How to Make a Photo Quilt in 15 Steps

How to Make a Photo Quilt in 15 Steps

how to make a photo quilt

If you need some new ideas for a creative project, let me show you how to make a photo quilt! You can simply print photos onto the fabric, which can be then cut up and sewn together into a quilt.

There are tons of ideas on how you can piece together your quilt. What you will get is a timeless photo album, a keepsake for the future generations of your family, something you will never be able to create with the fabric you buy in stores. Here’s how you can do this.

Step 1. Choose Materials

how to make a photo quilt

You will need some fabric squares for your quilt. The number and the size of your squares will depend on the size of the quilt you want to make.

Once you know the exact number of the squares (or other shapes you are planning to use), simply subtract the number of photos you will be using.

For the pictures, you will need some printable fusible fabric that you will then transfer onto the white fabric, or some photo fabric sheets. Other materials include binding, batting, thread, and some backing fabric.

Step 2. Plan the Quilt

Choose the layout and size. If you want to make a baby quilt, stick to the size of 36x45 inches, these are the most common dimensions, or you can make the size you need, there are no restrictions. Make sure you have a variety of different fabrics for your quilt and plan the layout in advance.

Step 3. Figure out How Many Photos You’ll Need

Is your quilt going to be full of photographs, like a real photo album? Or will you simply include a photo here and there?

Step 4. Prepare the Photos

If you are using old photographs, scan them first. Then, you will have to crop the photos to the sizes you need for your quilt. Create a document and start pasting your images into it, arrange them to have some white spaces between.

These spaces will be your seam allowances and there has to be at least half an inch between each photo. You need to paste as many images onto a single page as you can.

Remember, you can feed your special paper through the printer only once! Do not worry too much about their order or how they are arranged yet, you will cut them out later.

Step 5. Edit Them

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The photos on your quilt must look exactly as you want them to, in other words, they must be perfect! So, make sure you edit them before printing.

This may include removing unwanted objects from the background, fixing the red-eye effect, adjusting contrast and brightness, correcting color issues.

If you want to have black and white images, then you will need to apply the corresponding filters or black and white apps. If the photograph is too old, try restoring it.

Step 6. Print the Photos

print photo before making a photo quilt

The fabric for printing has a “right” side (meant to be printed on) and a “wrong” side. Make sure you feed it in your printer correctly. It’s reasonable to do a test run to know that your printer has the correct settings and adjust them if needed (for example, you may need to change the paper setting for the heavier paper).

Another important thing to consider is that your printer will only take the fabric with a straight and even edge. If it’s not, you can trim with a rotary cutter, use a ruler and a mat to get the best result. Or use special iron-on transfer paper and print directly onto it, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 7. Choose, Wash, and Iron the Fabric

If you use an iron, you need to remember that the white parts of your image will have no ink on them. It means that they will be the color, pattern or texture of the fabric you will be using.

Choose something that is light in color so that your photo looks the best. To make things faster on the day of sewing, prepare the fabric in advance. This means washing it and ironing it before transferring the photos.

Step 8. Transfer the Photo to Fabric

If you use the iron-on transfer, you have to apply it to the fabric of your choice and with the help of the iron. Not to mess anything up, your iron shouldn’t steam the paper.

how to make a quilt with pictures

In the case of the special fabric, you print directly onto the fabric as it is explained in step 3 in more detail.

Step 9. Let the Ink Dry

After transferring the image onto the fabric, let it dry for at least 30 minutes before using it. This will allow the ink to set.

Additionally, you can rinse the sheets of fabric by hand in some mild detergent. You can also use a specialized detergent for the fabric that has been recently dyed (like Bubble Jet Rinse). It will ensure that the colors will not fade after the ink is dry.

Step 10. Draw a Diagram, Cut the Pieces

By the time you are ready to cut your quilt pieces, you should have the exact plan. I recommend creating a detailed diagram of where exactly each element will go. After you are satisfied with the quilt patterns, start cutting your pieces. Don’t forget about the seam allowance, it should be at least a quarter of an inch.

You can make a quilt with fabric pieces of different shapes. If the pieces have straight lines (squares, diamonds, triangles, etc.) it is better to cut them with the help of a rotary cutter, a mat, and a clear cutting guide.

If using round shapes, you can create a template to trace around and cut with scissors. These round shapes can be then attached as appliques to the squares.

Step 11. Use Wall Felt to Get the Big Picture

photo quilt on the wall

By using a piece of felt slightly larger than your finished quilt, you will be able to attach your pieces to it (cotton will stick to it, alternatively, you can also use pins) and see what the final project is going to look like. It’s a great visual trick.

At this stage, before you’ve attached any of the pieces together, you can move the elements around and change the location of squares that don’t go together.

Step 12. Stack Squares to Sew Rows

Now the actual sewing time! First, you need to get all your squares adhered to the felt on the wall into stacks for each row of your quilt.

how to make a picture quilt

Start on the bottom left and work your way up, placing the lowest square on the second one from the bottom, then the two of them on the third, and so on until you have the first row neatly collected in a single stack.

Use a pin at the top of the square, this will keep them together and also remind you that this is the upper side of the squares. Continue doing the same for the rows that are left.

