create your own pattern fill using inkscape and gimp

This week on spoonflower there is a contest to create a cheater quilt. A cheater quilt looks like a pieced quilt but consists of only one piece of fabric, meaning you can skip the piecing and create a cheater quilt by just quilting.
After I designed the quilt block, I needed to fill the pattern with different fabric designs – making it look like a pieced quilt. The contest came with a colour palette and a theme (spring floral). I have quite a few fabric designs featuring flowers and wanted to use some of them to create the quilt. However, I had a hard time figuring out how to fill the pattern with those fabric designs in a way that looked like a pieced quilt.
I finally figured out that it’s possible to use your own pattern with the bucket fill tool in Gimp. This tutorial shows how its done.
Step 1: Open your file, this should be a repeating pattern already. Steps 1-3 here are done in Inkscape, but could also be done in Gimp. 
Step 2: Since I needed to use a preset palette I selected all the objects of one colour, grouped them together and then played around with different colour combinations. Grouping the objects of one colour makes it easier to create a number of different colour combinations.
Step 3: Save your file as .png and open again in Gimp (again, these three steps could be done in Gimp, but I prefer working with .svg files, especially when changing colours.)
Step 4: I usually made the file a bit smaller, so that the bucket fill looked better on the finished design. Export the file as a gimp pattern file (.pat), then move that file to the pattern folder. On a mac using Gimp 2.8 the pattern folder is located here: Library – Application Support – Gimp – Gimp 2.8 – patterns. Then just restart Gimp and the pattern will show up in your toolbox.
Step 5: Select bucket fill – pattern fill and choose the pattern from the list.
Step 6: Fill! You should have a seamless repeating pattern. (Extra tip: Sometimes you might want to fill two adjacent areas with the same pattern, but make it look like fabric, where the repeat would not continue across the two objects. For that I created two patterns which are mirror images of each other.)
Here is the completed cheater quilt, with paper pieced and appliquéd tulips.
You can see the fabric here and the coordinating fabrics here
update: The contest is now open for voting, visit here to see the other designs and vote for your favourite.


I'm a fabric designer fascinated with the intricacies of seamless repeats. I enjoy creating vector designs as well as working with linoprint and watercolour. I've lived in 5 countries and love to use special places and memories in my designs.

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