This post is brought to you by PatternJam! In exchange for my honest review, PatternJam compensated me and provided me with fabric for my quilt top. All opinions are my own.
Like a lot of people, I really enjoy designing my own quilts. Some of the great joy for me is playing with color and finding unexpectedly modern patterns in traditional blocks. I’m a planner, though; I want to have a clear vision before I start cutting up fabric, and that’s tough to do when you don’t know exactly which fabric will go where. Graph paper is cheap and easy, but erasing is a pain and it’s not possible to preview fabric choices; graphic and quilt design software is often hella expensive with a steep learning curve.
Suffice it to say, I was incredibly intrigued when Emily Taylor asked me to try the beta version of the new PatternJam. Emily is an industry veteran; as a designer for Riley Blake and a quilter, she knows life on both sides of the cutting table. SHE GETS IT. Fresh off its relaunch on a brand-new platform, PatternJam is a free (!) website that allows quilters to quickly and easily design quilts based on traditional blocks, then “audition” designer fabrics right on the design. Play around with different fabrics, add them to your favorites, then drag them right to their spot on each block.
I decided to put PatternJam to the test. They were kind enough to send me some Landscape organic quilt cotton from Cloud 9 Fabrics for my test drive. It was a treat to sew with organic cotton, and this line was great for establishing low, medium, and high contrast for my design. There are two ways to design a quilt: buy a pre-existing pattern and modify it with your own fabric, or simply design your own. I chose the latter.
I first chose my quilt size and number of blocks (3×3 twelve-inch blocks; it’s a sweet little guy), then got to work playing with blocks. PatternJam has an easy interface for alternating block designs (as I chose), but it also allows drag-and-drop design for a more individual aesthetic. I chose alternating blocks, but decided to play with the fabrics to create a bit of a 3-D effect. I liked that I was able to change up the fabric in each block; I did notice that dragging a fabric to the block changed every piece of that tone (eg. all “medium” gray triangles in Block A have to be made of the same fabric). I would have liked to be able to play with them, but it gave me a clear enough picture that I just switched the fabrics in my real version. No biggie.
While I plugged in the Cloud 9 fabrics, I noticed that there are hundreds (thousands?) of other designer fabric choices from tons of companies — Riley Blake, Art Gallery, etc. It’s great to see a free website get so much industry support, and I’m sure there is more to come. (Note: While the beta does not quite yet have full functionality, the full site will offer not only quilt designs, but also yardage requirements, more blocks, and popular garment designs for sewists who want to preview fabric choices. Score! I was able to design a quilt I liked, but I am also looking forward to seeing what comes next in terms of design options.) Once I was happy with my quilt, I got to work cutting it up. I loved that I didn’t have to make more blocks than I needed, and that I didn’t have to spend hours fretting over my Design Floor™ to figure out where everything should go. I spent my morning making HSTs and then sewed the entire top up in about an hour. It was awesome.
I have a baby quilt to make in the next few months, and I’ll definitely be turning to PatternJam for my design. It’s a great option for those of us who want to design quilts quickly and frugally, and the fabric auditioning feature has the potential to save time, money, and (most importantly) fabric. Sign up for the PatternJam mailing list now and you’ll be among the first to know when the full site is up and running! Happy jamming!