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Panel Quilt Challenges

Designing panel quilts is not as easy as it looks. As a designer I abandoned dozens of my ideas and only a few of them became an actual quilt pattern. Working with pre-printed panels limits your color and fabric choices, the sizes of the surrounding blocks, and the borders to enhance the panel.

Panel Size and Coping Border

Fabric panels range from approximately 24" to 36" wide and 42" high. The size is always approximate since the print can be a bit askew even with the best quality digitally printed panels. If you work with a panel and you are not able to square it up to the desired size, the solution is a coping border. This border however should not compete with the panel itself it should rather blend in or be relatively unnoticeable. If your panel is smaller add a coping border and square the panel up (with the added border) to the desired size. The coping border is especially important if the panel is surrounded with blocks of a certain size. In this case I recommend adding the coping border to the panel after you pieced and assembled the surrounding blocks. I designed the "Bear Sanctuary" for the Northern Peaks fabric line from Northcott and adapted later to the Far Away collection from Hoffman California.

Coordinating Fabrics

One of the main challenges of designing panel quilts is finding the right balance between the panel itself and the surrounding fabrics. Panels typically feature intricate designs or images that serve as the focal point of the quilt, so it is important to choose complementary fabrics that enhance rather than compete with the panel. Coordinated fabric lines make this process a lot easier. I also found that batiks can be easily coordinated with panels.

My "Cherry Blossoms" design uses prints from the Sakura Blooms fabric line and a few coordinated batiks from Hoffman California. Another feature of this design is the asymmetric block and color arrangement to shake up the traditions a bit.

Borders and Sashing

One of the creative flourishes that can be added to panel quilts is the use of sashing to add visual interest and create a sense of cohesion within the quilt top. My "Vineyard Labyrinth" design uses sashing strips around the panel and the showcased fabrics to create the cohesion and feature the panel and the coordinated fabrics of the fabric line.

Panels used as Border

My best selling Northcott design is the "Windswept" which I designed originally for the Mystic Meadows fabric line from Hoffman California and later adapted it to the Stonehenge Autumn Splendor fabric line from Northcott and for the Fall is in the Air fabric line from Timeless Treasures. For this design you can also use printed border fabrics or two 24" wide panels.

Panels as Supporting Actors?

The Sacred Plant, Aurora Borealis and Torus Maximus use the Supernova Panels as background for raw edge appliqué. The panels are enhancing the appliqué design beautifully and without these backgrounds the quilts would look quite different. Unfortunately these prints are hard to find now, but if you have one or two in your stash do not hesitate to give a try to one of these designs.

Small Panels or Fussy Cuts

The "Treasure Islands" and "Moroccan Tiles" feature small printed panels but they also look great when featuring fussy cuts. I made several versions of the Moroccan Tiles using gorgeous prints and batiks.

Despite the challenges of designing panel quilts, the end result can be a stunning and unique piece of art that showcases both the beauty of the panel(s) and the creativity of the design. By overcoming these obstacles and embracing the limitations of working with panels, quilters can create beautiful and innovative designs that stand out in a crowded quilting community.

See more panel quilts here.

Buy the PDF version with 20% discount between April 5-12, 2024.

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