the blocks with sashing and cornerstones or sew them side by side. I usually leave this decision until I have made the blocks. Often when you place the blocks side by side you can decide more easily whether or not you want to frame each block with sashing.
All these decisions to make on quilt design, and we haven’t even bought the fabric yet!
Return to beginner quilting.