Making a Quilt without a Pattern – My Triangle Madness Quilt!

I often make quilts without a quilt pattern. 

I get impatient cutting out pieces, measuring, and trying to figure out if I have enough fabric.  So often I prefer to wing it – which is what I did with my Triangle Madness Quilt.

In this post, I’m going to explain my process to give you more confidence in making your own quilts without a pattern.

This method isn’t for everyone but many quilters enjoy the creative process of not knowing exactly how the quilt will turn out until it is finished!

how to make a quilt without a pattern

Patchwork quilts in the past were utility quilts made out of all sorts of fabric.

Quilters didn’t have rotary cutters or self-healing mats, or even a sewing machine sometimes – and they certainly didn’t have a quilt pattern!

For those of you who want to recreate the quilt I made I will try my best to give you the measurements for the quilt top and you will find these within the text as you read on.

The quilt back was completely scrappy though so while I can tell you how I made it there won’t be any measurements I’m afraid!

Note: There is a video version of this post below if you fancy watching it!

Tips Before You Start Making a Quilt without a Pattern

Set Boundaries

When you start out a no pattern quilt project it is usually good to set yourself some parameters or boundaries. This is to stop you from overthinking or getting lost in your own project not knowing where to go next.

Here are some examples of boundaries or parameters you can set for your project and what I did for this Triangle Quilt:

  • Choose a color palette – For this quilt I went with pinks, yellows and white/offwhite/low volume.
  • Start with a set group of fabrics pulled from your stash – I pulled fabrics with prints I likeed from the colors above and used them as my core fabrics – the only fabrics I added later on were background fabrics in the same white/off white color family.
  • A set technique, block, or shape that you want to try – my starting off point was the Accuquilt Isocoles Triangle Die from my collection that I had never used before. I wanted to try it out and see what I could make.
  • Decide on a finished size for your quilt – I didn’t really do this precisely for this quilt but I knew I wanted to make a large throw although I didn’t decide on exact dimensions until after I finished the quilt top.
  • Decide who the quilt is for – I made this quilt for myself but you can use this parameter as a guide when you are making a quilt for someone whose taste you know quite well. You can say to yourself ‘would so and so like how this looks?’ and use that to help you make decisions as you go.

Making a Start

I started with the idea of trying out my AccuQuilt Isocolese Triangle Die which I’d never used before.

accuquilt isosceles triangle die for fabric cutting
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I pulled out a mix of yellow pink and low volume/white fabrics to start off with.  Some were large pieces – fabric remnants I’d bought to ebay or form quilt fabric scrap bags, and some were smaller scraps leftover from other quilt projects.

fabric pull for triangle quilt with no pattern
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I didn’t check exactly how much fabric was in the pile or try to estimate what size quilt I could make with them.

isosceles triangles for quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I thought I would just make a random triangle quilt.  It didn’t turn out quite like that.

I cut the scraps and remnants I had pulled into as many triangles as I could and then pieced them in pairs.

If you want to see how to sew Isosceles Triangles see the YouTube video version of this post below that includes a short demo (check the video timestamps). 

sewing pairs of triangles
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

So far so good.

triangle quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I laid them out on the floor to see how it was looking.

Changing Direction

Although I had originally thought I would make a simple allover triangle quilt top, once I had done the initial cutting and piecing in pairs I made a slight change of direction – which is something you always have the option to do when you are making a quilt without a pattern.

I didn’t really have enough triangles to make a quilt of any great size and I didn’t feel like finding more fabric to cut more triangles.

So I played around with the triangles I did have and worked out that I could make a hexagon shape with them.

So I pieced the rows of triangles needed to make the hexagon shape.

hexagon made of triangles
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I had 8 rows of Triangles as follows:

Rows 1 & 8 – 15 Triangles

Rows 2 & 7 – 17 Triangles

Rows 3 & 6 – 19 Triangles

Rows 4 & 5 – 21 Triangles

Then I had to figure out how to add a background fabric.

Problem Solving

When you are quilting without a pattern no one else has done the math for you or detailed the cutting instructions so you will have to do some problem-solving.

In this case, the issue was how to add a backing fabric. Should I add it in great big pieces or continue with my rows?

Either decision could have worked out fine but I had a look through my stash of whites and off whites and decided to work with what I had – which wasn’t great big pieces of fabric.

I had these strange wide strips of plain white fabric in my stash from some sort of ebay haul a while ago so I cut the ends of the strips at an angle to add them to either side of the triangle rows and trimmed the white strips to the same height as the triangle 5″ finished 5 1/2″ unfinished.

making a quilt without a pattern - problem solving
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

To do this I laid the triangle on top of the strip of white and used my ruler to cut along the line of the triangle so that my white strip of fabric now had one ‘triangle’ shaped end.

I then flipped the triangle part of the row right sides together with the white strip and sewed as I did before when I was joining the individual triangles.

making a quilt without a pattern - triangle quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I didn’t actually measure the length of the strips at the time, I just laid them out on the floor and trimmed them so the two side edges were equal to each other – knowing I would trim the whole quilt top down later.

I have since measured and the length of the strips (one strip needed for each end of the triangle rows) are:

Rows 4 & 5 – 5.5″ x 11″ unfinished (length measured from the tip of the triangle furthest from the edge of the quilt – hopefully that makes sense!)

