Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Designing Your Own Quilt

By Brandi M. Seals

When you decide to make a quilt, the most important decision you make is on what the quilt will look like. You can choose from hundreds of classic designs or unique, one-of-a-kind styles. There are guides you can buy to help with the design or you can search online for free quilt patterns. However, if you really want to make a quilt your own, you could design it yourself.

Anyone who has made a quilt before knows that this may be a daunting task, especially if you are not a math whiz. But, truth be told, with a little thought and creativity you can design your own quilt.

I like to use a layout program, such as Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress, or PageMaker. They are easy to use and can easily be manipulated into a format that works well for a quilt.

The first step is to decide the size of your quilt. Go online and search for common size measurements. For example, a queen size comforter usually runs around 86 inches by 90 inches. Once you have that measurement you can set the size of the document you are using. You should be able to adjust any of the document sizes by using the Page Setup option under the File icon.

Instead of making the document 86 inches by 90 inches, make it 8.6 inches by 9 inches. It will allow you to set up your quilt the way you want, and give you the measurements you need. No calculations need to be done. Simply move the decimal point over one space.

Based on the document size in front of you choose what size squares or other shapes you want to do. Just make a text box the size you want, then color it so that it will show up. Copy and paste the same square wherever you want it to be. When you want to know what size to make that square so that it translates into the real world, simply click on the box and go under the Format Text Box menu. There you will see a tab that says Size. Click on it and you will see the height and width of the text box. For example, it might say the square is .5 inches by .5 inches. So, on your quilt, that would be 5 inch squares.

When you begin to cut out the material for your quilt, keep in mind that the measurements you have do not take sewing seams into account. Increase the size by a half inch for both width and height. That gives you a quarter inch seam allowance on each side. So those 5 inch squares would be cut out as 5.5 inches by 5.5 inches so that when they are sewn into the quilt, they will measure 5 inches square.

I know this seems a little confusing, but once you sit down and play with the programs you will know exactly what I mean. If you are familiar with these layout programs you will know how to manipulate the shapes. If not, it might be a good idea to sit down and play with the program for awhile and find out what you can do. A book on the subject or a short class on the program of your choice may also help.

If you do not own a layout program or want to try quilt layout the old fashion way, be prepared for some math but do not get fazed. The easiest thing to do is invest in some graph paper. Let each square represent say a quarter of an inch. The squares can represent whatever measurement you want. Just keep in mind that more intricate designs will probably need the squares to represent smaller spaces so that the end measurements will be more accurate.

Draw up the design of your choice and then just add up the squares so you know what size you want to end up with. It will probably be helpful to have your layout plus a sheet that details what you will need. For example, if your quilt design shows 64 red squares that are 4 sq. inches and 4 black strips that measure 2 inches by 24 inches, you will want a supplementary sheet that lists 64 red squares measuring 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches and 4 black strips measuring 2.5 inches by 24.5 inches. The added half an inch allows for seams.

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