A lover of arts and crafts, Shasta Matova enjoys making artistic, applique, pieced, traditional, miniature, modern, and crazy quilts.
How to Tell If a Quilt Pattern Is Easy to Make
If you are a beginning quilter, or you simply want to make a quilt in a limited amount of time, you may want to find an easy quilt pattern. If you want to make a quick quilt for an upcoming holiday or birth of a new baby, or simply want to make something easy for a child or a picnic, there are many choices of quick and easy quilts you can make.
Sometimes, though, when you search for an easy pattern, you may come across quilts that look really simple but are actually quite complicated—or quilts that look really complicated but are actually quite simple.
In this article, I will help you identify quilts that will be easy to make and will accentuate your strengths.
I'll also share my top seven go-to styles when I'm looking for a quick and easy quilt project. Scroll down for more information about each style.
Top Seven Easy Quilt Projects
- Jelly roll
- Yellow brick road
- Simply squares
- Rail fence
- Log cabin
- Trip around the world
Where to Find Quilt Patterns
The first step is to look at quilt patterns that are identified as being "quick", "easy", and "beginner". There are also quick projects that are labeled "weekend" or "charity" that are suitable for beginning quilters. Your local quilt shop will have patterns and the people at the shop will be able to answer your questions and help you identify the patterns that suit your needs.
There are many books you can purchase or borrow from the library that will show you step-by-step how to make quilts. You can also look at videos on YouTube or take a class at a quilt shop.
In addition, there are many places online where you can find free quilt patterns. These patterns may not provide detailed directions from start to finish, so you may need to supplement them with resources from other sources.
Is Easy Better?
If this is your first quilt, or you need to make a quick quilt for a new baby, it is perfectly acceptable to make a simple quilt that showcases beautiful fabric and provides a wonderful homemade gift of love. I would like to point out that you should not always choose the easiest quilt pattern. You can continue to work on developing your skills and making the more difficult quilts. They really aren't much more difficult once you have acquired the basic skills. You will have more options for quilt patterns and you will be quite proud of your accomplishments.
Many quilt designers and publishers will provide a rating system to show you a level of difficulty. You might find some spools of thread or thimbles somewhere in the name of the quilt and notice that some patterns have fewer or more of them. Generally, the fewer the spools, the easier the pattern is to make. They have one level for beginner, two for intermediate, and three for difficult.
These do tend to be accurate but may be misleading. You may find something that is difficult for you but quite easy for someone else. Likewise, you may find that something that is easy for you is quite difficult for someone else. You do need to take into consideration the skills you already bring to the table.
For example, if you are quite adept at sewing clothes, some of the intermediate patterns may seem quite easy to you, because you are familiar with the need for keeping a consistent seam allowance. Adjusting to a quarter-inch seam probably will not be a challenge for you. Some people may have drafting and scrapbooking skills, and can easily learn how to use a rotary cutter and ruler, while others might have a harder time adjusting to cutting strips of fabric this way. Lastly, someone who has played a lot of video games may really enjoy translating their skills to a sewing machine while doing some free motion quilting. Some may find it easier to make a lot of similar blocks and repetitive straight-line stitching following a guide while others will find it monotonous.
Levels of Difficulty in Beginning Quilting
Here are some basic facts that will help you locate easy patterns.
- It is easier to buy precut pieces than to cut your own. Precut pieces also give you more variety in fabrics, since the packages generally include many different prints.
- Sewing straight lines is easier than sewing curved lines.
- Squares and rectangles are easier than triangles, which are easier than circles.
- Having all the pieces the same is easier than combining different-size prints unless you don't mind trimming to size.
- Bigger pieces mean less sewing.
- Smaller quilts (lap size or baby size) are easier to quilt on a domestic machine than larger quilts (bed size).
- Miniature quilts, which are smaller versions of big quilts, are often more difficult than their bigger counterparts because they use smaller pieces.
- Fusible appliqué is easier and faster than hand-turned appliqué.
