Thursday, 8 August 2013

Designing Paper Pieced Patterns

A few people have recently asked me what software I use to design my paper pieced patterns, so I thought I'd write a wee post on the subject.

I would love to say that I use EQ7 (a copy will hopefully be winging its way towards me soon!), but at the moment I use a program called Quilt Assistant. It is a piece of freeware that can be used to design individual blocks.

It definitely has its limitations, but all in all I'm really happy with what I can achieve and I am learning new tips and tricks all the time.

For Geometric blocks, I just doodle until I come up with something that I like.

With pictorial blocks, I take a picture of some kind which I use as inspiration. Sometimes its a sketch. Sometimes its a photos- just whatever works.

One thing that I have had to learn is that the picture is for inspiration and guidance and is not the only way that a block can be constructed. In fact some of my best design decisions have come when I have veered away from the inspiration image and have created something that works better for paper piecing. Changing the angle of a leg or the position of a wing can make the difference between an impossible block and a simple one.

I often find that I need to take a step away from a design and let it fester away at the back of my mind for a few days or weeks. At these times I will find that the solution to my problem pops into my mind at an inopportune moment. Like when I'm driving to work or feeding the kids.

The fantail is a classic example of this. I had been trying to design a fantail block for many months. To start with, I tried having too many feathers in the tail- being too accurate to real life. Then I couldn't find a way to make the feathers rounded at the end of the tail. I tried and tried and it just wasn't working. I laid it aside for months and then suddenly when I was busy with something completely different I realised how I could make the tail work. It really was a case of not pushing the design, but letting it take the lead.

Another trick that I have learnt is that I have the tendency to put too much detail in my designs. In the final stages of preparing a pattern, I look at the pieces critically. Is this piece really necessary? Is it there to be accurate to the inspiration drawing or is it there because it is needed? Simplicity is the name of the game.
As I think I have said before, it is my job as a pattern designer to provide blocks that work well. If others can't piece them accurately,then I believe that it is often my fault as much as theirs!

Quilt Assistant will automatically number your blocks for you. I NEVER make use of this facility. The control freak in me likes to number my own pieces as I generally have a plan clear in my mind while I am designing.

If you decide to give quilt assistant a go, I highly recommend having a look in the forum for tips and tutorials how to use it. If you have any other questions about quilt assistant, feel free to get in touch and I'll do my best to help out.


  1. Thanks for a glimpse into how you work your magic. Love the swan, by the, way. That last color coded shot really helps me visualize how the block is broken down. Thanks!

  2. Ohh that's fab. I always wanted to make my own

  3. Oh the balance between detail and crazy piecing... it's a fine line sometimes isn't it! Like you - I go for simplicity! I hope EQ7 makes it way to you soon, you won't know yourself ;)

  4. I'll leave that job to you I think eeekkk even reading your blog post freaked me out scary!
    talented honey just talented


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