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DIY Quilt Templates

In today’s world of quilting, rotary cutters reign supreme. Along with a ruler and cutting mat, they are among the basic quiltmaking tools, in this case most commonly used to cut fabric. Despite this, quilt templates are still used often. Sometimes they are the most effective way to create blocks with odd sizes and irregular shapes.

Stack of Transparent Quilt Templates
Photo via Bijou Lovely

What exactly is a template?

It’s a shaped piece of material that’s used as an outline for tracing. Specific templates are traced and cut out to form quilt blocks. Templates are made out of many different types of materials. Paper can be used, but it is not very strong and cannot endure multiple tracings. Heavier weight materials are much more practical. Poster board, cardboard, plastic, and acrylic are commonly used items.

Quilt in Construction
Photo via Fussy Cut

Templates are a tool that you can easily make yourself!

Whether you need to make them right now for a project that you are beginning, currently working on, or planning for the future, it’s a good idea to know how to create your own.

Let’s take a look today at two different and popular ways to make your own set of templates.


Step 1: Gathers supplies: pattern, cardboard (boxes from cereal, rice, pasta, etc.), marker, small scissors.

Step 2: Cut out pattern pieces. Most quilters would rather not cut up an actual pattern from a magazine or book, so photocopy the pattern pages and cut out all of those pieces.

Step 3: Tear open cardboard boxes. The best kind to use are the single layer type that hold food rather than the large, heavy duty boxes. Those that have a blank interior are perfect for templates.

Step 4: Trace pattern shapes onto the cardboard. Transfer any pattern markings and label each piece.

Step 5: Cut out templates using a small pair of sharp scissors.


Step 1: Gather supplies: pattern, template plastic, marker, small scissors. Plastic generally comes in rectangular or square sheets and can be purchased at your local quilt shop or craft store.

Step 2: Lay the template plastic directly over the pattern. Tape sheet down if desired.

Step 3: Trace the pattern pieces onto the plastic with a marker. Transfer any markings from the pattern pieces and label each piece.

Step 4: Cut out the pieces with a pair of small, sharp scissors.

Completed Quilt with Circle Theme
Photo via Fussy Cut

Once your templates are cut out, they are ready for use! It really is as simple as it sounds.

Here are just a few tips to remember when making templates:

  • Carefully read the pattern directions before making templates. Since there’s not a lot of space in magazines or books, some patterns require you to enlarge and print the pattern before using in order to achieve the correct dimensions.
  • Not all templates include seam allowances. Read the pattern carefully to see if you need to add your own.
  • Permanent markers with a fine point work perfectly for tracing.
  • Use a ruler when tracing pieces with long, straight edges.
  • Write the pattern name on each individual template piece. This will help if a piece happens to be misplaced.
  • Remember to transfer any markings from the pattern pieces onto the templates.
  • When using template plastic, it’s helpful to mark the right side of the template to ensure that it is used correctly.

Have you ever created quilt templates of your own? What is your favorite method?


Ruth Hurley

I have never had much success with making my own templates. They tend to slip or I cut into them. I would rather watch for templates on sale and buy them.

Diane Byatt

Thanks for the tutorial. Sometimes you just need to go back to the beginning and learn the process in order to get the quilt you visualized!


I love your tip about writing the pattern piece on the template – I was cleaning out a box the other day and found two templates with no markings at all so of course they’ve gone into the round filing cabinet !!


I usually make my templates from the plastic buckets that ice cream comes in. They work quite well and are sturdy for the most part.

Annette J.

Thanks for all these great ideas! I use the cardboard that comes with my charm packs, cereal boxes, and sometimes I buy the heat resistant Templar template sheets. GREAT point to make sure you notice whether or not your pattern includes seam allowances or if you need to add your own. I’m going to print out your post to keep by my sewing table. Thank you!


I get how to make a square. I was hoping for something more complex, like vines and flowers.


Even if you are not handy, buy a sheet of acrylic at home depot. They come in different thicknesses too. It can easily be scored with a sharp blade, then snapped. It might take you a few tries with practice, but you will get a good result. You can file the edges with Emery board or fine plastic sandpaper in case you make a boo boo. I was an industrial arts teacher, and use plastic sheet often to replicate a pattern or put in the bottom of a purse to stabilize.


I hate to trace so I put my computer to work. I print the templates on plain paper then I use a repositionable glue stick to temporarily glue the paper to the template plastic–I usually put the glue stick on the printed side of the paper. I can then simply cut out the pieces with scissors or a rotary cutter & use a Sharpie to mark any necessary info onto the template. BTW Flexible cutting mats, for kitchen use, make great template material & cheap usually in the 2 for $1 at dollar stores. Also coating the back side of template plastic with rubber cement will make them grabby.


Thanks for the awesome tip! I’ll definitely try this before I spend $45! for a circle ruler…geez it’s just plastic. I’ve also considered 3D printing at my local UPS store.

Kairi Gainsborough

Thanks for the guide on making my own quilt templates. There is a wide variety available in stores, but I would like to have some that fit some of my favorite patterns exactly right. Using plastic is a good idea, because then you can see the fabric through it. I’ll have to look for some quality cut-to-size sheets of plastic, because I want my templates to last a long time.


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