An archive of sewing tutorials and inspiration


Choosing a Quilt Pattern or Design - Beginner's Quilting Tutorial Series

This post is part of the Beginner's Quilting Tutorial Series. We are going through an in depth series which will teach you everything you need to know to establish a solid quilting foundation. Click here to see all of the posts and learn more about the series. When you first begin quilting you may find yourself overwhelmed with all the different quilt designs and patterns. I remember when I first began I would stare at pictures of quilts, thinking "how in the world did they piece that together". The only thing that made sense in my mind was simple patchwork piecing.

Starting with Patchwork

Pezzy, Pezzy, Pezzy

For our beginner series I decided to create exactly that. A simple patchwork quilt. I believe this is a really awesome way to start out. Here is my reasoning. You will get the opportunity to learn how to cut, piece, baste, quilt, bind, and tag a quilt. Which are all fundamentals to creating any quilt. Doing a patchwork quilt also allows you to use pre-cut fabrics, which will minimize the amount of cutting you have to do. You won't be working with any bias seams, which makes learning piecing much easier. And even though some do not think so, the possibilities are endless with a patchwork quilt. There are millions of different fabrics to choose from so you can make your own unique quilt!

One Method at a Time

Once you have a simple patchwork quilt behind you, I would encourage you to start looking into patterns that will allow you to try one new method. For example…

This pattern will challenge you to create borders and add sashing to your blocks.

This pattern will challenge you to create flying geese.

This pattern will challenge you to make half-square triangles. If you continue to try one new method with each project you will get a ton of experience, and will find out quickly what you really enjoy doing. You may try paper piecing and hate it, but absolutely love working with triangles. Trying these different techniques will allow you to define your quilting style.

Designing your Own Quilts

Some of you may never have the desire to design your own quilts. You may find it far more enjoyable to take a awesome pattern and make a unique one-of-a-kind quilt. And believe me there is no shortage of amazing quilt patterns! There is nothing wrong with using patterns, in fact doing so can be a very rewarding challenge! But, what if you are the type who is shopping at the grocery store and picks up a box of kleenex and immediately thinks "oh, this would make an awesome quilt block!".

Westminster Quilt

Being a graphic designer ideas for quilts are naturally rushing through my mind. In fact sometimes I will be drawing quilt block ideas on the steamy shower door, when i'm showering. I find myself drawing quilting patterns all over my daughters coloring books and yes, a simple kleenex box can be oh, so inspiring. So when I first began quilting I immediately wanted to start designing my own quilts. What I learned real fast was without the foundation of the different piecing and quilting techniques I would design something cool and have no clue how it could even be made. So I decided it would be best to stick to patterns for a while, and to direct my design skills to choosing fabrics and making the pattern I choose my very own. Now that I have advanced more and have a basic understanding of a lot of different quilting methods, I have been able to sit down and design quilts that can not only be made, but made using fabric sparingly and using my time wisely.

Patterns, Tutorials. What?

Up until this point, when I have been speaking of "patterns" I am basically just referring to any pattern, tutorial, etc. whether purchased or free, that walks you through a specific quilt design. But, now its time to get more specific. What is the difference between a pattern, tutorial, book, magazine, etc.


There is no set rule of what makes a pattern, but typically a pattern will include a required supplies and fabric list, basic instructions on how to assemble the quilt top using just words, sometimes pictures, and sometime diagrams. Patterns usually are not in depth, and assume you have a specific experience to use them.


Tutorials on the other hand, typically tend to be much more descriptive and step-by-step often times teaching you methods. They are the bread and butter and exactly how I learned to quilt!

Quilting Books

Quilting books will definitely vary depending on what their written purpose is. Some books will teach basics of quilting and then have a few quilt patterns to create. Some books are just a book of patterns.


In magazines you will most often find basic patterns for quilt tops, also assuming you have specific experience.

Summing it all up!

So lets sum all this up…

Where do you start?

I encourage you to start right where you are. Follow along with this series and we will make a simple patchwork quilt together learning all the basic fundamentals of quilting, so you can walk away ready to advance.

What do I do next?

Once you have made your first quilt try to branch out and choose another project that will teach you one new method. Don't be scared! If you continue to do this each time you will learn a ton!

Easy Pezzy Crib Quilt

Next week we start quilting! We will talk about rotary cutting and preparing to piece our patchwork.
Alyssa Williams

Alyssa Williams

Creator of Pile O' Fabric

Alyssa Lichner is a graphic designer turned avid sewist. She writes modern quilting tutorials and shares techniques and inspiration on her blog, Pile O’ Fabric. Alyssa has a passion for exploring different techniques and applying them to modern designs. She is thankful to have the opportunity to share these techniques, through her tutorials, patterns, and classes with quilters around the world. She always encourages her readers and students to challenge themselves to try new things and to approach quilting with a fearless attitude.