Quilt Patterns

Use a set of five shapes to create quilt square designs and patterns.

Quilts have been used in North America since the 17th century. These beautiful and functional handmade textiles are most often used as bed coverings. The designs and patterns chosen can sometimes reveal clues about the person who made the quilt. The patterns might depict an important story in someone’s life, or the materials might show us how it was intended to be used and what items were available to the artist, such as pieces of fancy fabric or scraps of old clothing.

Multiple layers of material are sewn together to create a quilt. The top layer is often made up of smaller pieces of fabric that have been sewn together to create squares containing a variety of colors and patterns. These squares are then joined to form one very large piece of fabric. The middle layer contains batting, or a filler, for warmth. The bottom layer is another large piece of fabric. A quilt is made by sewing through all three layers. The stitches used in the quilting process add to the decoration and also help reinforce the piece to make it stronger and last longer.

This art activity was inspired by the quilts on view in the “Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories” exhibition.


If you received an MFA art activity you can use the magnetic foam shapes to get started. If you did not, or want to create even more designs, you will need:

  • Tangram Shapes Template (PDF)
  • white printer paper (8.5 x 11 inches)
  • a pencil or marker to trace the tangram shapes template
  • scissors
  • construction paper, cardstock paper, craft foam sheets, or felt in a variety of colors


Download and print the Tangram Shapes Template onto 8.5 x 11 paper. A tangram is a geometric puzzle of a square cut into seven pieces. Use scissors to cut the paper following the lines on the template. Using your pencil or marker, trace the shapes onto colorful cardstock paper, construction paper, craft foam sheets, or felt. Then cut the shapes out so that you have a few sets in a variety of colors.

Look at the patterns below for inspiration and try using different colors and shapes to create your own! Remember, if you’re making a pattern for an imaginary quilt, your final design needs to be square.

Quilt Pattern Ideas

pattern of nine squares alternating in color between blue and yellow, arranged in 3x3 grid

Patchwork Squares

Many quilters create patchwork patterns using square pieces of fabric in a variety of colors. Nine patch quilt blocks have nine squares—three rows with three squares in each. Sixteen patch quilt blocks have…you guessed it! Sixteen squares—four rows with four squares in each. What patterns can you create?

pattern of squares arranged in large square formed by different colored right angles

Log Cabin

This pattern is made by “stacking” colorful logs or squares and rectangles on top of each other. Can you make it by only using squares?

pattern featuring two rows of triangles, with the triangles in each row pointed uniformly in opposite directions

arrangement of four pairs of different colored triangles, with each pair pointing in different direction

Flying Geese

Create pattern variations using colorful triangles. Why do you think this one is called Flying Geese?

diamond pattern formed by triangles arranged in overlapping squares


Small triangles can also make diamond-shaped quilt squares. Is there another shape that you can use in this one, too?

arrangement of squares, triangles, and parallelograms forming flower pattern

Star Flower

Can you find all the triangles, parallelograms, and squares used to create this star flower design?

pattern of squares and triangles arranged to resemble bear paw, with squares forming palm and triangles forming claws

Bear Paw

Watch out for the bears! Use triangles and squares to create these bear paw shapes.