Lay your stacks out in the order they are going to appear in your quilt. Begin by sewing the top of the bottom square to the bottom of the next square in your row, without cutting the thread, do the same for the second row, and so on.

In the end, you will get a long strip of the first two horizontal rows of your quilt. Cut the thread and do the same for squares 3 and 4.

Continue until you’ve sewn up all your squares into horizontal strips. With your iron, press the seams flat. Now simply sew the vertical rows together, and, voila, you are almost half-way there!

Step 13. Add Batting and Backing

Prepare the batting and backing of your quilt by cutting the fabric a bit larger than the dimensions of your quilt. You will need to attach these temporarily together and basting is the best technique.

To do this, start at the center and work outside towards the sides. Each basting row must be 4 inches apart from another. The basting should go vertically and horizontally.

Step 14. Machine Quilt

how to make a photo quilts

Doing the machine quilting is faster than creating it by hand. If you are not confident enough, mark the lines on your quilt with a disappearing ink beforehand. Work with a #2 stitch, it’s not going to unravel and is very easy to fix in case you make any mistakes.

If you are making a large quilt, roll it up and keep open only the area you are currently working on. Use clips to keep the rolled-up edges in place.

Step 15. Bind and Finish

how to make photo quilts

Cut your binding. These should be 2-inch wide strips that you will later join together into a single long strip with the help of diagonal seams. Make sure you measure the sides of your quilt and cut enough binding for them.

Cut one of the ends of your binding diagonally and fold the quarter of an inch seam allowance, press with your iron. Fold the whole strip in half and iron the crease. Start attaching the binding to the edges of your quilt.

Align the raw edges of the quilt and the binding, use pins to hold it all together. Stitch at a quarter of an inch away from the edge. Make mitered corners.

On the back of the DIY photo quilt, you will need to work by hand to make it look neat. You should use the blind stitch for that. If you are planning to hang your quilt on the wall, you will have to sew an additional fabric tube.

Attach it to the top of the quilt, on the back under the binding. Make it narrower than your quilt; the dowel you will insert into the tube should be out because you will hang it on the nails.

This is a rather brief tutorial on how to make a quilt with pictures. Now, you can create something that will bring back some lovely memories from the past or a fun project with photos you love. The sky is the limit!

20 DIY Photo Quilt Ideas

Having learned how to make a photo quilt, you can use the skill for something stunning. After all, it’s a great way to keep the memories of your happy days or make a memorable gift for your friends and family.

1. Quilt for King Size Bed

making a photo quilt idea

Make a quilt with pictures for a king-size bed. This is definitely not a quick project just because of the size but that is its advantage too. Just imagine how many amazing photos you can fit onto a quilt like this!

2. Film

diy photo quilt idea

Choosing random pictures for the quilt is one way to go but how about choosing a specific theme? For example, your wedding. You don’t have to know how to make a quilt with photographs. Make it look like a film strip that you sew onto your quilt!

3. Zigzag

diy photo quilt zigzag

Placing your photos in a zigzag pattern on the quilt will look dynamic and will help to tell the cohesive story (the eye of the person looking at it will naturally move from the top down, following each image along the way).

4. Pink

diy photo quilt pink

Would you like an idea of how to make a picture quilt for a fan of a pink color? Just use all its different shades in one blanket to frame the favorite photos. A pro tip - the images of the same size should be used together for a more harmonious look.

5. Patchwork

diy photo quilt patchwork

This technique means using large spaces of fabric squares between your photographs. Make sure you choose your patterns and colors so that they don’t clash with the photos.

6. Structured Patterns

diy photo quilt pattern

A pattern that is symmetrical and has a defined structure will look classy and professional. Just make sure your photos are perfect.

7. Chronological

diy photo quilt chrono

Choose the moments of your life that you cherish the most and place them in the order they happened. This will be a very special quilt for you.

8. Handprints

diy photo quilt handprints

Want the most heartwarming idea ever? Create a photo quilt for the grandparents with the photos of the grandchildren and also introduce squares with their little handprints here and there.

9. Make Borders

diy photo quilt borders

Create an elegant photo frame look by making a wide border on your quilt. Additionally, you can add a thinner black sub border. It will make a nice background for the photos to stand out against.

10. Collage

diy photo quilt collage

Forget about additional fabric squares on your quilt and simply make one big collage of your photographs. Choose large images that tell one story.

11. Mix Fabrics

diy photo quilt fabrics

Make a rag quilt with squares made from a variety of different fabrics and just throw in a couple of photos. It will look unexpected.

12. Blue

diy photo quilt blue

How to make photo quilts and not to have photos disappear among all the patches? Choose solid blue as your background color, it will guarantee that your photos will be highlighted.

13. Few Photos

diy photo quilt wedding collage

You can go the opposite way of using many photos and only include a few best ones. To make your quilt look even prettier include some squares with embroideries or fun appliques.

14. Love

diy photo quilt love collage

You can make a quilt as a gift to any of your family members. Make it with love and they will feel how appreciated they are.

15. Spectacular

diy photo quilt combination

Are you looking for a spectacular combination of colors to use on your quilt? Go for light purple and black. It will look regal.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more

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