How to Change a Quilt Pattern

Change, adapt and customize a quilt pattern to meet your specific tastes and needs.
Change, adapt and customize a quilt pattern to meet your specific tastes and needs. | Source

One of the best advantages of making your own quilts is that you can customize them to suit your tastes. You can choose the combination of fabric palette that suits your tastes and your decor. You also choose which pattern you want to use.

Sometimes you may have difficulty in finding a pattern that fits your tastes exactly. Or you may simply want to practice changing things up to develop some confidence in designing your own quilts in the future.

Ways to Change a Quilt Pattern

There are some easy ways you can change a quilt pattern to suit your tastes, show your personality, and get some confidence.

  • Substitute same size blocks. This especially works well for alternate blocks. If the pattern uses nine patch blocks and you prefer hourglass blocks, you can find a pattern that uses hourglass blocks that are the same size and use those instead. I would recommend drawing the substitution on paper or use a quilt designing program like Electric Quilt 7 so you can see how the substitution will look.
  • Substitute appliqué. If the pattern has an appliqué of dogs, and you prefer cats instead, you can make that switch without any complex calculations.
  • Change the sashing. Sometimes adding a new or different cornerstone block in the sashing adds some personality.
  • Change the border. There are many different types of borders, and you may find some that you prefer more than the original pattern.
  • Add extra blocks to make it bigger.
  • Use fewer blocks to make it smaller.
  • Change the size of the blocks to make them suit your tastes.

Changing a quilt pattern requires an understanding of some formulas. It is a very rewarding experience to change a pattern so that the quilt is exactly the size you want, with the features you like. If you want to change the size of a quilt, I recommend starting with a simple quilt that uses squares and rectangles to develop some practice before moving to change more complex blocks.

Tip About Changing Patterns

Making a test block is a great way to make sure there isn't an error in the calculation, and that you are happy with the change. Just make one block, make any necessary adjustments, and when you are satisfied, you can make enough for the whole quilt.

Some Simple Math Calculations for Changing Quilt Patterns

When changing a pattern, it is important to remember that the size of the seam allowance does not change. If the pattern tells you to cut two inch squares, and you want to make it twice as big, you cannot simply cut four inch squares. Instead, you would subtract the seam allowance first, then double the size, and then add the seam allowance back in. In this case the formula would be:

The seam allowance is usually 1/4". Since a square will have seams on all four sides, the seams will take up 1/2" from the width, and 1/2" from the length. To calculate the size you need to cut the square, first subtract the seam allowance from on both sides of the square

2" - 1/2" = 1 1/2"

The finished size of the square in the quilt pattern is 1 1/2".

Since you want the quilt to be twice as big, you double the finished size of the square:

1 1/2" x 2 = 3"

The finished size of the revised square is 3". In order for the pieces to fit correctly, you need to add the seam allowance back in.

3" + 1/2" = 3 1/2"

The size of the revised fabric square you will cut is 3 1/2".


Rectangles work the same way as squares, but you have to calculate the length and the width separately. The length of a 2" x 3" inch rectangle doubled would be still be 3 1/2 as calculated above, but the 3" width would be calculated as follows:

3" - 1/2" = 2 1/2"

This is the original finished size.

2 1/2 x 2 = 5

This is the revised finished size.

5 + 1/2 = 5 1/2"

This is the new size to cut.

Therefore the new rectangle you would cut is 3 1/2" x 5 1/2".

I added a small inner border to keep the outside coins from touching the outer border on this Chinese Coins quilt.
I added a small inner border to keep the outside coins from touching the outer border on this Chinese Coins quilt. | Source

Please note that the formula above works only for squares and rectangles. When cutting on the diagonal, the size will differ. The seam allowance is still 1/4", but the formula for cutting triangles and diamonds is different.

Changing Quilt Patterns

Changing a quilt pattern helps you exercise your creativity, customize your quilt, and make sure that your quilt doesn't look exactly like everyone else who made the quilt using the pattern. It also helps you develop some confidence in designing your own quilts.

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