In The Quilt Rambler Studio, Quilt Rambler Patterns, Spring Quilt Market

Designing A Quilt Pattern from Concept to Print

I have always loved geometry, in fact I fondly remember the joy of making a reference notebook in 5th grade drawing the different shapes, adding all the formulas on how to find the perimeter, area, angles of triangles, and such that pertained to each shape, complete with colored pencil drawings. It was a masterpiece. I wish I had it today! 

Perhaps that’s why I grew up to be a “traditional” quilter as I love the geometric shapes this style of quilting produces. Although as a child I also loved handwork ~ plenty of embroidery, needlepoint, counted cross-stitch~ I have to admit that applique never really interested me. Nope it’s the squares, rectangles, trapezoids, triangles, diamonds and such that catch my attention.

I thought I’d share a bit from my busy brain and how I process a quilt design. I’ve been wanting to share the news of my quilt, Enchanted Stars‘ recent “homecoming” … thinking this might be the perfect opportunity to weave a ramble and combine the process with a story.  Get comfy, put your feet up, let’s talk quilts! 

(Photo Credit Jerry Khiev, Island Batik photographer, from Island Batik’s Spring and Summer 2019 Catalog, used with permission)

How I Became an Island Batik Designer

Several years ago, at a Fall Quilt Market (held annually in Texas, it’s a wholesale buyers’ trade show for the quilt industry) I was sharing with Island Batik’s President & CEO, Caleb Willis, my desire to design quilt patterns (something I hadn’t really attempted at the time). Caleb suggested that I apply for the Island Batik Ambassador program, to which I did and was accepted in 2017. If you’ve been following The Quilt Rambler for a while you already know that the program consists of monthly challenges using fabrics provided by Island Batik. Oh what joyful moments when the bi-annual “unboxing” of said fabrics commenced. For giggle and grins, you can visit my YouTube channel and relive the anticipation with me! (PS – I enjoyed being an ambassador from 2017-2018, which actually in the true sense of the word I am still an ambassador as I continue to love and support Island Batik, just not in the official capacity of an Island Batik Ambassador participating in monthly challenges ~ just sayin. I now enjoy the role of Island Batik Designer!)

Fast forward a bit….as a new member of the Island Batik extended family, ambassadors were included in a “call to submission” twice a year in preparation for upcoming catalogs that typically revolve around both Spring and Fall Quilt Markets ~ when the fabric manufacturers introduce their upcoming new fabric collections. “The Call” is the time for new quilt designs to be submitted for consideration of supporting a particular fabric collection in both the catalog and potentially in Island Batik’s booth at market where prospective shop owners as well as large catalog companies make their buying decisions for the upcoming season.

Quilt Design Concept

Let’s pick up the story here with Enchanted Stars. The call for submissions came sometime in the late summer of 2018 for the Spring/Summer 2019 Catalog. The “call” included a series of deadlines for submission of design along with the expected arrival date of the finished quilt (if chosen) and a computer file full of fabric collections with images for individual fabrics to be used in design software. That particular season there were 27 collections!

I feel in love with all of them! Oh the decisions! I actually narrowed it down to two collections, Mermaid Cove and Black Pearl and began the process. By the way, my submission for Black Pearl is a tale for another time.

Screenshot from files shared during call for submissions

One of my favorite geometric traditional quilt designs is the Lemoyne Star – goes back to a quilt block I have of my great grandmother’s….again, a tale for another time….and that’s the mood I was in when I began playing around with the SKU’s of Mermaid Cove.

At the time we were expecting our first grandchild, a little girl. As I mulled over the quilt design, I couldn’t help but envision sharing this quilt with her. In fact, my original submission to Island Batik had the quilt pattern named “Stars for a Mermaid Princess”.

Submission Process

I can only imagine how many catalog quilt submissions the marketing team has to shift through to choose quilt design concepts that best showcase each fabric collection. I am always pleasantly surprised and super excited when one of my ideas is chosen!

Once the submission is accepted Island Batik then sends the requested fabrics to the designer and that’s where the fun begins! And the secret sewing! 

I take process photos along the way; my camera is full of quilting process photos! Many find their way to my social media, many cannot, at least until later.  Most are there to assist my busy brain in the remembering of what I actually did to make the design come to life (along with my notebook) which is very helpful later in the pattern writing process.

Notice the date of submission is 9.15.18 and the date of construction is 11.18.18 somewhere between those dates my design was approved and the fabric mailed to me. Fall is typically a busy time of year – for me that year included multiple days attending  both fall Quilt Market and International Quilt Festival  held here in Houston ~ however, as important as that is to my “mermaid tail” the most important is our mermaid princess, Reagan,  arriving  on 10.20.18. Yep proud Oma here, and unashamed to say so!

Let The Quilting Begin!

