Creating character in designs with reference guides


Good morning, everyone! Today’s tutorial shows how using reference guides can add character to any design.  Reference guides are a series of dots or lines (whichever you prefer) placed on a quilt pattern to aid in creating a design, lining up elements or checking the angles are correct. They may also mark the centre of a design allowing it to be accurately aligned to the centre of an area on the quilt top or mark the outer edges. These guides won’t be quilted.   Please note, there are no quilt police here, a design doesn’t have to be perfect to have a lot of character and heart. Guides are just guides and it is the end result that matters.  You are the only one the design has to please.

I’ve covered this topic in my book, The design master plan but want to show you this great new Art Deco/Greek design of mine. 


Original design.


Circular reference guides were added to get the gentle curves nicely rounded.

These circles were four times the size of the outer design.


End result. You can also try a straight line version to see what that looks like.


Then I added another reference guide to see what that would do. I love to get the viewer engaged in the design by giving them patterns to find.  This next version will get the eye moving around the quilt and connect the four sides in a way that might not be obvious at first.



New version.


My eye was immediately drawn to the top curves and then to each side to find the circle. I feel the curves are a great surprise to the viewer and I always try to make unique designs.

I love using reference guides (as boring as they may sound). Your eye will always judge whether a surface is level and strong enough to place something on and when we go via a picture on a wall, our eye immediately checks to see if it’s hanging straight.

So in your next design session, be encouraged to have a play with reference guides to see how the design will change. They may lead it in an unexpected direction.

From my little corner of the world to yours, happy designing.


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