January 4, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

How to make a simple patchwork quilt tutorial part 1 – Working out the size, design and fabric needed.

Patchwork quilt tutorial part 1 – Working out the size, design and fabric needed

My Thursday evening sewing ladies are making their first patchwork quilt. Patchwork quilts can take a very long time to complete which often makes it quite a daunting task to even start for most beginners and even intermediate sewers. There are lots of different designs you can choose from and if this is your first quilt the design really is everything in terms of success and enthusiasm!

Here is a selection of quilts I’ve made over the years…

quilt 01

This quilt is the first one I ever made and I started it when I was 18 and finished it when I was 20. It’s made entirely from hexagons and the pattern is a well-known traditional patchwork design called ‘Grandmother’s flower garden.’ It was far too ambitious a project for me to do as a first quilt as the hexagons are small and have 6 sides to sew especially as I didn’t have a sewing machine when I started it and half of it I actually hand sewed! I admit to loving and hating this quilt in equal measure in the 2 years it took me to make but as it’s seen me through university, living on a boat for 3 years, picnics with my family –no 3 son is sat on it in the photo – and it currently spends its winters on our bed keeping us warm. It’s now 19 years old and I love it!

quilt 02

This quilt I made as an example of my work to use at craft fairs. It’s made from lots of recycled fabrics and I used white squares with appliqued cupcakes (click here for an applique tutorial) on to add design and interest. The flower border breaks up the white squares and I added a large pink border to finish it off. I like to add borders to my quilts as I think that just as a picture frame pushes your eye to the main part –the picture; I believe fabric borders do the same with patchwork.

quilt 04

This quilt is another appliquéd quilt and I used my sons’ old baby grows and cot bed sheets to make it. I cut the sheets into squares and from the baby grows I cut hearts and hand sewed them onto the squares using blanket stitch. This took forever and if you have a machine that has a blanket stitch I would advise you to use it!

quilt 03

This quilt was made for a customer out of her fabrics and I have to say it was one of my favourites as I wouldn’t have ever chosen the colours myself but having made it both Hubbie and I said we loved it and would have it on our bed!

quilt 05

This is a quilt made as a surprise for my eldest son whilst he was away at his grandparents. It was a whirlwind to get it finished before he came back but very much worth it to see the look on his face when he saw it on his bed. This was made from cutting long strips of fabric and sewing them together as one long length. This is a technique favoured by people who make quilts using ‘jelly rolls’ (Moda is the company that make them) and has become very popular of late as you can made fabulous quilts very quickly so they really suit a beginner.

I love making quilts and the people I’ve made them for have always come back and said how much they like them so I hope you have as much fun making yours as I do mine!

For our quilt we are going to make a simple one using large squares. This is easy to do and won’t take too long but will also teach you the very basics in making quilts so you can then go and learn other techniques to add to your design.

Fabrics to use

Choose fabrics that are of ‘equal weight’ this means that the fabrics are similar thicknesses so you wouldn’t have denim with a thin cotton fabric. I use cotton fabrics as they wash well and are good quality so last for a long time. You can upcycle special fabrics you already have, use your children’s old clothes but also add in new fabrics at the same time. It really is up to you what you’d like to use.

I wouldn’t use stretchy fabrics as once cut they can lose their shape easily which makes them also difficult to sew. Whilst this isn’t impossible it has hard for beginners to work with stretchy fabrics.

I always chose fabrics around a colour theme. The first quilt above was made using a coordinating range from liberty, the second quilt was based around pinks and greens and the last 2 quilts were hot pink and white and red, white and blue. Of course if you’d prefer to mix up the colours that’s absolutely fine too, this is your project and although I give guidelines there are no hard and fast rules. You can also buy plain fabric and make your own design using the decorative stitches on your machine. Click on this link for a decorative stitch tutorial.

I have my material now how much do I need?

