Pinwheel Quilt: Designing your Quilt Top

IMG_0207Now that you’ve researched the different quilt sizes and made a decision on what size meets your needs, the next step is to make a few decisions about how to lay out your quilt top.

Since our first quilt is the pinwheel quilt pictured to the right, we will use the basic design here to talk about what the layout should be. As you can see from the photo, the quilt has no borders (the design goes from edge to edge), and it has two solid color fabrics. The quilt appears to be a queen size quilt. I also notice that the pattern has a pinwheel block in the corner. We will use this information when coming up with our pattern.

Step 1: Tweak your quilt size to work with your design.

Since I want to make a queen size quilt, I take a look at the standard quilt sizes, and I make adjustments for my particular case. It lists a typical commercial size queen size quilt as 90″ x 90″. I have a headboard and footboard, and I like my quilts on the small size of standard, so I am going to round those measurements to my liking. In this case, I’ll go with 85″ x 85″. Why? A couple reasons:

  1. I’ve decided to make my pinwheel blocks be 5.5″ with a finished size of 5″ because that makes the math quite straightforward: our quilt is 17 blocks by 17 blocks because 17 x 5 = 85.
  2. Because the design of this quilt is on a diagonal, it needs to have an odd number of blocks so that you can have a pinwheel block in the center of the quilt and a pinwheel block in each corner. In this case, a square quilt works well for the pattern, which means that if I go one or two rows longer than my width, I will no longer have a pinwheel in two corners of my design. If you wanted to keep the pinwheel blocks in the corners, and NOT have a  square quilt, you would have to have a delta of four blocks between the length and the width to make that work with this pattern. If you were to make a twin size quilt, this delta is quite simple to accommodate (for a twin, I’d do 65″ x 85″), but king and queen sizes, I think square is the way to go. If 85″ x 85″ is too small for you, 95″ x 95″ also works. For a king size quilt, 105″ by 105″ would probably work best. If not having a pinwheel in the corners does not bother you like it bothers me — like maybe the top of the quilt is covered by a giant heap of pillows —  you can chop the design off by rows, too.

There are other ways to adjust the size if you have an exact measurement in mind, of course. Other than removing or adding rows, you can add a border around your design, or you can scale the block size.

For scaling the block size, you keep the same number of blocks, but you need to make the block sizes slightly bigger or smaller. For example, right now, we have chosen a 5.5″ block, which has a 5″ finished size and yields an 85″ x 85″ quilt. If you wanted to make the design slightly larger, but without adding a full row and column, you could add 0.5″ to the finished block size (6.0″ unfinished or 5.5″ finished). Using our queen size quilt as an example, this would add 8.5″ to the length and width of your quilt, which would give you a 93.5″ square quilt, which might better suit your needs size-wise. If you did a 19 x 19 block quilt with a 4.5″ unfinished block and 4″ finished, you’d have a 96″ quilt, but it’s a lot more blocks to make. It’s totally up to you.

Step 2: Draw your pattern.

EPSON001There is really expensive software out there that allows you to draw quilt patterns, but I prefer to draw my own. Math is good for your brain and drawing is soulful, even when you’re not particularly good at it (like me!). I print out graph paper here (I like 1/5″ cartesian). When drawing this particular quilt, I drew a 34 x 34 grid, which means that each pinwheel square is 2 squares wide by 2 squares high. Go ahead and draw it if you like — it’s actually pretty fun! Or you can just download mine here.


Step 3: Choose your Fabrics.

The hardest part for me of any quilt is deciding what color of fabric to use. For the Pinwheel Quilt, I used two Kona Cotton fabrics: Kona Cotton Natural and Kona Cotton Woodrose. Kona Cotton Natural is what I always use for ‘white’ in vintage looking quilts. Color-wise, in my opinion, it most closely resembles the muslin used in vintage quilts, but it is definitely not white. I strongly prefer anything that more closely resembles the vintage look (not bright white!), but use what you like. As for the Kona Cotton Woodrose, I’m really happy with this color of pink. It is not an extremely bright pink, which gives it a slightly more aged and vintage feel.

Next up…Calculating your Fabric Amounts

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