My husband is always reminding me to “enjoy the process” …and indeed I do. I love working through the design concept by actually figuring the necessary steps to bring the paper-version draft to real life with the fabrics. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again and again, the hardest part of my “job” is having to keep secrets for so long! But as you know, I also say “good things come to those who wait!”

In a matter of days the quilt was pieced and on the longarm. We had literally just moved back into our home after Hurricane Harvey reconstruction around the first of October and if memory serves me correctly the first thing to get set up with the studio!

(auditioning quilt design ideas)

Oh, and did I mention that I was working on two quilts for Spring/Summer 2019 catalog? Yep – I have a quilt in the Black Pearl line also (Celestial Borealis Twilight) ….

Finished and Ready to Ship

I am very blessed that our eldest son takes my quilt photos for me…he’s also the daddy of our sweet Reagan. I was thrilled to have him take my photo holding Reagan, although she wasn’t too thrilled to have the sun in her eyes!

Before the end of the year 2018 my two quilts were on their way to Island Batik to be professionally photographed for catalog inclusion. Somewhere along the way I changed the name of the quilt to Enchanted Stars…. My social media “secret sewing” photo could only include a view from the back of the quilts with part of the label covered up…sigh…and so the waiting began.

Spring Market 2019

Although I was unable to attend market that year, I did have several friends in attendance who sent me photos of Enchanted Stars in the Island Batik booth under the Mermaid Cove collection. There were several other beautiful quilts by other designers rounding out the collection. It always amazes me how different people can be given the same fabrics to work with and come up with something totally unique! 

While I wish I had of been there, I can continue to relive the excitement with my copy of the Spring Catalog 2019. (By the way, if you want to see current catalogs visit the Island Batik website for online viewing!).

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see your name in print, to know that you are counted among a group of very talented designers, and that quilt shops around the world have an opportunity to choose your pattern to carry in their shop along with the fabric collection.

Pattern Writing

While I really don’t have time to develop a detailed process of my pattern writing, it goes without saying that the ultimate purpose of my quilting designing is to produce patterns for the end consumer – you! Once the quilt is off to Island Batik for its tour of duty (photo for catalog, premier at market, traveling trunk show) then it is time for the design to be put into print and digital form.

As I mentioned I go through all my process photos as well as my notes, figuring up “the math” of how many strips to cut, how many subcuts for all those geometric shapes I so dearly love. Then comes the task of writing instructions that are both correct and clear to understand. I am blessed to have a behind the scenes team to help with this, including a professional text editor who takes my run on rambles and corrects for typos and grammar; a professional graphic artist that makes my design go from process photos to beautiful illustrations; as well as various quilting friends that will actually test the pattern to not only “check my math” and clarity of instructions but will actually make a block or two or the whole quilt as the ultimate test. A lengthy process actually, but one that is necessary to provide a quality pattern for your quilting enjoyment!


Just recently Enchanted Stars returned home from its travels. I have to admit it is truly a homecoming, for as we all know as quilters there is always a certain attachment to our creations of love. While my visions of sharing the quilt on the beach with my little mermaid hasn’t come to fruition, it did bring a smile to my face while searching through my photos to see Enchanted Stars in the background of her playtime during a recent visit to Oma’s house.

Design, Submit, Quilt, Write Pattern, Repeat

Basically, now you know my job description. Once one catalog is completed the process for the next one begins. It’s a continued season of secret sewing, deadline quilting, and big reveals! Thrown in the mix is travel and teaching. I am thrilled to have Enchanted Stars return in time for my upcoming workshop in Phoenix, Arizona the first weekend in August where I will be teaching both Enchanted Stars and Paradise Island. I’m truly looking forward to this event!

But Wait! There’s More!

You knew that was coming, didn’t you? I hope you will take a look at my current pattern offerings, beginning with my first published pattern from Island Batik’s Fall Catalog 2017 to the Fall Catalog 2019 – 7 patterns during that time period, with one more on the chopping block (editing process) from the Spring 2020 Catalog, Not Your Grandmother’s Sampler

And here’s the “more” …. I am currently in the process of an “non-market related” production of quilt designs that will be announced in July. While these quilts aren’t tied into a specific catalog release, they will be made with Island Batik fabrics (why would I use anything else!), from collections that were recently released in the Spring 2020 Catalog. I am sooooo super excited to share these with you!

Ah, there’s even MORE! But these have to wait until the Fall 2020 Catalog…. sigh…new designs, new fabrics…. ????and the beat goes on! ????.

I love my job! Thanks for sharing the journey!

This is Karen Overton, The Quilt Rambler

2 thoughts on “Designing A Quilt Pattern from Concept to Print”

  1. Always enjoy reading your blog and “seeing” how your mind works! LOL Reagan is growing so much! She’s such a cutie pie! Have a great week, Karen.

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