Last week, I covered tips on on-point settings for your quilt blocks and how this technique creates a whole new look. This week, I will cover several different ways you can create a secondary design within your quilt. Secondary design is generally planned, but sometimes you can be surprised when you stand back to look at your quilt and another pattern emerges! So let’s get started.
What is Secondary Design?
When you look at a quilt and you not only see the block designs but you see another design emerge as you step back, that’s secondary design. Sometimes it’s intentional… and sometimes you just get lucky and two blocks you decide to place next to each other make another design. I like to design these types of quilts because it adds another level of interest.
There are several ways to achieve this. It can be done in one block quilts, where the elements of the block create a new design when several of them are joined into a quilt top. In two or more block quilts, joining different blocks into rows can cause a new design to appear where those blocks meet. Then there’s adding a sashing between blocks to create a new design or playing with a scrappy background so the secondary design emerges behind the blocks.
Let’s talk about each.
Secondary Design – One Block Quilts
My pattern, Paper Chain, is made up of this one block:
It’s a simple block based on a 9-patch grid. Now when I join several of these blocks into rows to make the quilt you can see another pattern emerge where the corners of 4 blocks meet (circled area):
Now, when you look at the full quilt, you an see even more secondary designs appear.
In the photo on the left, the circled area shows an octagon shape that emerges. The circled area on right shows squares created by the tan print and color print centers of the blocks that create a checkerboard background. See if you can pick out some other designs that emerge. Did I know these designs would emerge when I made the quilt? Nope!
So above is the designs that emerge when you place blocks together. What about a design that emerges when you change colors within a block? That’s another way to bring forth a secondary design. Look at these two blocks below:
These are actually the same block. But by moving the colors into different parts, different designs emerge within the block. On the left, the star is more prominent along with the monkey wrench design created by the black sections. On the right, a friendship star emerges by changing where the blue fabric is placed.
Secondary Design – Two Block Quilts
Two block quilts are the most common and usually the easiest way to create a secondary design. Often, these quilts will have a checkerboard design block as one of the blocks. Then, whether the blocks are on point or set straight, there is a fun checkerboard design that runs through the quilt.
In Prairie Sky quilt on the left, the blocks are straight pieced making the checkerboard blocks create a crisscross design. The quilt on the right, Country Dance, has the blocks set on point making the checkerboard blocks create a grid pattern.
You can also take two completely different blocks, neither one being a checkerboard design, and create a fun design. I did this in my quilt, Starlit Path. Here’s the two blocks that make up that quilt:
Now look at the whole quilt. Look at the neat crisscrossing design that emerges where the blocks meet.
Secondary Design – Created with Sashing
The next way to create a secondary design is with a sashing, generally with cornerstones. In this first example, with my quilt Posey Patch, I used a sashing with cornerstones and also did stitch and flip corners on the sashing strip’s ends. When everything is joined together, stars emerge.
The second way to create a design is to have the quilt sashing “play” with an element of a block in the quilt. In my quilt, Open Windows, there is a stitch and flip corner on two sides of the blocks, that work to create a monkey wrench design when the blocks and sashing are joined.
Secondary Design – Background Fabrics
A surprising way to create a subtle secondary design is with your quilt’s background. It can either be easily noticeable or very subtle. In the three photos below, the diagonal “stripe” created by using two different colors is fairly noticeable.
The runner in the center is a bit more subtle because I used two shades of tan. The table topper on the left is more bold since I used a tan print and a blue print to create the background for my blocks.
Now, these two larger quilts have a more subtle stripe because I used the same color fabrics, just in different shades:
The stripe in the patriotic quilt on the left is a little more subtle because the red fabrics I used were very close in shade. For the quilt on the right, I chose grey fabrics that were a little further apart in shade.
So, that’s secondary design! It’s a lot of fun and not really difficult to achieve. Leave a comment or ask questions below and I will draw a name to will win my pattern for Liberty Star Shine, the patriotic quilt above. The drawing will be on Monday, August 14th. Good luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Judy in Mo!**