Busy DIYers rejoice! Today's design tutorial for cheater quilt fabric gives you the look of a traditional pieced blanket without the time commitment. Spoonflower help team member Theresa is here to teach you how to create your own cheater quilt design by combining a few of your own favorite fabric designs into one single file for printing onto a yard or two (or more!) of fabric to sew into a lovely quilt.
Theresa: Blanket weather may be over here in the Northern Hemisphere, but a fantastic custom made quilt is something that never goes out of season. Piecing a quilt by hand truly is an art form, but unfortunately not many of us have the time or –let’s face it, the patience– to piece together a quilt by hand. This is why I absolutely adore a good cheater quilt!
Designing your own is easier than you may think. You’re going to create a “master file”, which means that you are compiling lots of images or designs all onto the same digital canvas, like a collage but more organized. You could make each image into any shape you want, but for simplicity let’s start with classic squares for our cheater quilt.
To begin, open Photoshop and set up your canvas. When setting up your canvas (file) dimensions, you’ll want to consider the dimensions you want your finished quilt. You can choose to make your file the full size of your quilt topper, or make it smaller if you plan to have it repeat once it’s uploaded to Spoonflower.
I have 25 images I want to include, each are going to be at 4 inches square. With a little math I’ve concluded that I need my cheater quilt design to be 20” square since I want 5 rows and columns of 4 inch squares. To pick the right size for you, determine how many different images are going to be in your cheater quilt at what size square, and make the file big enough so there are enough squares for every image (you can always go in and increase the canvas size later!). Set the resolution to 150 and make sure the color mode is set to RGB.
I know I want each quilt square to be 4 inches, so now I am going to set up some smart guides accordingly. I want to make sure my rulers are visible so I know where to place the smart guides. Click on “view > rulers” or just hit command + R (on a Mac) or control + R (on a PC) to bring up the rulers. To create a smart guide, click and drag on the ruler and drop the guide in place at the correct markers.
Next comes the fun part! Make sure you have all of your files that you want to include in your cheater quilt together on your computer where you can find them. These can be photographs, instagrams, scanned illustrations, anything in digital format. Select “file” > “place” or “place embedded” to drop your image into your Photoshop file. Scale it up or down a bit if you need to, and position it right into one of your squares.
Now, a problem you’ll run into is that your files may not be the exact ratio of a perfect square, which is why we need to create clipping masks to help us out. Never ever squish your images horizontally or vertically to force them to fit into your squares, as this will distort your image and affect the print quality. To create your clipping mask, first you need to turn off the visibility of your image layer by clicking on the little eyeball next to the layer. If you don’t see your layer palette menu in your workspace, you can go to “window” > “layers”. Next, draw a square with the shape tool and position it so that it fills up one of your quilt squares (this is going to be your mask), beneath your image like this:
Make sure the square is on its own layer, and that it is directly beneath the layer with your first image in it. With your image layer selected, right click on the layer and select “create clipping mask” from the options that appear. It should look like this in your layers palette:
You’ll notice that once the clipping mask has been created, your image will be cropped to fit perfectly within the quilt square, and now you can drag it around to position it just right within the square mask.
You did it! your first quilt square is complete, and now you just have to repeat this process until you’ve used up all your images.
This next step is optional, but if you want to help yourself out a little more (and if you’re bad at sewing straight lines like me!) you can trace over your smart guides with a light gray dashed line. Another way to achieve the same thing is by “sashing”, or leaving a small white border around each image for a stitch guide. Once you’ve sandwiched together your cheater quilt top with your batting and quilt bottom, these will be your stitch lines that you’re going to sew with your machine. To create your lines, choose the line shape tool from your shape menu. I chose a 1 point thickness for my line, with a light gray stroke and no fill. If you want to play with the gaps and dash lengths of your line, just click on “more options”.
Now, just drag your line down over one of your smart guides so that it spans the entire length or width of your file. You’re going to create duplicates of this stroked line by clicking on it and dragging, all while holding down the “alt” or “option” key. Keep arranging your stroked lines over the smart guides, so that you’ll know exactly where to stitch when the time comes. If you are confident in your straight line sewing skills or if your quilt squares are delineated enough to where you don’t think you’ll need stitch guides, just go ahead and skip this step.
You’re almost done! It’s time to take away the smart guides and closely inspect your squares to make sure everything is lined up just right. To remove your smart guides, go to “view” > “clear guides”. Behold your finished cheater quilt top design! Now, make sure you save two copies, one in the native format (.psd file) and one copy to upload to Spoonflower, which should be a PNG or JPG at 150 dpi.
Time to upload your cheater quilt design to Spoonflower! Start by logging into your account at spoonflower.com. Go to “create” > “fabric” and upload your PNG or JPG. If it doesn’t upload, drats! It may be too large. Try re-saving it as a lower quality JPG and double check the resolution. If the images you placed into the master file are really big, this could be what’s inflating your image size. If you’re still not sure what’s going wrong, you can chat with one of the Help team members from 12 – 4 EST for quick answers.
If you want your cheater quilt design to repeat across multiple yards, set it to the "basic repeat" layout as shown above. Now simply select your fabric type and quantity before purchasing your cheater quilt top. Spoonflower has some great quilting weight cottons including the Kona, Basic Combed Cotton, Poplin and Organic Cotton Sateen. You're done!
Go ahead and add the fabric to your shopping cart, or come back later to your design library to order the fabric. Select a coordinating fabric for the quilt bottom, and soon enough you’ll be sewing! If you want to purchase the cheater quilt seen here, it is currently available in the Spoonflower marketplace.
About Our Guest Blogger
In addition to being a part of the Spoonflower Help team, Theresa keeps busy working on freelance graphic design projects, loving on her mutt, Olive, needlecrafting and making floury messes in the kitchen.