We are going to make a single quilt 140cms x 200cms. I like my quilts to hang over the sides of the bed and definitely cover the duvet. A normal single duvet is 120cms x 200cms so I’ve added another 20cms to make sure this happens. You will need a template of 22cms x22cms to cut 70 squares of your fabric. I collect used cereal packets  and make my templates out of them and once used they are then kept in a box for future projects. Draw a 22 x 22 cms square on the cereal packet then cut it out making sure you stick to the lines as closely as possible as even if you are slightly off the line the size won’t be quite right. Using squares of this size will give you the finished quilt size of 140cms x 200cms – taking off 1cm each side of the 22cms x 22cms template square for the hem.

So that’s part 1 of the tutorial. I’ve explained what we’re going to do, what design we’re working towards and what you need to get started with your quilt.

Part 2 next week – arranging your squares into the design you’d like to sew and making sure that you’ve a plan so once you start sewing you can make the design that you’d planned!

Click on this link for part 2.


  • Im quite excited, I’m going to make one for my daughters big girls room, we are planning on decorating for her in the next 6 weeks, she going to go fro. Her toddler bed to a full size single so I think the will be perfect addition.

    • I am so excited by this! So many people are joining in and you’ll be making something you will walk past her room and say ‘I made that!’ and she’ll love because you did. Let me know how you get on 🙂 Emma x

  • I love this… thank you xx

  • Thank you so much for this. I must admit though my first single quilt I am making at present is out of control. I ‘sew’ wish you had done this before I started 😀

    • Anything can be saved! Which bit is out of control? x

  • I was looking for a New Year’s project to start 🙂 I want to make a quilt for my Goddaughter and am very excited now!! Though I am a complete novice to sewing ‘big’ projects like this and have only really sewn by hand.. hm..

    • It’ll be fab to sew together as we can swap ideas and if anyone gets stuck I’m always on my facebook page. Your Goddaughter will have a fabulous quilt she’ll love! Emma x

  • Hi, can I ask what width you made your strips for you jellyroll quilt?

    Love the tutorials, make small patchwork quilts already, but inspired to take on a larger project now 🙂

    • Hi Margot. I think the strips were around 6.5cms wide but I’ll have a check. How I made them was using a long strip of wood and cutting the strips using it. I then had to calculate how long my very long strip (when I’d sewn them all together needed to be to make sure when I folded it and folded it I came out with a single sized quilt top) this needed to be 9,600cms long! I will be doing a jelly roll strip quilt tutorial after the ‘Make a simple patchwork quilt’ tutorial if that helps. Emma x

  • I saw this on facebook. Thank you for this. I’m at present making my son a quilt. He has designed it and chosen the colours. Love all your work.

    Louise x

  • you have inspired me so much, and your simple, clear instruction have made me so much less daunted by the thought of starting a quilt. I have longed to make one for each of my children out of their old clothes for years now and you have really motived me. Am off to cut my 22x22cm square right now! right, where’s the cocopops box gone???? xx

  • I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly. I am quite sure I will learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

    • That’s so kind of you to say! If you click on ‘follow the cottage’ on the main page you’ll get my blog sent directly to you. Emma x

  • Thank you!!! After searching for EVER you are the first website to tell me how many square of what size I will need to make a single blanket!!! I’m too much of a beginner to try work it out!! Thanks again!! Hopefully my blanket for my granny’s 90th bday will work out okay!! X

    • I’m really pleased to hear that, make you come back with a few photos when you have finished. It really inspires people to see what other beginers have done. 🙂

  • I’ve wanted to make a memory quilt for so long now and before finding your wonderful tutorials I had already started cutting my daughters clothes into hexagons from a template I was given. I am tempted to keep what I have done and rather than start sewing them together I’ll start a new memory from my little boys clothing and use squares this time. Maybe when I’m braver I’ll do the hexagon one as I’ve yet to make a quilt and I’ll probably do it all by hand anyway – yikes!!

  • Thank you so much for posting this. Can’t wait to start making mine. I have previously made dresses so I’m hoping it not going to be too difficult.

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