Jelly Roll Quilts
Jelly roll quilts are wonderful beginner projects because the strips of fabric are already cut. Jelly rolls are collections of fabric that have been cut in 2 1/2 inch lengths and are sold at quilt shops and online in rolls. You do not need to master rotary cutting to make these quilts, although you will need some practice to cut the borders. While you are making a jelly roll quilt, you can work on making a consistent quarter-inch seam, but even if your seams are not consistent, the quilt will still look fine as long as the seam size used to piece two strips of fabric is the same.
Once you have made this simple pattern, you will be able to find other patterns that use these jelly rolls that are slightly more complicated in piecing, yet save you from having to cut the strips yourself.
A quilt with strips of fabric like this scrap squares quilt is another great beginner project. You can use jelly rolls if you would like, but this liberated project also uses scraps of fabric. Sew together the pieces of fabric together of varying lengths, anywhere from 3/4 inch to 2 1/4 inches are fine. Then you can simply trim them to the same width, anywhere from 2 to 10 inches would look good, depending on the final size of the project and your tastes. Add a strip of fabric (called a "sashing") between the columns.
Since the scraps use varying sizes, the pieces do not have to line up with each other, making this quilt slightly easier than coin quilts which sometimes do line up. If all of your seams are not consistent with each other, this quilt will not show that, as long as each seam is consistent from start to finish.
Yellow Brick Road
There are several quilt patterns out there, such as the yellow brick road and Turning Twenty, which use a combination of squares and rectangles. These patterns let you stack up your fabric, and cut several pieces at the same time using a rotary cutter. In order for these different size pieces to work together, you must use a consistent quarter-inch seam allowance. However, because of the random look of the placement of the blocks, this quilt will not show minor issues. You can trim the blocks to be the same size if you need.
The quilts I showed you so far had two seams that intersected in a T shape. This quilt has a few seams that intersect in a + shape. This is slightly more difficult than the T intersection, but the randomness of the blocks will be able to hide any minor flaws.
A charm square quilt made up of only squares is easy to cut, since you can cut several layers of fabric using a rotary cutter. In addition, charm squares are also available at the quilt shop, so you do not have to cut them. It is also fairly easy to piece. You can sew the squares together randomly or arrange them in a pleasing fashion. You can sew the squares into rows and then sew the rows together. You can make four or sixteen patch blocks and sew them together if you do not like working with long rows.
In this quilt, the squares do all meet each other, so you will have many + shaped intersections. These are not difficult if you remember to press all your seams before you sew any intersecting seams. Pressing the seams in alternating directions helps them align with each other (called nesting seams) and make good intersections.
Rail Fence Quilt
Rectangle quilts such as a rail fence quilt or a log cabin are good for beginner quilters and yet don't look like beginner patterns. With a rail fence, you simply sew three of the same size rectangles together so that the block is a square. The quilt shown on the right uses one-inch rails (the pieces are cut 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" to incorporate the seam allowance). The three pieces sewn together result in a 3 1/2" square quilt block which can easily be alternated to form the pattern.
I used small pieces to use up my little scraps, but if you use bigger pieces, you will be able to get the finished size quilt you want much faster. This quilt is for those who have the patience to make the same block many times.
In this quilt, the squares do all meet each other, you will have many + shaped intersections. These are not difficult if you remember to press all your seams in alternating directions so they properly nest.
Log Cabin Quilt
With a log cabin quilt, you make several blocks. You start with a square, like the yellow on the right. Then simply sew rectangles around and around it until you have the size blocks you need. To make the pattern, sew the light rectangles and then the dark, alternating as you sew each round. The rectangles do not need to be the same width although the traditional pattern generally uses consistent widths of fabric.
These log cabin blocks can be arranged in a number of interesting ways to make beautiful quilts that are easier to make than they look.
Trip Around the World
The trip around the world quilt is a good quilt for a confident beginner. Even though it is made up of only squares, the placing of the squares makes it look more elaborate. The difficulty is in keeping the pieces in the proper place.
If you are comfortable with your rotary cutter, you can even use a technique that makes them much easier to make, since you don't have to keep track of keeping all of the pieces in the proper order. You sew the strips in the order you want first. This will keep all of the pieces in the same order every time. Then you cut them into a square shape while they are still attached to the other strips before rearranging them.
