Tips for reading a quilt pattern

Quilt patterns can prove challenging for beginners and for seasoned quilters. There’s a lot of new lingo if you’re just starting out, and sometimes this can get a bit confusing. Along with my glossary (have you started collecting the posts on social media yet?), you’ll not only know what terms mean, but with these tips you’ll also get an inside scoop on how to start your next quilt using a pattern.

Tip #1: Print out the pattern instructions

Have you ever started a quilt pattern, gotten excited about another quilt pattern and moved number one over to the UFO pile? That happens to many of us, and tracking your progress can help you jump right back in (along with my quilt planner sheet, you’ll not have to worry about this).

This is also the great advantage of using downloadable quilt patterns because you can print it off as many times as you’d like. And, if you’re saving trees, using your iPad and making notes directly on there will also help (I use Goodnotes for this)

Whether you’re printing or using technology, you should take notes.

Tip #2: Take notes on the quilt pattern

You can make notes on your printed pattern or on your device. It’s great to cross out the steps you’ve finished and track your cutting on the diagrams.

Tip #3: Read the whole pattern before you start

Sometimes the question you have in step 2 can be answered in step 22. It may be a foundation step, and on occasion, the current step may not make sense. By reading the entire pattern before you start, you’ll be able to understand why the designer is asking you to do something in a particular way.

Birdtown is made on the embroidery machine.

Tip#4: Check out sewing tools and terminology

I have a handy glossary that you can check out, and there’s a series on terms on social media that you can save and have a glossary on your phone – handy right? If you’ve taken a class with me, you’ll know that I included an explanation of the terminology that I use when I’m making quilts. Over time we quilters assign meaning to words and to make sure we’re all on the same page I explain what I mean. Check out the pattern because often times the designer will include a reference to help you.

Tip #5: Look for the asterisk

The little star – this guy *

The asterisk is used to point out an additional explanation and references later on the page to give you more information.

In the fabric instructions, an asterisk may point to a different cut of fabric that can be used.

Patterns that you can print at home

Tip #6: Common elements in the same designer’s quilt patterns

Generally, designers will include these in a quilt pattern:

  • Fabric requirements
  • Cutting instructions
  • Cutting diagrams
  • Step-by-step instructions for making blocks and assembling the quilt
  • Diagrams showing the layout for each size of quilt

More recent patterns even have colouring sheets so you can plan your quilt (check out my printable patterns, they have colouring sheets!)

Tip #7: Links in patterns, and designer websites

Often times a pattern (if it’s a pdf) will have links to blog posts, video tutorials and other helpful information. Technology is great, isn’t it? Use those links because they serve the same functions as the asterisk: More information and tips. There may be a class, a tutorial or a blog post for the pattern that you’re making. And of course, Google is still your friend. Search for the designer and you’re likely to get a whole lot of resources and information about the quilt you’re making.

quilt pattern planning

Grap this planning sheet to use for your next quilt.

Let me know what you think of this blog post – was it helpful? The best conversations happen in the comments.

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