Back to Basics - Quilt Sizes

So, here I am with yet another installment of the Back to Basics feature. Today I will be explaining the concept of Quilt Sizes and most importantly, if you wish to change the size, how to do it with the best results and least amount of hair pulling.

I will warn you now (consider yourself warned!) there is a small teeny tiny bit of math involved in this segment that may require a bit of the ol' arithmetic on your part - BUT - I swear I will make it as fun as painless as possible.

So to begin typically there are a few main sizes of quilts you'll find:

and the wonder of them all - California King.

Now I know there are other California sizes out there, but none are as popular as the California King. I mean, whoever decided there needed to be a bed bigger than my bedroom when I was little had something in mind. Especially when you turn on ESPN and see some of those sports guys that average 6' forever tall...

Now, these sizes used to mean something. You go to the store, you get a sheet set, you pick the size of bed you have and you're done, right? Not today. Today you have mattresses anywhere from 2" - 24" thick. Then there's the mattress pads, plus if you have a bed like mine today you almost need a trampoline to get in the thing... so if you want a quilt that hangs down low - you might be looking for an excessively larger quilt size than you expected!

So as far as bed quilts, the best way to figure out exactly the quilt size you need is to measure. Measure across the bed to where you would like the quilt to fall, as well as the length of the bed - just remember to keep the pillow tuck in mind or how much "snuggle" extras you may require :] I absolutely despise a bed that won't let the sheets and covers cover you from head to toe... I like to have way too much - that way I don't have to fight for covers too often either :]

But what if you don't want to have the quilt for a bed? What if you want to make a lap quilt for your husband who happens to be 6"7"? A normal lap quilt just won't do. It may not even cover his lap...

In situations like this I like to implement the picture frame rule:

When choosing a new layout for a quilt, relate the block setting to the sizes picture frames come in. Some of the most common sizes you can typically relate quilts to are:

3 x 5
4 x 6
5 x 7
8 x 10
10 x 13
11 x 14
If the number or size of blocks you're planning on making doesn't allow for numbers this small, I have an exception to the picture frame rule...

Sometimes the most logic idea to make a quilt bigger is just to double the setting amounts and go from there. Please, I'm begging you DON'T DO THIS!!! Let me show you why. For example if you had an adorable pattern you wanted to use but it was in a 3 x 5 setting...

Not big enough so if you just doubled both the numbers it would then be 6 x 10. Notice anything goofy with the picture of it below?

It's almost twice as long as it is tall! It might be perfect if you're trying to make a bed runner, but not a quilt.

WARNING - Math part! So, the exception to the picture frame rule is - the rule of 2/3's. Alright, let's go back to that gargantuan husband that's 6'7"... If he wanted a lap quilt you might want it to be around 72" (or 6') high so he has enough to cover the lap and tuck in the tootsies. For sample's sake let's say you have a pattern that uses a 9" block. That would be 8 blocks high. But how wide should you make it? (breathe, the math is almost over...)

If you look back at the picture frame sizes above, there is no option that ends with an 8. So use the rule of 2/3's.

Take the number of blocks you know you want = 8

Multiply it by .67 (or 2/3's)

Find out the number of blocks for the quilt width = 5.36

Obviously 5.36 won't work our so round up to the next number = 6.

I realize not all quilts are rectangular, but unless you're trying to fit specific measurements, try either of the methods above or stick to square settings for the best results.

Whew! Did you make it? See the math wasn't all that bad! Well, that does it for quilt sizes and changing a quilt size. I'm working on some more tutorials but be sure to head on back tomorrow for a little surprise! Later!


  1. I like your comparison to picture frames as those proportions have been in use for ages. Must be a reason for it!

  2. Excellent post --- sizing is always difficult. My customers range in age from 7 to 70 and their heights are all different too!

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