Block Design Tutorial

Block Design Tutorial

Cheryl @Meadow Mist Designs, Stephanie @Late Night Quilter, Terri Ann @Childlike Fascination, and I am super excited to announce an optional extension to the 2015 New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop group. Fabri-Quilt has generously offered to supply fabric for the 2015 New Block Blog Hop!

Fabri-Quilt New Block Blog Hop

The week of August 31st, we will be sharing our collaborative block design efforts, and I am excited that our blocks will be combined to create donation quilts.

I wanted to kick off the New Block Blog Hop by talking about how I approach block design. Today I will walk through my block design process using our block size limitation (12″ by 12″ finished or 12 1/2″ by 12 1/2″ unfinished) and color palette.

Watermelon Summer Color Palette

Watermelon Summer Color Palette: Chartreuse, Turquoise, Coral, Aqua, Lapis Blue, and White

There are many different tools available for drafting designs. Today I am going to focus on the options available for drafting by hand and not on a computer.



Some of my favorite tools for sketching by hand are shown above. The slightly green (or yellow) paper in the upper left is engineering paper, the paper in the upper right is just generic white printer paper, the book on the bottom left has a grid of dots, and the notebook on the lower right has a printed grid on its pages. I use pencils and colored pencils when I sketch by hand, and I usually have some kind of straight edge or ruler around as well. The only thing not shown in this image is my large eraser that also comes in quite handy!

Design Tools and Block Design Step 1

Design Tools and Block Design Step 1

I chose to work with the grid notebook, colored pencils, and a mechanical pencil for this tutorial. I went through my colored pencils and found a group of them that were close enough to the palette colors for my liking and labeled them on the paper. You can see my test marks on the paper in the upper right hand corner as I chose which colored pencils to use. I also drew out a 12 by 12 grid  to represent the finished block. This is super handy for me to reference as I try out different shapes and ideas.

Design Step 2

Design Step 2

To start, I drew out a 2 x 3 half-rectangle triangle (HRT) and played around with using it as a repeat for a “border” for a central block. I surprisingly liked this very much (the first thing I sketch does not always translate into something I pursue). With the “frame” idea in place, I next thought about what to feature in the center of the pattern. The color order of my color block makes me think of a sunset on the ocean, so I decided to layer the colors that way in the center of the block.

Design Step 3

Design Step 3

Next, I went back and more precisely drew in my block idea using my ruler in the 12 by 12 grid and colored in the block.

Design Step 4

Design Step 4

Finally, using the grid paper to help me, I went through each color and figured out the number and size of blocks I would need to cut to make the block. For instance, the bottom horizontal chartreuse stripe in the sunset center panel is 1 block tall by 8 blocks wide. Adding and additional half inch to each of those dimensions for seam allowances, that means I need to cut a 1 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ rectangle for that piece.

Figuring out the sizing for the half rectangle triangles is a bit more tricky, but as I have a bit of experience with making them, here is my trick. The half rectangle triangle finishes at 2″ by 3″, so unfinished each HRT is 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″. I make HRTs two at a time, and I add 1 inch to the unfinished block size for my initial cuts of fabric, so I need to cut 3 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ rectangles in order to make the HRTs.

HRTs are very directional, though, so the cut list in my image above is incorrect, and I don’t think I have enough white to make the exact block I have laid out. Which is a great point – not everything you design is going to be something you love or something you can use, but that’s OK!



Going back to the drawing board, I next tried out half-square triangles (HSTs) around the edge instead of HRTs. I colored in the HSTs in the sunset order I had in the center of the first block and used the center of the block to focus on another fun summery idea: a pinwheel. There will be plenty of fabric for this block, so it is a more successful design.

I hope this short tutorial is helpful and gives you some ideas on how you might want to get started with your own block designs!

Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays

Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays

Linking up to Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays @Late Night Quilter.

29 thoughts on “Block Design Tutorial

  1. Cindy says:

    I love the way you designed your block. So many choices of paper. I use graph paper, but I see I need to get some coloured pencils.

