Tuesday, November 13, 2018

How to Make a Quilt Pattern Your Own

If you've hung around in this space very long, you probably already know that I seldom use a pattern to make the quilt exactly as pictured. Part of the fun of making a quilt for me is the surprise element! I really like not knowing what the final project will look like!

Maybe you're different. Maybe you like the safety and reassurance that, after you spend money and time making a quilt, your efforts will pay off with a finished product that you absolutely love. I get that, and if that's what you enjoy - then feel free to follow the designer and make it exactly as pictured.

Or maybe you're more like me? When I find a pattern I love, my first thought is how can I love it in a different way? I like the challenge and the surprise element totally motivates me (at least in the beginning, until I see what the result will be). Does this method result in disasters? Well, maybe disaster is too strong a word, but it certainly does sometimes result in a quilt that's not absolutely perfect. But it's a risk I'm willing to take for the fun of quilting!

So today I have 6 ideas on how to change up a pattern and make it your own:

Tip One

Probably the easiest thing to do is to completely change the colors. The more drastic the change, the riskier, but often with awesome results.

For example, this is my version of Elizabeth Hartman's cover quilt. She used bold graphic colors, and I used soft colors from Bonnie and Camille fabric. You might not know it's the same quilt?
Modern Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman
You may remember my Flight Path quilt from earlier this year and my struggles (and seam ripping) in using a completely different color combination from the original. And after all those frustrations, I ended up with a quilt that I love!
Flight Path by Alison Glass
Changing the background from light to dark can be a really dramatic change to the look of your final quilt. This is "Funky Christmas" from my book, Simply Modern Christmas.

Simply Modern Christmas

Tip Two

Change the setting of the blocks in the pattern. This can be an easy and very interesting way to get a new look for a pattern.

This block from "Nutmeg Stars" by Fig Tree Quilts, got a completely new and more modern look by changing not only the colors, but the setting also. In my version on the right, the blocks are set straight with simple white sashing. She got so many requests for this, that Joanna redid the pattern and called it Nutmeg Stars II.
Nutmeg Stars and Nutmeg Stars II
How about adding some simple piecing to the sashing? A simple traditional Dresden Block got an interesting setting by adding a small Nine-Patch in the sashing.

I added some piecing to create stars in the sashing of this quilt that was created from blocks made by my Redbird Bee mates.

Have you ever thought of doing a half-drop of your blocks in alternate rows? It's a super easy change and can be so interesting as you can see in my Squash Blossom quilt!

Tip Three

My third tip is to rotate the blocks. Placing your block on point can make it look totally different!

Garden Lattice from Simply Modern Christmas
In my Six Inch Sampler quilt, I rotated every other block and thought it created a really interesting result...

Tip Four

Remove some of the blocks from the design creating negative space. This is one I'd like to try to use a bit more, but here are 2 examples...

The mini quilt I received from Greenville MQG after serving as president for a year. They took my "Kiss Block" and created a setting with negative space for signatures.

This is a quilt that uses an  "Hour Glass" block, done in all Amy Butler fabric.  I randomly eliminated blocks in the setting...

Tip Five

Change the size of the block! Go big or go mini - changing the size can make the quilt look so different. It's fairly simple math to resize a block and if you need some instructions, do a Google search - there's lots of them. (My tip - always work with the finished size of the block, resize and then add seam allowance)

The Swoon quilt has been one of my favorites! The original is 24" square and I love how different it looks in a smaller size (hard to tell from a picture, but makes a big difference in real life!)...

You can make a mini of your favorite pattern for a totally different quilt. My Garden Lattice quilt in mini (instructions here)...

Tip Six

Make the background of one block a different fabric/color. This is another technique that I need to try more often. My quilt from Elizabeth Hartman's Book "Practical Guide to Patchwork"...

Well, that was fun looking back at how I've made a pattern my own. I'm sure there are more ideas! If you've tried any other ways to change up a pattern, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

I'm linking up with Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs and Yvonne at Quilting Jet Girl for their Tips and Tutorials Festival. Be sure to visit all the other link ups for some great tips!


  1. What an interesting post Cynthia! I also try to make a pattern more 'me'! And you have given me plenty of ideas to try!

  2. Thanks for compiling this collection of ideas. I think it will be of great help to many. xo

  3. These are all great tips and ideas, Cindy. I tend to already write patterns with big blocks, and I'd love to see someone tackle making them even larger, that would be neat!! Thank you for sharing and linking up with the Festival.

  4. Brilliant tips! I love your versions of these quilts and I've always wondered how you tackle the changes you have made.

  5. Great post! It was fun seeing all 'your' quilts and how you changed them up.

  6. Thank you so much for this inspiration. I do love many patterns and just not crazy about the displayed sample. Your advice is very good. Gosh, I am so happy that you shared so many different ideas. Sometimes I try something different but always a little worried about running into a problem. Thanks so much for the encouragement

  7. Great post-- thanks for all of the tips. I usually change patterns too (a friend once said "can't you ever just follow the pattern?" Apparently not! :)

  8. These are fantastic tips, Cynthia! I'm in a guild that has a block lotto and I'll definitely be trying a few of your ideas to make some of the blocks play nicely together. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! :)

  9. It's great to see all these tips in one post. Your version of Nutmeg Stars was transformational! I agree that patterns are more fun and challenging as jumping off points for further inspiration.

  10. These are great tips! I feel like I should be braver about changing things a bit from the pattern, so I'll definitely think about applying what you wrote!

  11. Great post as these are all wonderful suggestions. I especially like what you did with the Amy Butler hour glass blocks. And of course different fabrics can make a huge difference even when all else is the same. I love playing around with my own patterns to see how I can change the look. It's quite common for me to get stuck in this playing on variations stage and never get to the actually making. Need to make more.

  12. How helpful to have so many ideas gathered together here. I confess I almost always change things. I may not set out to, or I may have changes as part of my initial plan, but just recreating something doesn't seem to be something I do very well.

  13. Cincy, I loved how you changed up many of the patterns and your quilts shown with the original pattern. I too hardly ever make a pattern like the original. In fact, being primarily a scrap quilter, I just go with what I have, most of the time. I love that your tips are all in one place. A very informative post. Thanks so much. We miss you here in St. Charles. Hope you are enjoying retirement.

  14. I change up patterns too, but you have provided lots of new ideas to try.

  15. A brilliantly helpful post! Each tip is so totally "doable." I've incorporated a few of your tips in my quilts, but have never omitted blocks to create negative space nor simply changed the background color; something to consider in the future! Thank you, friend.

  16. I love this post. Makes me want to get out of the box and go rogue.

  17. Wonderful and helpful tutorial. Gorgeous quilts too. Thanks for the tutorial.

  18. Interesting ideas. Just great and thought-provoking. Congrats on winning for the 2018 Tips & Tutorials Festival!

  19. Congratulations on winning in the Festival! This is a great tutorial!


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