Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

Last week we started talking about scale in quilts and fabrics. That first post had basic information you’ll want to know.

largescale1 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

There’s a little trick when it comes to using large-scale fabrics in small patches so I want to share that with you today.

largescale2 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

The flowers are about the size of my hand in this large-scale print from Moda Fabrics.

This comes in handy when you have a fabric with the perfect colors for your project, but the patches are small, and the scale of the fabric is large.

largescale3 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

Notice the size of the motifs in this print from Blend Fabrics.

Or maybe you just have some fabric that you want to use up. Perhaps you’re making a quilt with Baby Windmills, like this:

ufo5crib1 251x300 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

Get the free pattern for Baby Windmills by clicking on the image.

Baby Windmills are made from small patches, cut 1.5″ x 2.5″. (Free pattern here.) The fabric with the perfect colors has large flowers on it:

largescale4 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

A beautiful large-scale print

You can see that each flower is about the size of my hand.

largescale5 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

These flowers are about the size of my hand.

How does that translate into patches that are only 1.5″ x 2.5″?

I cut a few 2.5″ strips of fabric from selvage to selvage, then subcut them into patches 1.5″ x 2.5″.

largescale6 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

It looks like these patches might not work.

At this point the patches don’t look like they are going to work at all. They look like distant relatives, if they’re related at all. Pull a few randomly and make a block and…not so great.

largescale9 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

The tan patches don’t seem to be closely related.

The background patches don’t seem to be closely related.

But try this instead: Start sorting them into groups, putting patches with similar qualities together.

largescale7 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

The beginning of the patch sorting process looks like this.

Pretty soon you have sets of “matching” patches.

largescale8 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

After sorting, the patches look like siblings. These will work!

Now they look like siblings—as if they belong together in a family.

 largescale11 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

Use patches from each group to make some blocks.

largescale12 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

Now the background patches hold together. Their clear relationship helps the block tell its story.

largescale10 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

Put the blocks together…

largescale13 Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

The start of a great little quilt!

…and you have the start of a great little Baby Windmills quilt. It’s almost as if the background fabric serves as several different prints. It’s like a bonus!

You have conquered the problem of large-scale fabrics in small patches. Just like magic!

*     *     *     *     *

You might also like Understanding Stitch Length.

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About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email: editor@quiltmaker.com.
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22 Responses to Understanding Scale: A Little Trick

  1. Pingback: Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Blog Tour: Day 5 | Quilty Pleasures Blog

  2. Katie Wilson says:

    Great tip! I have never thought of “divide and conquer” for large scale prints. Love it!

  3. Bev says:

    I would like to encourage making a special quilt for a child that is mentally challenged. They are so appreciative and excited to have a special gift. It is even more special for me to make one and know it is loved by the child. I am an RN who cared for these children in the hopsital, but making quilts is so rewarding and gratifying to when you see faces when they get their quilts. So ladies when you have time, make a small one for a small child and you will be hooked on something really special.

  4. Jules says:

    Much food for thought and ideas on fabric that I didn’t know what to do with previously. Thank you for making things very clear and providing “Aha” moments :)

  5. Marie Atkinson says:

    that is a great visual! thanks

  6. Angie T says:

    Great trick for large scale prints. I will share this with my guild.

  7. Kathleen says:

    So helpful…..now I just need to remember it! :)

  8. Brynda says:

    Awesome information!

  9. Pam Winterrowd says:

    VERY helpful info. THANKS for sharing.

  10. Sharon Cummings says:

    What useful information. It seems so simple now. Thanks

  11. melissa says:

    absolutely GENIUS!!! Thank you!

  12. greeta says:

    This makes so much sense. Can’t believe I didn’t figure it out myself. Thanks . I Will definitely use this info.

  13. Susan Paxton says:

    Thanks for this great information…so useful in my quest to use up my stash of fabrics that might not work any other way…

  14. DianeH says:

    Thank you! There is so much to learn about quilting and tips like these are a great help.

  15. Vivian says:

    Excellent tip!

  16. Shirley V D says:

    Thank you SO much for these two articles on scale. Both articles have added greatly to my understanding. I always wondered how quilters could use such large scale prints in a quilt. Now I won’t shy away from them, and can visualize how they can be used.

  17. Very clever!!! I never thought of that – but I’ve got to try it. Fascinating!

  18. Barb Johnson says:

    Great idea! Now I just have to remember it…. ;->

  19. sofia says:

    Thank you. What a clever idea. Why din’t I think of that.

  20. Very nice tip – thank you!

  21. Cathy R says:

    Thanks! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this.

  22. Pat C in Washington says:

    Oh ho! Suddenly the light bulb comes on! Thank you :D

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