This quilt does require you to be careful at the intersections, but if you use the technique of nesting seams as discussed in the Simply Squares section above, the intersections will be fairly easy.
Quilting is a fun and enjoyable hobby, but some people may become frustrated if they start with a pattern that is too difficult for them. By starting with a beginner pattern, they can develop their skills and work up to the intermediate and advanced levels.
It is, of course, quite possible to make bigger quilts or more difficult quilts if you have sewn other things previously, but quilts made with squares and rectangles that are smaller than bed quilts will be quicker to make and will start a new quilter with a positive experience.
© 2012 Shasta Matova
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 14, 2016:
You're welcome, SusieQ42. That's a great idea to make a quilt for your mother. I'm sure she will love it.
SusieQ42 on March 05, 2016:
Thanks for the tips! I'm in the process of making a quilt for a twin bed right now. My mom is in a nursing home so I'm making one for her hospital bed. It will be for a Christmas gift. I have two afghans and a hat in the works too, all for Christmas.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on April 10, 2015:
peachpurple, I am sure your quilt will turn out to be quite beautiful. The key is to use a variety of pretty fabrics, with different values, patterns, etc, to make it interesting and beautiful.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on April 07, 2015:
i am going to make a quilt for the altar, so, I will be using your tips by cutting out same size of squares. I go for basic first. thanks
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on January 06, 2013:
Thanks Aurelio, I enjoy writing about quilts, because they are so beautiful.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 06, 2013:
I like how you not only offer ways to find patterns, but also show illustrated example. Voting this Up and Useful.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on January 03, 2013:
Thanks GTF - that's true, the easy patterns are quick to make and really showcase the fabric that you have chosen.
Thanks Mary, I find all quilts to be beautiful works of art.
Thanks Lisa - I haven't made a Hawaiian Quilt yet, but it is one I do want to try. The handwork can be relaxing. I am sure yours is gorgeous and worth all the time you put into it.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on January 03, 2013:
Thanks moonlake - I am sure a quilt made by you for your great-grandchild will become a treasured heirloom.
Thanks HO, I need to get into selling on eBay and figuring out the ropes. I just read your hub and it is very informative. You too are a very positive and great asset to this community.
kschimmel, a TATW in brown sounds wonderful. It is a great beginner project, but it doesn't look like a beginner project at all. Thanks for your visit and comment.
Liz Rayen from California on January 02, 2013:
I love making quilts. They are actually therapeutic and relaxing for me.
I think the hardest quilt I ever made was a Hawaiian Quilt which takes months because of the intricate stitching by hand. Your info and layout is wonderful Shasta! Happy New Year! Thumbs up and Shared!---Lisa
Mary Craig from New York on January 02, 2013:
I have always admired hand-made quilts and those who made them. Your photos offer an explanation of why....just look at the beauty! This is a great hub for beginners or others interested in quilting.
Voted up, useful, and interesting.
Claudia Porter on January 02, 2013:
Very useful hub for beginners Millionaire Tips! Also for anyone. Many times the easy patterns can pack such a big punch when the right colors are used. Up and useful. Pinned too!
Kimberly Schimmel from North Carolina, USA on January 01, 2013:
My first quilt was a Trip Around the World in shades and tints of brown. I like to use simple patterns and let great color choices do the work of making the quilt look complex.
Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on December 31, 2012:
I read this hub from a different perspective than most. As an eBay seller, I know for a fact that quilts do very well as a collective niche. Growing up in Hawai'i, I remember seeing the most beautiful quilts in the various island communities. Quilts have such a beautiful history and have been such a significant part of just about every world culture. Thank you for sharing this beautiful hub! You've been a very positive influence here on HubPages, and I continue to enjoy being one of your followers. May you and yours have a most blessed 2013!
moonlake from America on December 31, 2012:
I'm going to try to make a quilt for my great-grandchild. I'm just waiting to get the news...Is it a boy or girl.
Enjoyed your hub. I love beginner quilts they're easy and beautiful. Voted Up