How to make a Quilt Question 1

Yesterday as I was cutting out a new quilt and thinking about what I can make for Chad’s friend, I started thinking about how others go through the process.  We all end up with the same end result . . a finished quilt.  Well, some of us end up with bags and boxes of pieces but every now and then I end up with a finished quilt.

I’m going to ask you some questions.  This is a test!  Not really.  Don’t answer any more than I ask, ok?  There will be a series of questions in different blog posts.  Maybe I’ll compile all the answers into a . . I don’t know . . a blog post or a .pdf file . . something easier to access than a bunch of blog comments.

Since I’m pretty much self taught as far as quilting, I almost always learn something from asking questions or watching others quilt.  Hopefully we’ll all learn something through this little series.

Question #1:

What comes first . . the chicken or the egg?  Definitely not the chicken coop, right?  No . . that’s not really the first question.

The first question is . . what usually comes first . . the pattern or the fabric?   Do you find a fabric that you love and let it speak to you about how to make it or do you come up with a pattern (purchased, self designed, modified purchased, whatever) and then choose the fabrics?

Don’t answer any more than what’s asked . . or you may not have an answer for the next question! 🙂




  1. 2


    I tend to find a pattern that intriques me. Then I go and find the fabric. I would answer WHERE I find the fabric… lol… but that wasn’t asked!!! Hee Hee Hee
    Hugs, Trish in Kansas

  2. 3


    Always the pattern first, unless I’m designing from scratch then the fabrics get picked first. I will say on wedding present quilts, I always do double Irish chain, everybody gets the same, the colors are customized for their tastes and I have it set to memory, plus it goes fast and has room for dramatic quilting. I probably answered more than you wanted this time……….I just won’t answer the next question.


  3. 7

    Rona says

    The pattern first then fabric. Although I am trying to reverse some of that thinking and have blocks and then pattern.

  4. 9

    Laura says

    Preferably, the pattern, and then I pull the fabrics from my stash. I have a terrible time when I have to find a pattern to go with a specific group of fabrics.

  5. 13


    I have very rarely used published patterns, mostly block dictionaries and my own doodlings. I am, however, a lover of fabrics and often find inspiration from them.

    Honestly, my first step is thinking of the intended recipient first and then it’s a matter of whatever grabs me next. ~ksp

  6. 16

    quilterbee says

    The fabric speaks to me and calls my name and so do the patterns. So it depends. Sometimes it’s a pattern I see in a book or magazine and sometimes it’s the fabric bundles of fat quarter or charm squares that tempt me first. I consider the fabric and pattern both if it is for a gift for someone else.


  7. 17


    For me, it’s always the block or pattern that calls to me!! I must make it and then I fill in with the fabrics I want!

  8. 21


    Probably 75% of the time, it’s the pattern. That other 25% is when fabric(s) reached off the shelf or jumped out of the computer screen, grabbed me by the wallet, and demanded that I take it (them) home with me.

  9. 22


    If I buy a fabric I just love I usually have a hard time parting with it so I would say the design comes first.

  10. 23


    Fabric, 90% of the time. I’m always trying to figure out what pattern I can make with this fabulous piece of fabric and not run out.

  11. 24

    Marilyn says

    Oh – it is the fabric! It somehow jumps into my hands! How I love fabric!


  12. 25


    I’m with a lot of the other commenters. The vast majority of the time it is the pattern first — maybe 95% of the time. A lot of my fabric is shy — it just won’t tell me what it wants. I know it’s something, but it’s just beyond the tip of my tongue.

  13. 28


    A little bit of both, but mostly it’s the fabric that talks to me first. I do have to feel good about the fabric and pattern working together.

  14. 29


    wow — interesting question and answers! Once in a while I’ll find a pattern I have to make and then look for the right fabrics, but more often I choose at least a couple of fabrics first, and then figure out what I’m going to do with them, and then fill in the rest of the fabrics.

  15. 31


    I think the pattern? Usually I’ll see a pattern that I think would look well with *this* fabric or *that* fabric.

    Or do I mean the fabric? I buy the fabric with no plan in mind… sooner or later I stumble on a pattern that seems perfect for that pile of fabric and use it.

