It’s a total certainty that not everyone is like me, but I know that most of us crafters are the same way: we see something and immediately think, “I could do that myself – and probably so much better!”
There is no part of the craft field that I do this most strongly with than quilting. The first quilt I ever designed, cut, and carefully sewed together – taking months because of inexperience – was created when I was about nine. Nothing new, though; I hear the same story from countless women (and a few brave men). It is understandable, then, that we tend to think that we could create a much better quilt ourselves.
Then it comes to actually designing the quilt … and things can get a bit more complicated. Without a bunch of experience and intuition (or your mother mentally repeating in your ear how to “eyeball” it), the most difficult part about designing a quilt pattern comes at the very beginning:
What size do I make this quilt?
There is a bit of math involved in the answer, but I promise that taking the time to do the math will help you create quilt patterns that fit every single time and look like they were tailor-made. Heck, you might decide to go so far as to start selling your work – and you’ll have some basic math to thank.
A Few Important Questions and Tips to Get Started
Determining quilt size is the first step to planning a new project. Of course, if you’re working on a wall quilt you can create a piece of work that is any size you want it to be. If you’re making a quilt for practical use, though, there are several important questions to ask yourself about how you’d like the basic design of the quilt to look, take note of standard mattress dimensions, and look at ‘recommended’ dimensions based on your mattress size.
If you will be quilting for a specific bed, you can save yourself a ton of time by simply taking a few measurements and using the worksheet kindly provided by Generation Quilt Patterns for free here. It is in PDF format, so you will need a free PDF reader to open it.
Basic Questions to Ask Yourself:
• Will the quilt design fit across just the top of the bed, without any overhang?
• Will the quilt design hang over the sides of the mattress and boxspring, and by how much?
• Will the quilt pattern be designed to be tucked under the mattress, and by how much?
• Will the quilt design require a pillow tuck (pillows tucked into or covered by the quilt)? Will the quilt design require dense batting?
• What size of bed will this quilt pattern be designed for?
Take a minute to jot down the answers to the above questions – they’ll be vital for the math to come.
Mattress and Quilt Size Standards
Based on the book you read, the mattress company, and factors like how thick your batting is and how tight the actual quilting is, you will find dozens of different opinions on what quilt sizes should be.
The numbers below reflect the average sizes of currently available bed mattress and box spring models combined with the average between recommended quilt sizes and currently available commercial quilt sizes.
First, what size are standard mattresses? This is a commonality that all mattress companies have in common, with the exception of height. Mattress and box spring combinations can vary between 8 – 18″ thick. Make sure you take this into consideration.
Standard Dimensions of Mattresses:
• Standard Crib Mattress: 27 x 50 inches (perfect fit is difficult as crib mattress sizes vary + and – up to 3 inches)
• Standard Twin/Single Mattress: 39 x 75 inches
• Standard Double/Full Mattress: 54 x 75 inches
• Standard Queen Mattress: 60 x 80 inches
• Standard King Mattress: 78 x 80 inches
When it comes to the size of the standard quilt (and by standard, here, I mean ‘commercial’), there are two basic dimensions: comforter (short drop or tuck-in sizes) and bedspread (longer drops that aren’t intended to be tucked – very popular on daybeds). Bedspread standards include pillow tucks (10-18″ added to the length).
Standard Dimensions of Quilts:
• Standard Crib Quilt: 36 x 54 inches comforter, 45 x 60 inches bedspread
• Standard Twin/Single Quilt: 65 x 88 inches comforter, 81 x 107 inches bedspread
• Standard Double/Full Quilt: 80 x 88 inches comforter, 96 x 107 inches bedspread
• Standard Queen Quilt: 86 x 93 inches comforter, 102 x 112 inches bedspread
• Standard King Quilt: 104 x 93 inches comforter, 120 x 112 inches bedspread
Your Quilt Size
Depending on the bed size you’re designing for, you now have the very basic standards you will want to work with. The actual size of your quilt design, though, might vary by several inches in each direction.
For ease in use and selling (either the pattern or the finished design), you should keep your quilt patterns within 5 inches of the standard sizes for width unless your pattern calls for floor-length falls. Length is another matter. You can choose to use either the comforter (without a pillow tuck) or the bedspread (with a pillow tuck) dimension, but should stick within 3 inches of this standard. If you are using floor-length falls on the width, you will need to carefully measure so that the fall on the length is the same as the width.
Finally, remember to allow for shrinkage when you begin quilting and the first time that you wash your quilt. Most quilts will lose 5-10% of their overall size due to shrinkage. To minimize shrinkage, don’t place your quilting densely and hand wash your quilt. If you machine wash, hang-dry the quilt and ‘block’ (pull gently back to size and shape) as it dries.