How I Write a Pattern Part 1


Today I designed a quilt on a bus ride. Because this isn’t a super secret project, I thought it might be interesting to share the process of designing a quilt. I will do a series of posts as I make this quilt.

I planned to make a special quilt for my mother, so I took my graph paper notebook along on my bus ride. After some time spent doing what I lovingly call “scritch scratch”, I came up with an idea. Ideas germinate in different ways, but I love my graph paper notepad to sketch my initial thoughts.

This quilt began with this image:


I designed this image to go on a shirt for my mother. She starts chemo Tuesday. While we often see pink ribbons for cancer, her cancer is represented by lime green. Green has always been her favorite color. Anyway, when I created this design for a shirt, I knew I would also want to put it on a quilt – of course!

The next thing that I wanted to include on the quilt were hand prints from each of the grandkids. Some of the grandkids are far away, so the way I got the handprints quickly is by having my brothers and sisters trace the handprints and scan them to me. I will trace them on fabric. My sister came up with that idea. I thought it was genius!

The ribbon wreath will fit on a 12″ finished square because I wanted it to be the same size as the shirt image so I didn’t have to pay an extra screen fee. It isn’t as big as I had originally planned, but I made it work. The handprints will be on an 8″ finished square.

I began working with 22 – 8″ handprints and 1 – 4 ribbon wreaths as needed. My first thought was to border the handprints to make them 12″ and put them together. That idea didn’t even make it onto paper. I started sketching with the idea of doing something besides framing each handprint. I started with an assymetrical frame.

I liked that idea, but I was having problems because I only had 1 yard of a pansy print because my mother likes little purple pansies. The other problem is that now the quilt is getting pretty big. My 3 brothers ended up around 6 feet tall, but the rest of us are fairly short. I want her to take this quilt to her chemo treatments, so I don’t want it huge.

How could I make it smaller? Ah! Some of the handprints are little. I decided to take all the little kids and trim those down to 6″ finished squares. That now gave me fourteen 8″ squares and four 12″ squares each made up of 3 or 4 handprints. I needed two extra 6″ squares. I could cut them from the pansy fabric.

Now I have room to play. (Warning: my playing often involves math.) I started by putting the ribbon wreath at the center of a large star. I like stars. With a 12″ center, the stars measure 24″ x 24″. That means it is the size of four 12″ blocks. I was aiming for the size of the quilt to be about 60″ x 72″. That means either a 5 x 6 layout with no border or a 4 x 5 layout with a border. With four blocks from the star, fourteen large handprint blocks, and four small handprint blocks, that gave me 22 blocks. Not a great number. It’s too big to use the 4 x 5 layout.

Now I need 30 blocks to make a 5 x 6 layout. I need eight more blocks. After more scritch scratch, I decided to add another ribbon star (4 blocks) and 4 small stars in each corner (4 blocks). BOOM! I knew I was done.

This is what my graph paper looks like:

scritch scratch

Let the math begin! As part of the scritch scratch, I wrote down the size of each piece, how many strips of fabric of what size I would need, and basic cutting instructions for me. My colors are lime green, purple, and some shade of blue. It always cracks me up how awful my sketches are in the beginning. It takes a lot of “fiddly” time in front of a computer to make this scritch scratch turn into a pretty pattern.

Stay tuned for Part 2 sometime in the near future!