Design a Quilt in Excel

I’m finally (almost) finished with my first quilt.  Before I go into the actual quilt, I felt it might be helpful to go over the process I used to design the quilt.  I looked at several different quilt blocks and after a lot of looking I found one similar to what I wanted to use.  For this specific quilt I wanted to have 6 larger blocks with images on them as the focal point, so something simple to complement the images.

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, reach for (1) graph paper or (2) Excel.  I’m used to using Excel and I knew if I used graph paper I would go through a LOT of paper. The other thing I like about using Excel is I can easily copy and paste to make slight modifications to see how it will affect the overall look of the quilt.  For this overview I’m going to use the Excel method, if you prefer graph paper the same basic concepts should apply.  I’ll make another post later about how I am using Excel to design my T-Shirt quilt.Step 1: Have a general idea of how big you want your quilt.  If you are going to have repeating blocks, how many?  I wanted 3 blocks by 2 blocks, and I was looking for a basic lap quilt.  I wanted to aim for about 25 inch squares each.

Step 2: In excel, modify the row and column Height and Width.  The Width and Height numbers will only match when looking at the second number.  The default cell height is 15 (20 pixels), to make a square select several columns and adjust the width to 2.14 (20 pixels).  If you adjust the width/height make sure to adjust both.  For example, when I started I set the width to 9.43 (71 pixels) and Height: 53.25 (71 pixels).  Depending on how many rows/columns you are looking at will depend on how many pixels high/wide you will want the cells.


Step 3: Design!  When I first started designing, I started in the middle of the page and worked my way out.  Depending on your design you may start elsewhere.  If you know the size of the grid (example: 1 square = 1 inch), make sure your design takes that into consideration.  Below are the two main blocks I created.  Be sure to use one different color for each fabric color you plan on using.  My quilt will have three so I used white, red, and green.

Step 4: Layout your quilt.  If you want 3 blocks by 2 blocks, copy the cells that include your block, than on a new sheet paste them 6 times to give the overall look of the quilt.  Feel free to leave a space or two between the blocks if you want your blocks to have a border.

Step 5: Are there any other variations of the design you want to look at?  If so, copy the design you have already created and paste onto the new sheet and make any necessary changes.  Below are some of the variations that I created to compare and decide what I liked best.

Once you pick a layout you like, it’s time to calculate the fabric you need.  In doing so I followed the below steps to create a cheat sheet for me.

Step 6: Start with a new sheet and paste only one cell block at the top and one more with one blank row between them.  If you need to adjust the height/width so the cells are square, do that now.

Step 7: On the second block you pasted use custom borders to create dotted lines for how you want to piece the block together.  I started on the inside and worked my way out.  You will also want to add in how big each piece will be; the size should be the final size once the block is sewn together.  I added a note on the right of the block that it’s the final size, I did this to help make sure I don’t look at the wrong print out when cutting.


Step 8: once you figured out how you will piece the block together and how big each piece will be, copy the cells for that block and paste below leaving a blank space between the two cells.  You should now have three blocks.  By the last block, adjust the note to indicate size to cut.  Adjust all measurements to include what ever seam allowance you sew with, I added .25 inch to each side.


Step 9: Identify and list all of the colors and sizes of pieces you will need to cut.  I started with one color and listed the sizes.  I added how many pieces to cut per square, and how many squares to get a total count.  Here is an example:


Step 10: Adjust the page settings so you can print this new sheet off in 4 different pages.  The first page should be the blank block, the second should be the block with final sizes, the third should be the block with sizes to cut, and the fourth page should list each piece to cut.

Step 11: Figure out how much fabric to get, it’s better to over estimate than under estimate.  Take the Length * Width * Total # to Cut, that will get you the total square inches needed.  One average yard of fabric is 44 in wide by 36 in, so 1584 square in.  The square in my example is 0.052 sq in, so I got 1 yard, the light color was 0.9 so I decided to get 1.5 yards, and the pattern fabric was 1.38 so I decided to get 1.5 (It didn’t leave me with much extra, I should have rounded up to 1.75 yards).  See the image under step 9 for the example.


I spent most of the time playing with different layouts trying to decide what I felt looked the best.  If you’re comfortable with Excel, it’s actually a pretty easy and quick way to design a quilt.   The next post in this quilt series will cover how I stitched a photo onto the center blocks.

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