    I dunno! I just quilt. 😉

  16. 32

    dawn says

    The fabric and colors speak to me first. then I will find a pattern I make a quilt around the fabrics I love. I usually have a 5 yd rule when purchasing LOL so that I wont run out of “the perfect fabric for this” LOL (can you tell my stash will last me way beyond my years??)

    If I see a pattern that I love, it is usually that I love the color combo so again it goes back to the fabrics………….

  17. 35


    In the past I have purchased fabrics that I loved and then come up with a pattern.
    Problem with that is often I needed more fabric and could not find additional fabric to complete the quilt like I wanted it to look. So now, I am taking a pattern I love and buying the fabric for the pattern.

  18. 36

    Another Linda says

    Usually the fabric speaks to me, it says “buy me now, find a pattern for me later” LOL

  19. 38


    I think that I am a 50/50 person on starting with both an inspiration pattern or fabrics first. I really can’t decide which I start with more often.

  20. 41

    Julianne says

    I have made quilts both ways…. Sometimes I find a pattern that I love. Then I find a fabric that I love for a starting point. I start pulling fabric untill I am happy with the selection sometimes not even useing the starting fabric in the top. But sometimes I have a fabric that I want to show case so I find a pattern that will do that.

    So I guess my answer is both.

  21. 43


    I think the pattern or an upcoming mystery. That’s fun for me. Since doing Disappearing 9-patch the fabric calls to me too though.

  22. 46


    Either. Sometimes I have patterns I want to try and fabrics I want to use. Sometimes I can pick a pattern I wanted to use and a fabric I’ve been saving, sometimes I use a fabric from my special pile and search out a pattern, and sometimes I pick a pattern and search out the fabrics!

  23. 47


    More often than not, the pattern comes first. When I see a pattern I love, then I find fabric (in my stash or the LQS) to make it my own.

    An example of an exception would be a One Block Wonder or Stack N Whack — the fabric calls to be made into that kind of unique pattern. But that’s much less often.

  24. 48


    95% of the time, the fabric (and if you saw my stash, you’d know that’s true). Most often I have no clue what will be made with the fabric…so the fabric definitely comes first for me and the pattern might be weeks (months…years???) down the road!

  25. 50

    Robin says

    I would say both- usually I see something in a magazine and have to use that particular pattern with that same fabric because it was the combination of both that I liked.

  26. 55


    The fabric definitely comes first! Ah, the ever-burgeoning stash and all the possibility it holds…

  27. 63


    Sometimes the fabric, sometimes the pattern.
    I would hesitate to guess a percentage for one or the other, but I suspect that for me fabric inspires more quilts than my patterns do

  28. 65

    Lynne in Hawaii says

    Pattern…sometimes only for a main block but that is how it starts.

  29. 68

    qltnbe says

    I will fall in love with a fabric and just have to have it, therefore, I need to find a pattern for it. Of course, there are other times that I fall in love with a pattern and have to find something to do it in.

  30. 83


    usually the pattern but I’m always looking for scrappy ideas that use my stash. Most I either modify or use traditional blocks and EQ to come up with my *own* quilt.

  31. 84

    Patricia Andersen says

    First is usually something triggering an inspiration into my daydreams or sleeping dreams or half-waking moments between. When I used to do audio transcription as my daily work these inspirations might come from word-pictures in the transcription itself. Otherwise the inspiration can come from most anything in my environment. As I keep an extensive stash and am always adding to it the supplies for materializing these inspirations are at hand. As for patterns, don’t need no patterns!

    On the other hand, my alternate stash for Nadelstern projects do rely on a sort of pattern mindset with the graph paper and graph template plastic. When I’m doing those it’s the pattern in the fabric that’s doing the work, not me so much. These are two entirely different ways to create quilts and I love ’em both.

  32. 85

    Sue Abrey says

    Always the pattern for me, even if I am planning to try and “do scrappy” (which is a whole new ball game for me) I start from the pattern.

  33. 89


    I definitely like the pattern first. I’ve tried fabric first…and that’s why I now have some stash to bust!

  34. 90


    50-50. Though buying fabric without a plan is what has gotten me into so much trouble with an out of control stash so I am trying to move more towards pattern first.

  35. 92

    Sherry B says

    Since I’m a newbie teaching myself, the pattern usually comes first but I do
    sometimes find fabric that is so wonderful that I have to buy it and wait for a
    pattern to come along.

