Cheater Quilt Lesson One: Developing your theme & curating photos

NOV 17, 2015 updated Jun 1, 2021

Choose a colorway or theme.

Your first design choice is to pick a colorway for your quilt.  I chose a rainbow with one patchwork square in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.  

If you aren’t into rainbows, there are lots of other color options. You could pick earth tones or team colors or the colors to coordinate with a room in your house. Here are some other variations that might get you thinking.

Instead of choosing a color theme for the first group, I decided to pick all photos of circles (coffee cups, gears, apples, balls of yarn.)  Then later, I added a filter to help these have a coordinating color theme.  The middle block is the same collection of photos as the previous example, but with a different colored filter.

The last sample is all photos of winter activities (I live in Minnesota after all!) in black and white with another filter emphasizing a few pops of color.

I will talk about filters more in a later lesson; the important part here is to choose a theme: “rainbow” or “circles” or “winter” or your own theme.

Collect photos that match your theme.

There are lots of places that I have photos stashed: on my computer, on my phone, in Instagram, on Facebook.  You will need 25 photos for each patchwork block that match your theme.  So for me that means 25 photos that are red, 25 that are orange and so on. I made folders for each color on my hard drive and started looking through all of my collections of photos.  Anytime I found a photo, I dragged a copy of it to the corresponding folder.  I thought it was a lot of fun to look at my photos in a very different way. You will be surprised at what colors you find in your photos when you start to look at them closely.

Keep in mind, these photos don’t need to be masterpieces. At the end, each one is going to print out about 2 inches square and they will look very different when they are a small part of the bigger color collection.  Some of my favorite photos in the collages are really random stuff, like the blue dog food dish or my “I Voted” sticker.  I wouldn’t print those out and hang them on my wall, but I love them because the colors are vibrant, they work well with the other photos and they really are snapshots of my everyday life.

Some tips for choosing photos by color:

  • Look at the background color as well as the subject of the photo.  This is a picture of a many colored paper crane, but the background is green, so I can include it in the green collage.  Sometimes stepping back and looking at the photo from a distance can help you decide what the prominent color really is.
  • Focus on the color in the photo and don’t worry about the extra stuff in the background.  That’s where careful cropping is going to make the difference – a photo of a group of people can suddenly work in the yellow collage if you crop to show just the guy in the yellow shirt.  We are going to talk about how to crop and make the colors pop in the next lesson.
  • Contrast is your friend.  A photo that has a nice variety of dark, medium and light areas is going to print best.  Photos that are uniformly dark (people at night) or light (sunny beach) aren’t going to look as crisp.

Collect a few extras.  As you assemble your block, you might have a few photos that just don’t work for one reason or another.  Give yourself the option to swap things out.  Also near-miss colors sometimes work just fine.  Something that looks really turquoise by itself might blend in with blue or green when you get them all together as a group.

Purple was my hardest color collection to put together.  I asked for help and got my mom and sister to email me me a few more purple and orange photos to finish up my collections.


  • Choose a theme.
  • Collect 25 photos for each of your 6 patchwork blocks (150 total).


What’s your theme?  Show us a photo or two that inspired your color theme and tell us about it using the hashtag #SpoonChallenge on your social media platform of choice.  Bonus points if it is something off the wall (like purple bubble wrap)!

Happy creating!


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