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From photos to quilts

Updated on March 8, 2016
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Quilter, author, tutor, and columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been sharing her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

Using photos for quilt design inspiration

Landscape photos can inspire you to design and make quilts or textile art in several forms.

Literal or interpretitive: Printing the photo onto fabric and using that as part of the quilt; or making an abstract interpretation of the picture.

Either way, your quilts will also inspire others to design original landscape quilts.

The spider in the picture inspired me to make the quilt you see below.

I'll show you how a photo of wild coastline became the Captain Billy's Landing quilt.

Interpretation of a spider's "Inner City" - Using traditional block: Inner City

Inner Sanctum

And the spider is in there — towards the bottom!

(He's not very visible, but he isn't in real life either.)

Want to know more about this quilt?

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Captain Billy's Landing - on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsular, Queensland, Australia


a wild, windy spot with caves full of tiny bats, pounding surf, and no people.


From my "Crossings" exhibition

a literal interpretation

This quilt was to be paper foundation pieced, a feature in Electric Quilt that is wonderful to use, and has become easier and easier since I designed this one in EQ4.

I imported the image of the coast, and traced it in EasyDraw ™ then printed it out on several sheets of paper in the size that I had decided to make the inside (design area) of the quilt.

Import the image into EQ - ready for tracing

Begin tracing - either as applique or piecing

Colour the block - to match the imported picture


What style of design is your favourite - when designing landscape quilts?

Are you a traditionalist or a modernist?


Artists who work in this way usually make literal pictures of the landscape. In art circles this is referred to as 'photorealism', where viewers of the quilt/artwork can recognise the subject of the piece.


When quilt artists or painters work in the abstract or non-objective manner, the art/quilt subject is not necessarily recognisable. The artwork or quilt may evince different responses from each viewer. These artists interpret their subject.

For your textile art do you make pieces that are:

See results

Border treatment

around the picture

First I added a frame to separate the picture from the outer border. This allowed the picture to breathe and the viewer to see the place that I was sharing, while not having it disappear into the whole quilt.

For the same reason, I added a simple checkerboard outside the frame, starting with the vegetation colours at the bottom, moving through the sand and surf colours, up to the sky, completing the design.

Framing the content, without overpowering it.

The quilt - finished and quilted

The quilting is very simple in order not to detract from the scenery.

Share what you did with us, we'd love to know...


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