  2. I love my grid notebook too. They are not easy to find, so I will have to keep an eye open for a replacement one day.

  3. Great post! I usually start with graph paper and using my kids colored pencils or crayons.

  4. Louise says:

    Thanks for sharing your thinking with us. It is always helpful to see inside a creative mind!

  5. RuthB says:

    Interesting palette – looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with!

  6. Karen says:

    Yvonne, thanks so much for showing so clearly the design process you used. I’ve always wondered what is behind quilt design–and I love this block! I’ve got a big pack of colored pencils on my shopping list!

  7. Great post. Thanks for sharing. Guess it’s time to buy some coloured pencils, because I haven’t got a clue where to start.

  8. Sandra says:

    This is great to see when so many many people use EQ or some computer tool. I find there’s something that just clicks with me, maybe hearkening back to my colouring days, when I get out my Crayola pack of pencils, graph paper, ruler, pencil, oh yes, and a big eraser! I like both your blocks…ahhh, can’t go wrong with a sunset over an ocean. Ever. :-)

  9. Tish says:

    This has been very helpful, thank you for posting this. Ever since you sent out the email, I’ve been debating on if I’m brave enough for this challenge :)

  10. Ok. You know I’m obsessed with tutorials…. and this is my favorite one of all! You’ve taken all the scary mystery out of the block design process! I love the way your brain works, Yvonne.

  11. Carrie says:

    Graph paper is seriously a quilter’s best friend. I have a notebook that I commandeered from my husband that now houses all of my block sketch ideas, doodles, and “to make” lists.

    This tutorial will come in handy when working on my block. So excited for this opportunity!

  12. I love using graph paper, too! Sometimes I just need to get an idea out of my head and onto paper, and then work on it, before I try to put it into a computerized format.

  13. In the past couple of weeks, hubby and I have been discussing designing quilts, quilt blocks and cross stitch patterns. So, I really enjoyed reading your post today. Thank you for sharing your process and inspiring me to start creating! Have a wonderful creative day!

  14. Kathy Hoback says:

    Love this tutorial, Yvonne – I’m a sucker for collecting all the design tools.

  15. I love graph paper and colored pencils, I feel like a kid again when I’m sketching. I tell my hubby I’m working, but I don’t think he believes me! :)

  16. All week I’ve been trying to get my head round using Illustrator to design some shapes for EPP, however, thanks to you I’ve decided that paper and pencil are sooo much easier, I sometimes think you need a degree in geometry to draw accurate shapes on a computer, thanks for clearing my head! :)

  17. Jayne Willis says:

    Sketch books, graph paper are always the start of a block for me! Oh and colored pencils! Thank you for sharing your method!

  18. Renee says:

    This looks really similar to my process! I have two sets of colored pencils–the ones I let the kids use with me and the set I get out after they’re in bed. This bee sounds like a great way to continue the friend making with the new bloggers!

  19. Helen says:

    This a blog post I need to read again , I’ve been thinking about design a bit more

  20. sally says:

    Love the designing by hand not on computer! Every now and then I try and work out a plan like that, usually Venetia joins in and comes up with an incredibly complex and detailed pattern, she is always overly ambitious when it comes to my ability to translate them into actual quilts!

  21. Lisa says:

    I’ve got the pencil crayons already, and a notebook with dots. So I’m guessing from your tutorial we can’t add any fabric to our block…just use the fat eighths. I guess I’ll have to make a prototype to figure out if I have enough fabric. I think it will be fun.

  22. I love the “old school” way of designing a block. I use EQ7, but always carry a grided notepad and some colored pencils with me in case I have ideas on the go. Thanks for the tutorial.

  23. Jasmine says:

    What a helpful tutorial for designing on paper (my usual method). I have got to find a notebook like that. I have a composition notebook, but it doesn’t lay nice and flat.

  24. Kim S. says:

    Great tutorial, Yvonne! I love the simple grid paper method. It’s the only way I know how to go (if I’m being completely honest!). That’s a really pretty block you designed, too! Lovely!

  25. This is the same method I use :). Just laid out my quilt block yesterday and sewed up some testers. I got a little out of control and might have a quilt soon … Your block looks great, I can’t wait to see them all revealed!

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