The Art of Darkness

Kitbashing a Quilt Pattern

November 29th, 2011 by Cobwebs

Two Quilts“Kitbashing” is a model-building term which refers to using pieces of commercial model kits to create a new custom design. More generally, it can be thought of as adapting a commercial pattern to one’s own ends: The pattern manufacturer does all of the heavy lifting with regard to measurements and construction details, so it’s much easier than designing something from scratch.

For those of us with darker sensibilities, it’s a splendid way to turn mainstream patterns into something a little more appealing.

A case in point is this quilt, McCall pattern M6096. I used it as-is to make a quilt for a co-worker’s baby shower. And then I used different fabric and slightly altered the appliques to make a Halloween version. Muuuch better.

The applique background fabrics and small quilt squares were all dug out of my absurdly large supply of novelty Halloween scraps; if you have better self-control than I and don’t buy far more Halloween-print fabric than you need, you can probably find the small amounts needed for this project in your local fabric store’s clearance bin.

The applique sea life shapes were turned spooky with just a few alterations (click to enlarge):

The fish became a Jack-o’-lantern by removing its fins and adding a stem, leaves, and some simple facial features. The stem, eyes, and nose were cut freehand, and the leaves were cut from the pattern meant for the crab’s claws.


The crab was turned into a bat by cutting the body and head as one piece and then cutting two more pieces from the head pattern and scalloping the bottoms.


I did wind up cheating on the octopus-to-spider transition a bit; the original octopus pattern was so blobby that adding extra legs just made it look weird and asymmetrical. I eventually drew spider legs until I got one I liked and then traced eight of them around a central circle to make a pattern. I also stitched a simple spiderweb on the background fabric before appliqueing the spider on top: Just a few straight spokes connected by parallel lines.


A couple of other changes I made were to use my sewing machine’s built-in zigzag stitch to attach the appliques instead of the hand-stitched blanket edging recommended in the instructions; it’s a lot faster and it anchors the fabric much more thoroughly. I also used buttons for the spider and bat’s pupils instead of the teensy little black circles in the original pattern; those things are insanely difficult to cut out neatly and even harder to attach smoothly (if you’re making this quilt for a child small enough to possibly choke on a nommed-upon button you’ll need to grit your teeth and use the fabric).

The rest of the construction was done according to the original pattern instructions, resulting in a wonderfully Halloweeny quilt with a fraction of the effort required to design a pattern from scratch.

The next time you’re browsing patterns, keep an eye out for designs that you can darken down; it’s a wonderful time-saver.

Posted in Paint It Black | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. Sisifo Says:

    AWESOME idea. I like yours mo betta.

  2. xJane Says:

    If I got the first quilt as a gift from you, I’d wonder whether your evil twin sister had stolen your identity or you were just trying to put me off the scent of your pox-blanket… File under: Ways to Freak Out Your Friends.

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