Aspects of Good Quilt Design to Consider to Make Beautiful Quilts

Quilt Design is the second phase of quilting as outlined in my quilting supplies post here. Anything goes with quilt design. Really. Anything. If you want a traditional looking quilt with the quilt blocks, then graph paper and colored pencils/markers (fined tipped) are all you need. There are software and apps (yes, even apps – quilting is so technological now). If you want to go techie, then I have really enjoyed the EQ software. Like with most software, there’s a bit of a learning curve.

If you are well skilled in quilt design and quilt making, then a basic sketch pad and pencil will work.

When you design a quilt the basic rules of composition for art come in to play: contrast, texture, complexity, and unity play their role in artistic composition. (This will be a bit redundant with one of my earlier posts: Quilting Border Designs.)

Quilts are your work of art. When you look at art pieces, ask yourself: “What did you see first?” and “What did you see last?”. Do you think what you noticed and when you noticed it was what the artist intended? All elements of composition should aid in enhancing your quilt.

Color (Contrast)

Light and bright colors pop. You’ll notice these first before the intricacies of darker elements. So, when you look at your quilt what do you see first and what color is it? It what you want people to see first?

Texture (Another form of Contrast)

Movement or items representing movement will always catch the eye first. Use texture to take the eye where you would like it to go. Texture can be with the fabric you use of with the lines you sew in the quilting phase.


The complexity of your quilt should be designed to be food for the eyes. Help your viewer stare at your quilt. Contrast, texture, and unity all aid or take away from complexity. Use all these features to lead your audience into the quilt. Use lines and color to help lead your viewer from focal point to focal point, until they have taken in the entirety of the quilt.


Your “big picture” view of your quilt. Step back, does everything belong? Or is there something you see that just doesn’t fit? This where you see your quilt in it’s entirety. For example, if you are doing an applique of a deer, is the standing on a ground or is it flying? Do you want it to be flying? What about color? If the first color you see the focal point? If it’s not does it lead your eye to the focal point?

Look at my quilt below. Do you see the focal point, or in this case, points?

Quilt Designed Traditional Graph Paper

Yes, if you said black centers then you are correct. Notice how I added very thin black sashing and thing borders that are also black it helps to emphasis the black. Notice the lighter beige between the 2 black borders. Any guesses why I did that? It helped to “frame” the quilt better. Then I changed the directional lines by making a pieced border reinforcing the desire of the eye to the center of the quilt and stopping it with a black binding. Lots of movement in this quilt.

What you think of the next quilt?

Quilt Designed by Sketchpad and Pencil

For me, it is quite chaotic. The red color is what your eyes see first, then you notice the black. I do not really like the composition of this one – even though it is one that I designed and have received several compliments on it. (I think folks were just being nice. 😉 ) There’s no real focal point – some folks seem to see a butterfly, but I just see chaos. The black binding still helps to stop your eye, but it offers nothing more than that.

Pattern Selection

The biggest mistake new quilters make is choosing a big pattern – one for a queen size quilt. Large quilts are time consuming. (It took me a year to finish my king sized quilt. While I loved it, it still did become a bit tiresome.) When you are starting out, learn the techniques first. It’s harder to quilt a queen sized quilt on a sewing machine at home that it is to quilt a pot holder or a placemat.

For this series I will give you 2 patterns for potholders. You can choose to do one or both or pick your own – just know that my directions will be with my patterns in mind. We will treat them like a quilt, so that you learn all the different phases.

Next time, I will include the patterns and more on the next phase of quilting: Selecting fabric.

Until next time, happy quilting!


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