What Tools Do You Need To Make a Photo Quilt?

Photo quilts, like many quilts, need certain tools to make the process flow smoothly and easily. After making a number of photo quilts, I have a list of tools that are needed to get your Photo Quilt out of your brain, off your phone, and into a quilt! After 40 years of sewing, photo quilts are what finally inspired me to enter the world of piecing and quilting. I love working with the precious photo memories and making the memory and story come to life!

What tools do you need to make a Photo Quilt?

Photo quilts need a few extra items than a quilt with no photos. You are going to need to choose photos that are clear, preferably not a lot of background noise, and that are at least 150 dpi. You will need your computer or phone to load your photos to the Photo Quilt Blocks website to have them print WASHABLE PHOTO QUILT BLOCKS for you. And you will need to have chosen a pattern so you know what size to order your photo blocks. Here is a list:

  • Photos – Gather your photos and have friends and family send you their photos if necessary.
  • Computer – You will order your photos at PhotoQuiltBlocks.com.
  • Online editing – I find editing my photos in Canva to be very easy!
  • Pattern suitable for a Photo Quilt. (See this article about how to choose a pattern)

The items that you will need to make a Photo Quilt are much the same as a regular quilt:

  • Iron and ironing board
  • Fabric
  • Sewing Machine or Sewing Needles
  • Quilt Batting
  • Backing Fabric
  • Quilt Ruler and Rotary cutter
  • Quilt pins, bend safety pins, or clips
  • Quilt Binding
  • Quilting Thread
  • Quilting Gloves

Now that we have a list, we can get started on some other details you will need to know. So keep reading my friend!

I have recently started organizing my photos once a month on my phone so when I am ready to start a project I have all the related photos together. I am also constantly on my daughters to send me photos of “whatever event” so I can have them on my phone. You just never know when you will need their photos to make an amazing present for them! For instance, my daughter and her husband just made a trip to Cancun and I was determined to make them a gift with some of their photos!

(This was made with the Snuggle Velour from Photo Quilt Blocks)

Designated folder on your phone or computer to gather your family’s and friends’ photos for your creative use:

  • Gather your photos together on your phone into albums. If you don’t know how to add photos to an album, get that child or grandchild cornered and have them show you! If you would like a tutorial on this, comment at the end of the article that you would like a lesson!
  • Visit your family and friends Facebook pages. Go to the photo section. Click on the photo you would like to save. Right-click on the image, click on “save image as”, and save to a folder on your computer.
  • Visit your family and friends Instagram Feed. When you see a photo you like, take a screenshot of it and save it to an album on your phone. When you load your photo up to Photo Quilt Blocks, you will be able to crop off all the extra junk around the edges from the screenshot.
  • Ask your friends and family to text you photos that they like. Sometimes, they are cooperative. LOL!
  • Paper photographs – Take photos in front of a window or outside in natural light of paper photos that you want to use in your project. MAKE SURE you have the phone parallel to the photo; otherwise, you will not have a square photo to crop. This will give you a digital copy to save on your phone.

When you order your photo quilt blocks from PhotoQuiltBlocks.com you can do these 8 edits right on the website:

  • Resize
  • Crop
  • Rotate
  • Add words
  • Choose font for words
  • Choose size of font
  • Change the color of your words
  • Make a quilt label

These are the photo edits that you cannot do on the Photo Quilt Blocks website:

  • Make the photo lighter or darker
  • Make it clearer
  • Do any touch ups

These edits you will need to do in a photo editing program on your phone or online. Here are some options that you have for free:

  • Google Photo Editor – Comment if you would like a video tutorial on this editor.
  • Canva Free Version – watch for a video coming out to show you how to edit the brightness with this program.
  • Edit screen on your iPhone – comment below if you want a video tutorial on this.

If you need a little help getting started with this process, please take a look at these tutorials!

How to Print a single Photo Square or Block on Fabric- Photo Quilt Blocks

Printing Photos on Fabric – Fat Quarter Full of Photos

How to create an “on point” Photo Quilt Block for your Memory Quilt

How to redesign a Photo Memory quilt block from your cart

The next tool is needed prior to ordering your photos. You will need your pattern so you know what size to order your blocks.

Now that you have your photos together, you need to find a pattern that will accommodate the photos that you would like to use.

Photo Quilt Blocks is building an approved list of Photo Quilt Patterns here. These patterns have been added to the list along with the size of photo blocks they use and how many you will need for each size quilt!

Also, take a look at my article about where to get Photo Quilt Patterns here!

Clear grippy quilting rulers are a recommended tool, but not necessary. By having clear square rulers, you can get your photo lined up and trimmed exactly how you need it because you can see it! My favorite brand is Quilters Select. Quilters Select is clear with a yellow tint and a grippy coating on the underneath side. Love them!

Rotary cutter with a new blade, and a cutting mat are also the best tool for trimming up your photo blocks. The rotary cutter gives you the most precise cut and straightest line when trimming out quilt blocks. Make sure to use a new rotary blade so that you don’t have any threads that don’t cut. If you have threads that don’t cut, and you go to pull the trimmed piece from your photo block, you run the risk of pulling out a thread from the fabric and leaving a line in your photo block. I have done this several times and it is so frustrating!

You will need an iron in order to press out your seams while piecing or sewing your photo blocks. When working with Photo Quilt Blocks, we set our iron to a cotton setting. ***Must use pressing cloth between iron and photo block.

You can either use an ironing board or a wool pressing mat for pressing your seams when piecing a photo quilt.

Here is the iron I have my eye on next. I haven’t tried it yet but it is a 360 degree cordless iron. I will let you know what I think when I get one!

THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you need to know is NEVER touch the iron to your photo fabric. ALWAYS cover your photo fabric with a fabric pressing cloth. You can use a 100% cotton pressing cloth (or scrap of fabric) or a cotton poly blend fabric.

You can either use an ironing board or a wool pressing mat for pressing your seams when piecing a photo quilt.

Here’s a short little video about pressing your Photo Quilt Blocks!

Quilting clips come in many sizes and colors. These are nice for clipping together no precise segements of piecing and holding the binding on to your quilt as you finish the edge.

You will need a sewing machine or hand needles to piece and quilt your together.

Any sewing machine will typically be good for the piecing of your quilt. If you are going to quilt your photo quilt on your machine, you need to layer your fabrics, batting, and backing together and make sure that the machine will successfully stitch through all the layers with a nice stitch. Some smaller machines can not always go through all the layers.

If you choose to go the route of hand piecing and quilting, choose a sharp needle and cotton thread to piece and quilt your photo quilt.

Happy quilting!

May your stitches and photos continue to tell tales

of love and laughter, and keep your memories alive!


Lori McCroskey is the principal creator of PhotoQuiltBlocksBlog.com, a website dedicated to quilts, projects, and gifts created with photos printed on fabric. She also has a business PhotoQuiltBlocks.com where you can have her print your photos on fabric for you! Inspired by her love for sewing, scrapbooking, and family, Lori has a passion for capturing memories in useable gifts, quilts, and crafts that get your photos off your phone, out of the album, freed from a frame, and into memorable keepsakes that your friends and family will treasure. Learn more about Lori here!

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