a photo quilt tutorial…sans sewing

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Well, I suppose that, technically, this should be called photo tiles. But it is a traditional quilt pattern called Storm at Sea---I downloaded here at QuiltMag.com. And originally, I had imagined that I would actually piece this together with a sewing machine.

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Stitching together paper works quite nicely, the few times that I’ve tried it. Photos were definitely something I wanted to try with a quilt pattern. This could easily have been created as an image, digitally, and printed up.

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But I wanted it to be textural…you know, like a real quilt. The idea never materialized, until this idea popped into my head. Instead of sitting down in front of the sewing machine, I cut up cardboard and sat down with some glue.

All that was needed:

  • Photos printed on regular paper
  • Cardboard (I keep a stack, from recycled boxes, to make my shipping boxes with)
  • Glue, of some sort (I used Mod Podge)
  • A backing (you’ll need something to glue your pieces onto)

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After deciding on the pattern, I had to choose my photos. I went with some of the photos that I took at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (you can read about that here.) To print them in the correct sizes, I followed the pattern instructions, and inserted the photos into a desktop publisher. A word processor or graphics editor also works, but for me, a desktop publisher is easier to size the photos to the exact dimensions I needed.

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For the backing I used a piece of chipboard I had saved from the back of a large sketchpad. I covered it with some linen fabric, but you could use anything.

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After I had all of the cardboard pieces cut to size (and remember: you need to cut your cardboard to the finished quilt size---meaning without the seam allowance, and your paper should be cut the same size you would cut your fabric) I started gluing the photos to them.

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Wrap the paper over and fold the corners like a nice, little present. I labeled my cardboard pieces with the corresponding letters from the quilt pattern to keep confusion to a minimum.

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While I was assembling this, I realized that this method allows you the freedom to leave out pieces, if you want---for more dimension and added contrast.

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Most of the pieces were simply a square or rectangle that was printed to size and cut in half diagonally, but for this piece, I used the help of the actual quilt pattern.

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While piecing this together I remembered what it is about quilts that I like….it’s the geometry. Turning lines, angles, polygons into delicate, intricate, colorful, and flowing art.

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So once the photos were all glued to their proper cardboard pieces, it was time to start attaching them to the backing with glue. I marked the center and started there…

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I had fun piecing this together and have been thinking it would be nice to stick magnets on the backs and make refrigerator art with them.

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I find myself running my fingers over it every time I walk by it it---which is exactly what I do with quilts.

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I was talking to Mama the other day about quilt making. I remembered growing up with a couple of old, beautiful quilts that were only brought out when it got cold for few weeks every year. She told me that her grandma had made them back when she used to make and sell quilts. (The same grandma whose picture is in this other photo tutorial here.)The patterns and odd looking fabric use to mesmerize me as a child.

I’ve seen this Storm at Sea pattern before, and have always liked the way it looks as if it has curves in the pattern, but actually it’s all straight edges.

The history of quilt making is amazing enough, but when I think about the women who created these designs…well, I would like whatever kind of coffee it was that they drank in the mornings.



  1. Gorgeous! I can see a lot of possibilities here with other colors, different patterns, different sizes. I'm a big fan of little pieces and patching them together. Thanks for sharing!

  2. You are welcome! This is the first time I tried this and I certainly see myself doing some more in the future. It was actually fun.