Rows 3 & 6 – 5.5″ x 12.5″

Rows 2 & 7 – 5.5″ x 15.25″

Rows 1 & 8 – 5.5″ x 17.5″

There is then a row of plain white above and below the hexagon rows that is approximately 5″ x 63.5″ unfinished – these would have been pieced from more than one piece most likely – can’t totally remember.

I joined the rows to form my hexagon, plus the white rows on the top and bottom, and decided it wasn’t quite big enough for my liking.

Making Choices

So at this point, I was very happy with how it was all looking but the quilt just wasn’t big enough for what I wanted.

So I had a choice at this point – do I pull more fabric and cut more triangles to go on the top and bottom of the quilt? Do I order more white fabric (because I didn’t have any that matched the white I had used for the strips)? Do I make a different block altogether and add it somewhere to make it bigger? Do I add a border in a different color?

What I decided was to go with an off-white border on the top and bottom just to give the quilt that extra size. I didn’t want to go with different blocks or bright colors as I wanted the Triangle hexagon to be the star of the show.

quilt top with top and bottom border
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I mistakenly said in my YouTube video that the fabric used for the border was Dashwood Studio Twist in Almond – I did have some of that fabric on the back of the quilt but it was a different fabric for the top and bottom border…not sure what it is called to be honest…but I digress.

I also said in my video that I thought the top and bottom borders were 6.5″….nope!…they were 10.5″. Each border edge was pieced from 6″ strips though so I wasn’t totally off – it’s just that there were 2 rows of these strips and then the whole thing got trimmed down at the end.

I’m just going to remind you this post is NOT a Triangle Quilt Pattern – it is a demonstration of making a quilt without a pattern…and my lack of clarity about the measurements I am hoping will show you that measuring in quilting isn’t always as important as it is made out to be.

Most likely what I did at the point when I wanted to add a border was find a fabric that I liked and then figured out how big I could make the border in two equal pieces based on the fabric I had.

finished quilt top
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I was pretty pleased with how this ‘improv’ triangle quilt top turned out. 

Improv Quilt Back

Next, I had to decide on a backing fabric.

I didn’t have a large piece of fabric that was suitable to be a quilt back on it’s own so I decided to go scrappy with it.

scrap fabric
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I had lots of odd-shaped scraps from cutting the triangles so I started making improv braided quilt blocks.

improv braided quilt block
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I also used up the leftover triangles I hadn’t used in the front (there were a few extra that didn’t fit in the hexagon).

One of the blocks I made started with a triangle improv center and in the end I decided to expand on that block.

improv blocks for quilt back
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

So I cut the other blocks I had made into strips and joined another row of triangles and kept sewing pieces on all three sides of the initial block, alternating with white or low volume fabric.

The best way to describe this is like one huge triangle log cabin block.

I just kept adding a strip to each size, crossing the seams I had just sewn and then going down the next side, etc.

improv scrap fabric quilt back
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

There was no set width for any of the strips and indeed the width of the strips was different on different sizes.

The challenge of this was all about piecing strips that were long enough as the triangle shape got bigger and bigger!

I was grabbing fabric pieces from wherever I could find them in my sewing room – anything just to get the strips as long as I needed them.

The back took me about 3 times as long as the quilt top but it was a lot of fun – lovely mindless sewing.

triangle scrappy quilt back
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I had to make the backing quite a bit bigger than the quilt top in order to cover the area of the square quilt top with what was essentially a big triangle. Eventually I was adding sections to just two corners to make it finally fit!

It’s okay though because I can use the offcuts in my low volume crumb quilt – one of my ongoing WIPs

Batting & Quilting

For this particular quilt I used a double layer of batting in my quilt sandwich.

Two layers of 80/20 Batting.

I did this because I didn’t want the hot pink from the quilt top or quilt backing to be seen through on the other side. I also really like heavy puffy quilts.

double batting quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Basting the quilt took a bit longer than it usually does – I used a spray baste this time but in hindsight, I think the microstich gun method might have been better with so many layers.

I think using double batting resulted in some skipped stitches in the quilting but no one will notice those but me!

Using two layers of batting made the quilt very heavy to put through the machine at the quilting stage but I still really like how it turned out.

I spoke a bit more about the quilting itself in the video version of this post which you can find below.

I used the same fabric for the binding as I did for the large borders on the quilt top – so that the binding doesn’t draw too much attention.

quilt label on binding
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I did throw in a bit of hot pink in the binding though which I used as the quilt label.

The finished size of my quilt is a random 63″ x 69″ – a custom throw size is what I like to call it. As in “that looks big enough – I think I’m finished” size.

It helps that I view most quilts as cuddle quilts and not ones that have to drape a certain way on top of a certain-sized bed!

My Finished Triangle Madness Quilt

triangle madness quilt by Scrap Fabric Love
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
triangle quilt scrap fabric love
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
scrappy quilt back
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
quilt back
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
cuddly double batting quilt close up
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
triangle madness quilt in the wild - scrap fabric love
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Easy Ideas for Beginners

If you have never quilted without a pattern before and you want to start with something a bit simpler set your parameters more tightly.

For example:

  • I am using fabric squares of 5″ (that’s charm pack size by the way!)
  • I am only using blue fabrics
  • I am going to make a baby quilt

Keep it as simple as you need to just to get you over the hurdle of starting and having a go! I suspect you won’t be able to stop once you do!

Quilting without a Pattern – YouTube Video

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