  36. 94

    pdudgeon says

    85% pattern and 15% fabric.
    when i first started quilting it used to be just the reverse!

  37. 95


    For quilts the fabric comes first – for small wall hanging types the pattern comes first.

  38. 102

    Ronda K Beyer says

    Fabric first, I make my quilts for show (well most of them) so I use my own pattern/design

  39. 103


    Not that I’m the one to ask… but pattern! I always look for something easy that I can do!

    Hey, I went to the quilt shop up in Holton,KS on Saturday and signed up for a block a month club. Hopefully I can keep up!

  40. 104

    Denise says

    It depends. Fabric always speaks to me very loudly so it is usually the fabric. The exception is if I’m playing in EQ and have come up with a design – then I am not always drawing with a specific fabric in mind.

  41. 105

    Lisa says

    I’ve done it both ways! I’m working on a quilt now for a baby. The dad is a guitar player (and lead singer) in a band. I found some black batik fabric with guitars on it. I wasn’t sure about a pattern, so I’ve decided to do nine patches between squares of the batik fabric. The quilt I did during Easter was totally different. I was looking at the quiltmaker’s quilts book and found a great pattern. I remembered I had purchased (5 years ago) some pink fabric with sandals on it. This was perfect for the 7 year old I was making the quilt for. My 17 year old daughter did the most fabulous job picking out the coordinating fabric!

  42. 106


    Most of the time I find a fabric I really like and then think how to make it into a quilt .But that was before stashbusting. Now I find a pattern and think about what fabric I have on hand and go that route.Or look at what fabric I have on hand and then decide what pattern I’m going to use. I guess this doesn’t help much.

  43. 107

    Norma Bourgeois says

    Fabric for me. I make quilts by color schemes – pink/brown, blue/yellow, red/white and they are usually pretty scrappy; that is I use many many different combinations of those colors together. So then I have to choose a pattern. I love the yellow brick road pattern, one block wonder, DP9, nine patch quilts. But the more fabric choices I have the better. Of course most of my fabric is fat quarters because I participate in a monthly fat quarter exchange and have been collecting fats for 15 years. Right now I’m looking for a pattern for a black and white quilt for my son. I’m leaning real hard on Bonnie Hunter’s Strip Twist.

    Of course you’re going to make Chad’s best friend a quilt. His friend couldn’t ask for a more personal wedding quilt, one that will be cherished all the more because YOU made it.

  44. 108

    Linda C says

    Sometimes it’s pattern. More often it’s fabric; I spot something I really love and figure out how to use it. Sometimes, it’s the combo of pattern and the fabric shown in the pattern.

  45. 111

    Linda says

    hmmm….had to think about this to realize what it is I do, but definitely the pattern.

  46. 115

    Sandie says

    Inspiration comes from either direction – Fabric or pattern – Just gotta be looking the right way at the right time! ; )

  47. 117

    Lizzy Hentze says

    The pattern is usually what I choose first but sometimes a fabric bewitches me!

  48. 118


    I’m 50/50… if I see a pattern I like then I’ll hunt for the fabrics to do what I want with it… and if I see fabric I want to use I’ll find a pattern or design one myself with EQ

  49. 119

    Cynthia H., El Cerrito, CA says

    Color scheme or size needed. I design my own, so pattern isn’t the initial factor.

  50. 121


    I’m either/or. If I find a fabric I love I build a quilt around it. If I find a pattern I love I choose the fabrics I like to make it.

  51. 122


    Well for me the pattern comes most of the time first, but sometimes the fabric comes first and than when I am seeing a pattern somewhere I think that could work perfectly for that fabric.

  52. 126


    Usually fabric, as it talks to me, and I love to design around it, or have the special pieces already on hand when I discover a gorgeous pattern. I can’t wait to design my own patterns in EQ6 now. 🙂

    That said, if I see a pattern, that just calls to me, especially for a specific person, I don’t hesitate to grab it.


  53. 129


    Can go either way, I’ve fallen in love with patterns because I like the design or want to try the technique and then looked for fabrics to make it sing and I’ve fallen for fabrics because I like the color, “texture” or how they coordinate together and have waited to find the perfect pattern to showcase them.