I am designing quilt patterns: Kenyan quilt update

Hello, you lovely people! I thought it time to give you all an update on my Kenyan quilt. Especially because a lot has been going on with it lately. This is turning into a much bigger project than I anticipated, but then again that seems to be what happens when I start designing a quilt. I wrote about my plans for the Kenyan quilt before I left for Kenya in my leaving post:

Back then I didn’t know yet how to tackle that idea yet. I assumed that the fabrics I would buy here in Kenya would give me inspiration. Now I can tell you that they did! This past week has been tough here because I felt overwhelmed with my research, making friends and general adjusting to life here that I couldn’t do much except drink coffee and distract myself. However, I pulled myself together and went fabric shopping. My reasoning was that it would improve my mood to work on a project I am passionate about and is totally my own.

My mother away from home recommended a good tailor shop for me to check out and that’s where I went. She turned out to be right because I bought loads of fabric and plan on getting more later. Seeing all the fabrics unlocked so many ideas in my mind, it is amazing! Do you recognize that feeling when you feel creativity bubbling up? Also, it was nice to talk with someone about fabrics who knows about them, even when you don’t understand each other all the time. My Swahili speaking capabilities are still kidogo (small / little)  I fear.  Here are the fabrics I have collected so far:

Kenyan fabric collection
Kenyan fabric collection

What, you said pattern design!?

I did Indeed! And I love it. I’ve already dabbled with it a bit, but I feel ready now to take designing to the next level and maybe even sell them in the future. I met a fellow artist and he inspired me to take my creativity to the next level. But that’s still some way of. Let’s first see how this Kenyan quilt will turn out. For now, I focus on developing my pattern making skills and exploring my creativity. I find that the most important aspect of creativity is finding a way of working that works for you. For example, for me, it does not work to start with an empty sheet of paper and create something out of nothing. I need a start. Whether that is an idea, a prompt, a feeling to express, something to explain or whatever doesn’t really matter. For this quilt, the start is re-designing traditional quilt patterns. This helps to create new ideas because now I can take a traditional quilt block I like, take some graph paper and tell myself: Bella, make this pattern have more flow, or more pieces, or go crazy and make this something new and exciting! And that does the trick.

Creativity is about finding a way to tap into your own creative source, rather than some kind of illusive gift only a few lucky ones are blessed with. Creativity is work and everybody can create with the right setting or tools. If you think you can’t I will make it my business to teach you.

  • Are you a designer? And if so, what works for you?
  • Do you agree that everybody can create?

The quilt blocks I’ve made so far

The first quilt pattern revisited: Dear Jane quilt G-8

The first pattern I made for the  Kenyan quilt is inspired by Dear Jane blocks: G-8 Justin’s corner. I like this block because it uses the Y-seam technique. To learn more about that technique see this post:

Block G-8: Justin's corner
Dear Jane quilt block G-8: Justin’s corner

However, the block is also a bit boring so I decided to increase the complexity of this pattern. This is what I came up with:

Pattern design for the Kenyan quilt

I am very pleased with how it turned out. It looks like some kind of science-fiction flower. Also, many of the lines in this pattern are carried throughout the design which makes this a very pleasing block to look at. This is my first attempt at sewing this block:

Kenyan quilt block 1
Kenyan quilt block 1

This block turned out very busy because of the fabrics I’ve used. It is still good, but I’m also trying one with a solid, no pattern, fabric to see how that looks.  This block is made with the patchwork quilt technique. The greatest challenge was to get the points in the middle straight. People suggested me to try paper piecing to see if that’s easier. I am not sure how Y-seams and paper piecing work, but I am currently trying to figure it out. I will keep you up to date!

The second quilt pattern revisited: log cabin 

The log cabin is the first quilt block I ever made. I still remember how my mother taught me quilting with this block years ago. This pattern has a long history I won’t go into now and there are so many variations possible. I will go into that later. This is the traditional log cabin quilt pattern:

log cabbin example

And this is what I’ve come up with for now:

Kenyan quilt pattern 2
Kenyan quilt pattern 2

This log cabin variation has gone through many versions and I’m still not satisfied. The block I created is nice, but it does not feel right for the Kenyan quilt. Something my sister-friend said about the first block has stuck with me. She said she liked the design of the first block because it has an organic feel. After a while, I got what she meant with that and I think that’s what this block is missing, so I’ll have to keep experimenting and find some ‘flow’ in the log cabin quilt pattern. Not an easy feat it turns out.

Quilt pattern variation three: the flying geese

The latest pattern I’m working on is a flying geese variation. This is the traditional pattern:

Flying geese quilt pattern example
Flying geese quilt pattern example

And here is an example of my plans so far:

Flying geese quilt pattern re-design

This is all I have for this one so far. I’ve got some ideas for fabric use, but I will tell you about that later when I have more to show.

The end!

Next week I’ll talk about my (ever-)changing plans for the overall design of this quilt.

Some more questions for you:

  • Which traditional patterns should I re-design according to you?
  • Do you like the patterns? If I ever write them with clear instructions would you be interested to buy them?

Would you like to know more?

Here are some related blog posts for people who cannot get enough of me and my crazy plans:

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See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: bella.g.bear.art) for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blogpost every Sunday or Monday.




  1. Kudos on developing your Swahili! 😁 I’m also an expat, although in a different country. It can be tough but the nice thing is that you cannot rush. I mean, even if you’d want to, things will develop with their own speed anyway. Sorry for the off topic. I just can’t say much on the topic because sewing even a button to its place is a big deal for me. But I love patterns! I also like the idea of giving a second life to worn-out things (in case of quilting from old cloth). I liked the pink and red one most of all. Is this red and black a separate design or a part of the pink one? See? I’m that bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your reply and don’t worry about the off topic! It is actually very nice to hear that I should enjoy the fact that I have to have patience. Patience is not my strongest characteristic so I struggle a lot here. Things frustrate me very quickly because they don’t go as fast as I think I should. Maybe relaxing is the key.

      The red and black is a variation on the pink and red one. The one with black I made myself and the pink one is an example from the internet. So they are two different things! And don’t hesitate to ask more questions. I love teaching people about quilting and sewing and I think there are no stupid questions. We all have to start somewhere after all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for explaining that to me. I’m not sure I will ever start. I have really, really distant relationships with all handmade activities but particularly with sewing. But I love watching other people create! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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