How to Make a Random Pattern

by | Jul 5, 2017 | Quilts, Tutorials | 0 comments

Patterns are wonderful.  Then create a sense of balance and order and are visually interesting.  But sometimes I just need a random pattern.  Maybe I don’t have quite enough of a particular print to create the pattern I want.  Or, the pattern I’ve created just isn’t speaking to me at the moment.  In that case, random is the way to go.

Over the past few months I’ve made several quilts for my Etsy shop and to give as baby gifts.  And I’ve been reminded how hard making a random pattern can be!  When I try to make a random arrangement, I keep finding organized patterns I have unintentionally started to create!  But I’ve been randomizing enough that I’ve developed my own method for making random quilt patterns.  A bit ironic that I need a method for creating random…but I do.

How to Create a Random Pattern

(Please excuse the messy sewing room…my creativity is not clean.  Plus I have little ones who like to hang out near me.)

Make a Random PatternCreate an organized pattern

I know, this sounds counter intuitive because really, the goal is random.  But I find if I start from an organized pattern I come to what I feel is random much faster.

Mix to make a random pattern

Start by switching adjacent squares throughout to ‘mess-up’ the organized pattern.  Just pick and choose throughout the pattern-not all squares need to be switched.

Then play with switching pieces from all over the quilt to increase the chaos!

Occasionally you may need to switch out a piece with one that isn’t in the quilt at all to disrupt patterns fighting to emerge or too many similar colors touching.  And yet…

Embrace when the same color touches

Sometimes, a truly random pattern will have the same color touching.  Or similar colors touching.  And that is okay.  As long as it doesn’t happen so much that a pattern starts emerging…

Evaluate for balanceHow to Randomize a Pattern

I usually want my random patterns to have a pleasing distribution of colors throughout the quilt.  Not too many light or dark pieces together so that an area begins to have a lighter or heavier feel.  Often I walk away, get a snack, read a story to my kids, and then look at the pattern again with ‘fresh eyes’ to look at it critically.

Sometimes I get a bit too technical and count the amount of each color in ever row and column. (I can’t help it! Methods and math call to me!) Then I try to balance it to each row and column has an equal or close to equal amount of each color.

Take Pictures

Taking pictures on my phone helps me get a different perspective of the quilt and also document an arrangement that looks pretty good.  Then I can rearrange more to make it even better but look at the picture to reverse my steps if I dont’ like where the pattern went.  If I take pictures of multiple arrangements I can compare them and decide which I like best and then recreate it from the picture.

Be at Peace

At some point, you just have to stop arranging and say it’s good enough.  Honestly, a random pattern can make me a bit uncomfortable in my quest to make it ‘perfectly random’.  Every arrangement ends up feeling not random enough.  I can fret over patterns for a long time if I let myself so I make a deliberate effort to let go of the need to make it perfect and let it just be good.


Hope these steps help you create random patterns without pulling your hair out!  Have any other tips for making patterns random?