Contemporary Quilting with Fabric Panels

A couple months ago I would have been the first to admit fabric panels were not my favorite. I’d always seen panels that were old-fashioned and generally reminded me of log cabins.  Plus, I had no idea how to use them in contemporary quilting and sewing projects.

Boy did my perspective change when I took the Creative Quilting & Sewing with Fabric Panels course taught by Margie Ullery!  She gave me so many great ideas for creating small quilting projects with fabric panels I became a little bit obsessed.

Ginger, my friend and colleague, had never quilted before taking this course all about fabric panels. With Margie’s instruction and the inspiration of fabric panels featuring the band members of Kiss, she dove into quilting.

Quilted pillows featuring Kiss fabric panels by Ginger Sheehy Tatic
The fronts and backs of the Kiss Pillows made by Ginger Sheehy Tatic.

As soon as she spotted the fabric line, Ginger knew her Kiss-loving friend would adore anything she made out of the prints. She borrowed a sewing machine and made her first-ever pieced project–this set of four pillows featuring each member of the band. She used a different backing fabric for each pillow so each one is unique on both the front and the back.

A modern panel quilt featuring the members of Kiss.
Kiss Quilt by Ginger Sheehy Tatic featuring fabric from Robert Kaufman designed by KISS Catalog, Ltd.

Ginger was able to get another Kiss panel and used the rest of the coordinating fabrics to make her first quilt which matched her pillows. She intended to send the quilt to her friend as well but loved it so much she kept if for her and her family to enjoy.

Ginger’s newfound enthusiasm for quilting was so exciting to watch! I was so impressed by the way she jumped right into quilting and designing her own projects with fabric panels. Her fearlessness and creativity inspired me to set aside my bias against fabric panels and give them a chance.

When I started looking for panels, I realized there is actually a huge selection available. Yes, there are the cozy cabin inspired panels, but there are also panels inspired by books, movies, and rock bands like Kiss. You can find fabric panels of gorgeous landscapes, artistic masterpieces, and kid-friendly scenes. In the end, I chose a Dr. Seuss print I could use to make little gifts for my soon-to-be nephew who will be arriving this spring.

An easy quilt top featuring Dr. Seuss fabric
My Dr. Seuss quilt in progress featuring fabric from Robert Kaufman designed by Seuss Enterprises.

First, I took a section of the prints from the Cat in the Hat panel and added borders to make a quick and easy quilt top. Instead of batting and cotton backing fabric, I’d like to use

Tote bag featuring a Dr. Seuss fabric panel
My tote bag is ready for the library!

fleece so it can be a cuddly yet functional addition to the nursery. (If you have any tips on this, please leave a comment below because I’m all ears.)


Since I still had smaller sections of the Dr. Seuss fabric left over, I decided to make a couple more projects. The easiest was a tote bag I thought would be perfect for future excursions to the library. I bought a canvas tote back, ironed fusible interfacing to the back of my fabric panel, trimmed, and ironed it in place. Easy peasy.

Then, I decided to get a little fancier and make Dr. Seuss wall art. I sewed a border around the small panels and stapled them to stretcher bars. The use of a staple gun makes me feel like this project is more elaborate to create than it actually is. If you decide to make your own stretched fabric panels, I’d recommend buying your stretcher bars before you sew on your fabric strips to ensure you have enough fabric to staple.

Small wall quilts featuring fabric panels hung on stretcher bars.
Small Dr. Seuss panels hung using stretcher bars.

I had so much fun experimenting with fabric panels in contemporary quilting projects I created on the fly! Now, I’ve got my eye on several panels from our friends at Keepsake Quilting, but I’m trying to finish my current projects before I start any new ones.

If you’re ready to give fabric panels a try, check out Margie’s course Creative Quilting & Sewing with Fabric Panels. I’m sure you’ll walk away from her lessons with a new take on fabric panels and a desire to explore all of the wonderful things you can create with them–the sky’s the limit!

Happy quilting!

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