Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Playing in Paint

When it comes to quilting (and many other things), I'm a low tech girl, so when I was having trouble coming up with a pattern for a quilt this week, I chose a low tech method for figuring it out. 

I'm interrupting this post for a SPOILER ALERT and warning to my daughter, who occasionally snoops here. J, do not read any further or you will spoil the surprise. (She knows this, but just in case...)

Okay, I warned her. 

This quilt is for my grandson, who will make his appearance shortly after the beginning of the new year. I've really struggled with what I wanted to do. I have a color palette based on his nursery colors and have been collecting fabric, which is backwards from how I usually work. (I usually have an idea and then buy whatever fabric I need.) I've gone back and forth between a pictorial quilt (streets? zoo?) and a geometric one. I've finally decided on a geometric quilt, specifically, a row quilt. When my granddaughter was born, I made her a row quilt, so I thought one with a similar layout but different blocks would be fun. Once that decision was made, I was still having trouble getting started, and I didn't want to just start cutting my fabric. So I decided to use some low tech tools: graph paper and the Paint program on my computer. (I actually got out my color pencils before I came to my senses and saw that Paint would be much more efficient.)   

First, I drew some patterns on my graph paper:

I've been into pinwheels lately, so I looked through my old copy of The Quilter's Album of Blocks & Borders by Jinny Beyer and some magazines for pinwheel ideas, and drew some of them along with some rows of chevrons. Then I traced the pattern with tracing paper to get rid of the blue lines because I wasn't sure if they'd show up on the scanner. 

Then the fun began. After scanning, the picture, I opened it with Paint, chose some custom colors to match my fabric, and colored away. I came up with two basic options:


I printed out a bunch of copies and started cutting and "pasting" (taping rows over rows) to balance and tweak the design.

After lots of cutting and taping, and some additional play in Paint, I came up with this:

I drew my blocks out on graph paper to check my dimensions and have been rotary cutting ever since. Now I get to throw all the pieces up on the design wall. I'm sure there will be more tweaking, but it feels good to finally be working instead of mulling things over. And over. 

I've often thought of buying a computer quilt planning program, but have never gotten around to it. I also haven't used Paint for a long time, but it was fun to go back to it again, and I think it worked just as well as a higher tech program for planning this quilt. 

If you'd like to see my granddaughter's row quilt, check back tomorrow for Throwback Thursday. It matches the Big Girl Bed Quilt I've been blogging about for weeks. 

I'm linking up today with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday and with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. 


  1. Wow! What a design! I love graph paper, haven't graduated to software as of yet. It's going to be beautiful!

  2. I also use graph paper and paint; you don't need high tech to get it done! ;) Looks like it's going to be a pretty quilt!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this method of quilt design - your thumbnail picture caught my attention on the Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday page. I'm looking forward to seeing the quilt take shape.
    Allison, UK

  4. Janine Marie, your process is fascinating! I love the look of the final layout and can't wait to see it finished! I find that the Paint program is very useful: I used it to draw all the diagrams for my book too!

  5. This is a fantastic process - I love using graph paper and paint, too. I like how your changed the direction your chevron rows point in the quilt, and I think this is going to have a beautiful stained glass look to it when it is finished!

  6. Love your new quilt layout! Isn't graph paper a wonderful thing? Looks fabulous!

  7. Thanks for sharing - just goes to show that low tech works just fine! Your plan looks like it will make a great quilt.

  8. Love this. Great technique and it's going to look awesome.