Have you ever looked at a quilt and saw not only the intended design, but a secondary design? Sometimes it’s intentional… and sometimes you just get lucky and two blocks you decide to place next to each other makes another design. I like to design these types of quilts because it adds another level of interest. Also, I love it when someone cannot tell what the individual blocks are in a quilt because of the secondary design….. unless they look really close! So let’s talk about these designs.
Secondary Design within the Block
Some blocks have a secondary design within. Like this block:
The black accent fabric creates a monkey wrench design in the block on the left, but the design quite subtle. However, The diagram on the right shows how you can make that design stand out. In this example, I have changed the colors so the accent is gold and made both the purples in the block the same. This makes the monkey wrench stand out.
Now, in the diagram below, I have changed up the colors to make the friendship star design stand out by using purple only in this one part of the block:
Secondary Design – Combining Blocks or Adding Sashing & Borders
To create a secondary design with blocks in a quilt, start with a block or blocks with interesting elements that, when joined with additional blocks into a quilt top, combine to make the secondary design. For example, these are blocks from my quilt, Crisscross Cabin Blooms:
Now, when I join 4 of these blocks together, look what happens:
On the left, I have the black flip & sew corners pointing towards the center to make an “X” design and on the right I have the black flip & sew corners all pointing in the same direction. If I use the layout on the right, when all the blocks are assembled for the quilt there will be black “stripes” running through the quilt. Here’s the CrissCross Cabin Blooms quilt below. As you can see, I chose the “X” design.
Another way to create a secondary design is with sashing joining blocks together. Here is an table runner I designed where I used this method.
In the close up below, you will see that using a square and flip & sew corners on the sashing, I was able to create a secondary design of a star. The brown square that is the center of the star, combined with the brown squares in the blocks, makes a crisscross design. To finish the star on the outer edges of the quilt, the border comes into play by adding some flying geese units!
Finally, here is the the basic joining blocks together, whether they are the same or two different blocks, to make another design. Here are the two blocks I used in one of my quilts. They are the same block, but the placement of the light and dark fabrics make them a bit different.
Here is the quilt, Stepping Stones. Look at the neat design created by the blocks, joined on point. The triangle shapes in the blocks turn into directional flying geese like units that create lines you can follow with your eye.
And then there is this block:
When combined several of the same blocks, this fun weave look appears on my quilt, Basket Weave Stars.
Sometimes the secondary designs appear better from a distance. The above weaving design on the Basket Weave quilt quilt looks even more prominent the further away you get from the quilt.
So, next time you go to a quilt show, once you are done with your “close up” viewing of a quilt, step back and take in the view. Look for the secondary design that creates a completely different look to the quilt and creates movement.
Leave a comment and win my pattern, Basket Weave Stars!
Robin McGuire says
I love secondary designs! They add so much interest to a quilt. I love all the examples you gave!
I learned so much from this post. Thank you!! I was about to add borders to a project that I’d dragged my feet finishing. Maybe there was a reason for that! I’ve now decided to add flying geese to the inner border to complete the the secondary design.
Rita Manetta says
Wow! So many possibilities! Love it!
Carol Porter says
This post is terrific, as are the quilts! Thank you!
Love your Crisscross Cabin Blooms quilt, plus the secondary design! Thanks for all your ideas.
I love the secondary effect the design has in Criss Cross Cabin Blooms and Basket Weave Stars. What incredible patterns.
Wonderful tips – Color placement in blocks really makes a difference! Beautiful quilts!
I love having a secondary pattern it’s like getting 2 quilts in one.
Debi Miller says
Great quilts. I love it when a second pattern shows up in a quilt. I love yours designs and colors you choose.
Alleta Baltes says
Love the secondary patterns! Clever.
merci pour tous ces conseils je vais regarder mes blocs d’une autre façon ! j’aime beaucoup les motifs secondaires !!!
Nancy Schroeder says
I also loved the secondary designs in your quilts! They are gorgeous! Nancy Schroeder
Connie German says
You are very talented and a honey to share your ideas with us. And lucky us with a chance to win.
Faye Scott says
I’d you look again there is a third block a square in a square
That’s true. Good eye!
Phyllis Bageant says
Thanks so much for the tips. Really like seeing the secondary patterns in my quilts.
Alice Hopkins says
Great tutorial !!!
Linda Lehmann says
I love your illustrations of the different ways to lay out the same block with different colors. It’s cool the way the use of lights and dark springs out a different design in the quilt. That reinforces my thought that color and layout of a quilt are just as important as the block design.