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What Pattern?

Simple tools for Pattern Design
By Barb Bergquist

Many articles are available that talk about what fabrics to select and what colors to select in fabrics, but have you wanted to try a new quilting project but wasn’t sure what to do?  That got me to thinking that I could share a little information about quilting patterns that may help you decide what to tackle in the future.

Quilt patterns are created by designers.  These designers may be part of a fabric manufacturer’s team, or may be an independent sole proprietor.  Regardless of who this person works for, the designer’s focus is to create a unique and enjoyable quilt project for you.

I do want to put in a pitch here for the independent designers, those who do not earn their money as part of a corporate team.  Independent designers make their money from sales of the quilt patterns that they have designed.  Whether the designer has obtained a copyright or not on their designs, I strongly encourage you to not copy anyone else’s design without their written permission.  This may be the only way that person makes their money, and depriving the designer of even a single sale takes away income from the designer.  I have created a few simple designs for my own use myself and found that it takes time to devise the look that works.  A designer creates the design, calculates the yardage, writes out the instructions, makes a sample for the pattern cover while checking that the design done to this point is accurate, and creates photos or drawings for the instructions.  When all the parts have been fully developed, the fabric requirements, instructions, photos, drawings, etc. are laid out for printing, and then printed.  And in some cases, the printed materials are folded and inserted into a package.  That’s a lot of work and cost.  So don’t copy patterns; support designers and buy their patterns.

But back to choosing quilting patterns.  Have you ever considered that there are many different types of patterns?  No, I’m not talking about purse patterns vs. bed quilt patterns vs. potholder patterns.  Quilting patterns can be identified by the style of quilt work you will do.  Traditionally, quilt patterns were designed for piecing back in the dark ages (as my kids describe it), but they also included patterns for hand-appliqué.  English paper-piecing became popular later, and over time, we have seen a surge in the development of patterns for art quilts.  The art quilt patterns usually are designed to use fusible web and it is amazing how the designers are creating ways to make the work quicker and easier for the quilter.  Oh, and let’s not forget the advancement in paper-piecing with designs that are just a matter of laying pieces of fabric down in the correct order to come out with what appears difficult but is amazingly simple to complete.

Besides considering the type of work that of the quilting pattern, you want to consider other factors.  Do you want to learn a new quilting skill or technique?  How difficult do you want the work to be?  What timeframe do you have to complete the quilting project?  Do you want a small project or a big one?  Do you want to use fabrics that you have in your stash?  Do you have a fabric that you want to buy that you want to use?  Or do you have a specific color scheme you want to use?  Is this a gift, or for someone special?  Do you need a quilted item for a specific purpose?  How much do you want to spend?   I am sure I didn’t cover all the possible considerations when selecting a pattern, but that is a lot to consider.

In most cases though, I believe most of us have some general idea of what we want to try next.  I remember that I made my first purse because I needed a new purse and unlike other women, I hate shopping for handbags.  So when I arrived at the local quilt shop, I knew I wanted a purse pattern.  I also knew that I was going to make it out of black prints, I wanted a zipper to close it and I wanted a shoulder strap.  As you can see, I already had decided a number of “requirements” for my pattern before even looking for it.  Luckily, I found a pattern that fit just what I was looking for very quickly; I picked the Bermuda Bag from Pink Sand Beach Designs, made it and have been using it since.  It is starting to wear out so one of these days, I’ll be looking for a new pattern to try.

Not all patterns are selected this way though.  You might find that you “collect” patterns, ones that you saw and liked that you want to try someday.  You may already have a stash of patterns that could use up your stash of fabrics.  But even with your own private collection, you will find yourself sorting through the patterns to find the one that works.  Without realizing it, you will be going through a mental list of requirements as you flip through the quilting patterns, one after another – too big, not enough contrast, too much contrast, too grown up for the grandchild, etc.

In the end, I believe that once you think about it, the selection of a quilting pattern follows some of the “rules” that you have for selecting fabric.  The major ones are usually who or what is it for, how long do I have to work on this, and how much do I want to spend.  If you have the answers then selecting a pattern for your next quilt project should be an enjoyable activity and how much time you spend just makes the enjoyment last longer.

Happy quilting!


Barb Bergquist along with husband, Ron, own A Block Away Quilt Shop.  A dedicated quilter with more than 25 years of experience, she is now actively sharing her love of quilting through the work in her shop.

Contact Us:

Phone: (956) 638-1961
Location: A Block Away Quilt Shop
                 2706 N. 10th Street
                 McAllen, TX 78501
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9AM-9PM, Sun: 10AM-6PM
Email: barb@ablockaway.com


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