Claudia has been quilting for almost 30 years and writing about it for more than 6. She has won a number of awards for her work.
Quilters have not always had the fancy cutting and measuring tools that are available to them these days. Before these tools were introduced, quilters used templates to cut out shapes that they needed. Even today, to make certain patterns, a template is a necessity.
Templates are shapes, usually made out of plastic, that are traced onto fabric. Many times they are purchased in packets that come with a particular quilt pattern.
While standard shapes are available, templates are usually used for shapes that are not standard, like pentagons and hexagons. They are also used for rounded shapes like circles or scalloped edges.
Today, the majority of quilters use rulers and rotary cutters to cut out shapes like squares, rectangles, and triangles. However, there are still quilters who prefer using templates to cut out their shapes.
To save money and add a personal touch to your next quilt project, why not try making your own templates? It is easy and fast and you only need a few supplies to get started.
- Flexible template plastic - To get started you'll need flexible template plastic. Coming in various sizes, this plastic is available at most craft stores and quilt shops. It can also be found online at various websites.
- Scissors - Don't use scissors that you use on your fabric. Cutting through the plastic could dull them.
- Pencil or pen - Use a sharp writing tool. Some markers have thick tips and your measurements may be off if not cut correctly.
- Nail file - Any type will do. This is sometimes needed to smooth out any rough edges.
Video: Tutorial on Making Quilt Templates
Let's Get Started
In just a few easy steps, you'll have your own, homemade templates.
Decide on your finished size, and using your ruler, draw it on the plastic.
Add a 1/4” around the shape and draw those lines.
Cut out the finished shape with scissors. Smooth out any rough edges. This is your finished template.
For this demonstration I wanted a 3" square so I cut out a 3 1/2" square. This includes the 1/4" seam allowance. I also cheated a little bit and used the corner of the template to help me get my square.
Making Standard Quilt Template Shapes
Decide what size and shape template you will need. Remember that the template size will be the size of the piece of fabric cut out. Make sure to add a 1/4” sewing seam that is the standard seam width in quilting.
These instructions work for any standard shape.
Making Complex Quilting Template Shapes
If you want to have a more complex shape, like a hexagon, there are two ways to do this.
- Draft the shape you want to use on paper. Use a dark pencil or pen that you will be able to see through the template. Using either a ruler, or your hand, trace the shape onto the plastic template and then cut out the shape, using a nail file to smooth any rough edges.
- Find a picture of the shape and, using a ruler or by free hand, trace it onto the plastic. Cut out and finish as described above.
Making Quilt Templates out of Household Items
It is really easy to make quilt templates out of household items. Things like glasses and cookie cutters make good templates. Just take a look around your house. You'll be surprised at all of the things you can use.
To make a template like this:
- Take the item you want to use and trace around it on the plastic.
- Carefully cut around the shape on the line.
- Using a nail file, smooth out any rough edges.
- Your template is ready to use.
If you need some ideas for things to use as templates, this article, 20+ Unique Household Items to Use as Appliqué Templates, has some good ones.
Why Make Your Own Templates?
Making your own templates adds a personal touch to your quilt.
Maybe you have designed a unique shape that you want to highlight. Maybe you want to use grandma's favorite cookie cutter shape. Maybe you just prefer using templates.
Whatever the reason, making your own quilt templates is easy and fast.
© 2013 Claudia Mitchell
Claudia Mitchell (author) on March 03, 2013:
Thanks Michelle! I glad you enjoyed the hub.
Michelle Liew from Singapore on March 03, 2013:
A template is an important guide to anything! Thanks for sharing, Glim!
Claudia Mitchell (author) on February 22, 2013:
Hi Natashalh - I like making applique templates out of cookie cutters. They are easy to do and really cute when sewn on. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Claudia Mitchell (author) on February 22, 2013:
Thanks for the nice comments healthwealthmusic - I enjoy quilting and hope the tradition continues for a long time. When I first started I made some templates out of cardboard. I think I still have some of them tucked away.
Natasha from Hawaii on February 22, 2013:
I tried cutting my own hexes once. I just couldn't get them all the same size! For appliqués, though, I'd love to make my own.
Ruth R. Martin from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York on February 21, 2013:
An unusual topic I don't come across too often. Quilt making is not something many people do these days, other than Amish or Mennonites :) I've made several quilts in my day - however, I had no nice templates, only cardboard patterns :) Nice hub!
Claudia Mitchell (author) on February 21, 2013:
Thanks Bill. I appreciate the share.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 21, 2013:
I almost missed this one; not that it does me any good. LOL Seriously, I'll share this because I know a few quilters out there. Always happy to help you my friend.