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5 elements of a good quilt design

5 elements of a good quilt design

by Jennifer Houlden

Christmas really is just around the corner and now that I have all my projects for others completed I thought that I would make something for myself – what a novel idea! How many of us actually make things for ourselves at Christmas? So follow along this week as I take you through the steps to create a charming Christmas runner and give helpful tips and hints along the way. Today I’m going to briefly discuss 5 elements of a good quilt design.

The design

Because I don’t have a whole lot of time I need to make this a fairly simple design yet charming and fun. I could draft it all out in a program on the computer but I actually would rather just sketch it out on a piece of paper, figure out the math in my head (keeps my brain working) and make changes as I go.

Pencil drawing on graph paper of a Christmas table runner sitting on a blue cutting mat

Pencil sketch of charming Christmas runner

The blocks and border are going to include 4 different shapes – diamond, triangle, pentagon and hexagon. My plan is to make a tree with the triangles, a snowman with the pentagons, a wreath with the hexagons and the diamonds will be in the border. At least that is the plan right now – it could change as the week rolls on.

My dining room table is not massive and since I only have so much time this isn’t going to be a huge piece but it isn’t going to be a miniature either. Something in-between.

What makes a good design?

For everyone it’s different but for me it’s symmetry, lines, proportion and the illusion of movement within the design.

Proportion – proper proportion in a design makes for an eye pleasing piece – if the proportion is off then it doesn’t quite look right. This quilt has equal proportion as the background blocks are all the same size and the borders are equal all the way around.

Symmetry – this quilt is symmetrical in that the blocks and borders are equal – I could have made them asymmetrical which would create a totally different look. Some quilts look good asymmetrical while others need the symmetry to be balanced and eye pleasing.

Lines – a mixture of lines whether they are straight, curved, vertical, diagonal or horizontal that complement each other and create an eye pleasing effect. This piece uses a mixture of vertical and horizontal lines in the main quilt and adds in other lines with the applique pieces giving different effects with each shape.

Movement – the use of movement in a quilt can be created by using lines, design elements or quilt blocks. These features can create secondary designs which give the illusion of movement within the overall design. I’m hoping that the shapes in the applique will create movement within each block.

Color – is also a very important element and choosing fabrics that complement each other and work together is the a key to good design.

Let’s get started with the actual project.

A variety of quilting tools and templates lying on a blue cutting mat

Tools gathered for the project

Step 1 Gather tools and fabric

This project is going to be a mixture of piecing and applique using different shapes to create the charming Christmas runner.

I’ve gathered up some tools here that I’ll need to create this piece such as templates, fusible web and of course the usual suspects of cutters, rulers, mats, scissors, needles and thread.

And some fabric of course – lots of it in wonderful reds, greens, golds and cream. I didn’t have to go far for my fabric as my stash was very cooperative and provided it all.

Variety of Christmas fabrics in green, red, gold, cream and black

Fabric selection

Step 2 Cutting the fabric

I’m starting with the background, sashing and borders. I’ll add all the applique and embellishments after the piece has been quilted. I use to put the applique onto the background fabric first and then do all my stitching using a stabilizer but over the years I have changed how I do things and now add the applique last and stitch it down through all the layers of the quilt.

This will be a great project to use up some of those scraps that you may have accumulated.

cream fabric – background & borders

Cut 3 – 9½″ squares.

red fabric – sashing

Cut 12 – 1½″ squares of a variety of reds

green fabric – sashing

Cut 12 – 1½″ squares of a variety of reds

gold fabric – sashing

Cut 12 – 1½″ squares of a variety of reds

Red, green and gold small fabric squares on larger cream fabrics squares on a blue cutting mat

Fabric squares cut for background and sashing

As you can see from my fabrics I used a combination of Christmas fabrics and ones that are everyday cottons but in Christmas colors.

I’ll see you tomorrow as we continue on with the charming Christmas runner and make the 5 elements of a good quilt design come to life.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

Go to part 2: 3 essential tips for adding borders to a quilt



christine murray December 15, 2016 - 10:42 am

Love this post. As a new sewer, this was very helpful.

Cheryl. M December 14, 2016 - 5:02 pm

I will follow the rest of this blog!

Delaine December 14, 2016 - 1:14 pm

Thank you – this was a perfect lesson in quilting.

CateD December 13, 2016 - 10:37 pm

really enjoying this series, thanks

Beth B December 13, 2016 - 4:02 pm

Great Info that can be applied to many projects.

Harriet December 13, 2016 - 1:46 pm

Thanks for an introduction to a new to me blog.

Carol Henderson December 13, 2016 - 1:23 pm

Always learn something new when I log onto these sites.

Cindy December 13, 2016 - 7:42 am

Thank you for your website and blog. I’m a new quilter and I have learned a lot from them.


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