A Proposed Difficulty Level Scale for Quilting Patterns

Lots of things have rating scales. Video games have ratings, from E for Everyone to M for Mature. Recipes always tell you how much time they take to cook. Board games have both a maturity rating and a time scale. Yet when you buy a quilting pattern, you are pretty much going into it blind. That pattern may look simple – after all it’s just a bunch of cute little birdies – but in reality, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. It is for this reason that I propose a Quilt Pattern Difficulty Level scale, so that you know if you can just work on your quilt after dinner here and there or you will have to clear the entire family out of the house for a week. Consider the following ratings:


  • Just Chillin’ & Quiltin’  Made up of entirely 2 ½” strips or anything that contains all right angles. You can make a delightful quilt entirely from 2 ½” strips, such as the popular Jelly Roll Run and my personal favorite, the Log Cabin – which looks really complicated but it is really just a bunch of strips. There are many quilt patterns touted as “fat quarter friendly” such as the perennial favorite Yellow Brick Road. They are made from fat quarters chopped into various smaller squares and rectangles. With any of these patterns, you could legitimately make an entire quilt top in single day.
  • Officially a Quilter  Contains Half Square Triangles (HST). Once you’ve got the hang of those strips and squares, time to move on to the good ol’ HST. From the easy and fun Pinwheel block to the more complicated Broken Dishes, you can really show off your quilting chops with how well you line up those points!
  • Ain’t No Geometry Got This Covered  Anything that utilizes Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP). With FPP you can make beautiful flowers like the Bird of Paradise or your favorite puppy like a cute little pug. FPP is for when you can no longer make the design with rectangles and triangles. And you thought you hated geometry in high school!
  • Only Because I Love You  Dresden Plates, Double Wedding Ring and the like. Sure, these designs are quaint and the very epitome of quilt-y charm, but no mere mortal would even attempt them unless they were for a very special, “once in a lifetime gift”. My mother didn’t want any more grandchildren after I asked her to make a Dresden Plate baby quilt for my first.
  • Even Grandma Couldn’t Finish This  English Paper Piecing and anything appliqué. How many unfinished Grandma’s Flower Garden (GFG) quilts have you seen available for sale online, with the seemingly innocent invitation for you to “finish an heirloom”? Do you know why they are unfinished? Because assembling all of those tiny, hand sewn hexagons is unmitigated torture. As for appliqué, I still have a partially completed appliquéd Christmas stocking my grandmother started for me before Luke Skywalker took on his first storm trooper.

Armed with this handy guide, you are now ready to head out to the quilt shop to pick out a pattern for your next quilt!

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