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Quilting Pattern Selection Tips

A lot of the quilts I make are on commission. Sometimes it can be really difficult to walk a client through the decision process so that they select a quilting pattern that they will love. I have been working to develop a short questionnaire that I will occasionally use before digging in and discussing actual quilt patterns because being able to narrow down options can save a lot of time and confusion. I thought I would share my work in progress today as my Tuesday Tip in case it will help you or in case you have feedback that will help me improve it for me, too! :)

Quilting Questions

First, I like to get a sense of how much quilting detail a client is looking for. I ask them to select “A” or “B” for these 4 questions:

  1. A. $     B. $$$
  2. A. Basic     B. Unique
  3. A. Simple     B. Intricate
  4. A. Classic     B. One-of-a-Kind

Mostly “A” answers indicate an all over or edge-to-edge kind of design, and mostly “B” answers indicate a custom quilting preference. If necessary, I can also reference people to good examples of simple, intermediate, and intricate quilting.

Then, I try to get a sense of the types of quilting patterns I should present to the client by having them select “A” or “B” for a second set of 4 questions:

  1. A. Curvy     B. Straight Lines
  2. A. Organic     B. Improvisational
  3. A. Loopy     B. Rectangular
  4. A. Free Form     B. Even

“A” answers make me think of loops, swirls, and spirals. “B” answers lean me to think about straight line quilting, back and forth lines, and crisp geometric meanders. Again, having many examples to be able to show to a client for explanation or clarity can also be beneficial. Some quilters even have quilted samples they can pull out to show clients.

Finally, I wrap up with 3 questions to help guide me on initial thread color selection:

  1. A. Blended     B. Bold
  2. A. Understated     B. High Contrast
  3. A. Quiet     B. Daring

These answers help me to know if I am looking for a blended thread or a high contrast thread. They also help me understand if I am looking at a densely quilted or lightly quilted design. Again, having a few examples to use for further discussion is always helpful. I like how the quilts below showcase both blended and high contrast thread usage simply because I chose one thread and used it all over the quilt.

I don’t use this technique all the time, but I have found it useful for people I can only communicate with via email. Breaking down decisions into this kind of either / or choice can really break down their fears of “choosing the wrong thing”, too, and empower them to have input into their quilt design.

Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays

Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays

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22 thoughts on “Quilting Pattern Selection Tips

  1. Shauna says:

    Great tip, not only for commission quilts, these are good questions to ask yourself before starting to quilt your own projects.

  2. Lara B. says:

    That looks like a helpful questionnaire. Even in person, it could help your client define what they are looking for. I am awfully distracted from it by the quilting examples you showed us… You have done some amazing quilting Yvonne. I am especially studying the very mid century modern looking quilting you did on the blue, green and white squares. How in the world did you keep the spacing so perfect?

  3. I think this is a great way to get the conversation going to get a feel for what your client is drawn to aesthetically. I think this would even work on my own quilts because sometimes I’m just not sure what I want and where to begin. Usually I start with thread color and work my way backwards.

  4. Renee says:

    The questions combined with photos seem like good way to get a feel for what someone wants, or at least what they’re interested in.

  5. kittywilkin says:

    This is definitely a great idea, and I agree with Shauna that it’s a good place to start when trying to decide how to quilt your own quilts, too. I think you’ve broken up quilting styles in to very logical and clear categories. One thing I think is helpful for client-quilter clarity in communication is that once all of these questions are answered and a quilting pattern is chosen, having the quilter do an actual sketch of the quilting on top of a scan or photograph of the quilt. That way you can be SURE that you are both on the same page before quilting. It’s one extra step, but I feel like especially with less complex quilting designs, it’s a great way to visualize how the chosen quilting style looks on the specific quilt.

  6. Jan O says:

    I really like your thought process here. I don’t quilt for others, but your decision steps can help me select the best quilting style/motifs for my own projects. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Terri Ann says:

    What great questions to solicit meaningful feedback from your clients. I think that’s one thing people have a hard time articulating if they’re not crafty themselves. They may not have the vision we do when thinking about how a pile of fabric will turn into a quilt cause I know for me it’s taken practice and experience to know what will and won’t work (which is still a work in progress.)

    Thanks for sharing this worksheet!

  8. Jasmine says:

    Great questions which are nice and clear. One question I frequently ask myself is what I want the star of the quilt to be. The fabrics/pattern or the quilting. Most of the time I want the quilting to just enhance what is already there, but sometimes I want the quilting to take center stage.

  9. This is a great way to get meaningful input from your clients. I thank that having the examples showing what it means to have, for example, contrasting versus blending thread, is super helpful to those that can’t imagine what that might look like on a quilt.

  10. This would be very helpful in starting a conversation with a client. The last quilt I received I was told “just quilt whatever you want.” While that might sound like a great idea, it really left me more nervous that I would do something she doesn’t like. We finally made some decisions together, but a worksheet like this would have been a great help. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Nurdan says:

    Doesn’t have be used with a client really, we should all ask ourselves these questions before starting a quilt! thanks for sharing Yvonne!

  12. sally says:

    Sounds very sensible. Do clients always appreciate the link between the cost and the intricacy/uniqueness etc?

  13. That sounds like a great thing for helping your clients make decisions. I’m sure its especially important for those people who don’t stare at quilty pictures day in and day our like we do!

  14. Christine says:

    What a fantastic tip. I am sitting here struggling with my own quilting pattern ideas, and just looking at your list of questions and answering them for myself gave me a direction to go in. Were I a customer, this is a questionnaire that would really help me focus on what I wanted and help to convey that to the quilter. Well done!!

  15. Kaja says:

    This is a great set of questions and I think they could be tweaked a little and applied to commissions for pieced work as well as quilting. Certainly that would work for me. Thanks for sharing them.

    1. Oh, that is very true! Great idea.

  16. Very interesting post Yvonne!
    I have only had one commission for FMQ ever, and they were already very clear on what they wanted. I will be using your questions to help myself with picking a pattern. I tend to over quilt something especially when it should be a simple gift. Your list will keep me on track and will help me too to keep on scedule with projects!

  17. I like that you’ve separated the styles of quilting into cost categories – people don’t realize that an all-over pattern is faster to produce than outline quilting. Stitch density and thread choice are important things to ask about because what you as a quilter want to emphasize may not gel with the customer…One thing you didn’t list is motif quilting – especially for themed quilts. Do you keep an album of your work including the cost breakdowns to show customers?

  18. This is a great break down about how to get clients to understand the range in cost for a custom quilt. Thank you for sharing.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)