How to Make a Photo Quilt

If you like this tutorial for making a photo quilt, you may also enjoy this free hexagon quilt sewing pattern.

How to make a simple photo memory quilt

I have been trying to make quilts for my nieces (and nephews when they get old enough) when they graduate from High School and head off to college.  I liked the idea of a quilt with photos of their family back home on it, to keep them warm if they get homesick while away.

After making the previous quilt, I decided I should simplify the pattern a bit. This one is very simple,  made up of all 9″ squares of fabric.

I picked the fabrics based on the colors of my niece’s dorm room bedding and a few that I thought would be meaningful (like the horses since she is a Kentucky girl).

Photo Quilt Tutorial

How to Make a Photo Quilt:

The quilt is simple 8 rows of 6 blocks.  I thought I’d share a bit about how I incorporated the photos into the quilt, along with some things that I totally did wrong.

I also don’t have a “great” photo of the whole quilt finished, because as much I was excited for my kids to go back to school as soon as they left I realized I had no one to hold quilts for me while I took a photo! The quilt is a simple patchwork quilt. You can use this technique with any quilt pattern as long as your photo blocks are the correct size.

Here’s what you need to make a photo quilt:

48,  9″ squares of various fabrics – this INCLUDES the photo blocks- subtract the number of photo blocks from the total to figure out how many you need all together.

Printable Fusible Fabric

White Fabric

2 yards 60″ wide fabric for backing (I used a soft fabric (like Snuggles, or Minke)

Binding, batting, thread

To make the photo blocks:

How to make a simple photo memory quilt


Note: The blocks on this quilt are 9×9 before finishing. Printable fabric does not come 9″ wide so we need to print the photo on the fabric and attach it to another piece of fabric to get it to fit in the quilt.

You can ALSO use 8×8 pieces of fabric instead, then cut the squares of your other fabric to 8×8 instead. If you do this, I recommend that you buy non-fusible printable fabric.

How to Print Photos on Fabric:

Print your photos black and white onto your printable fabric (you can get it at craft stores).  You want your photos print size to be 8″x8″, you’ll need a simple photo editing software to do this (like photoshop elements or iPhoto).

Trim your photo down to 8×8 (it prints on an 8.5″ x 11″ size of fabric).

How to make a simple photo memory quilt


Iron your photo onto your white fabric.  Press well to heat set the ink- trim this piece down to 9″x9″.

TIP: Follow the directions on the package of printable fabric for how to set the ink on the fabric. Each manufacturer is different. If you don’t set the ink it may bleed when you wash the quilt.

The ink although set will bleed a bit when you wash it- I found this out too late and thus we have the “vintage” looking photos on my quilt- My 11 yr old daughter said it looked “cool” and there wasn’t much else I could do by that point, so I went with it. The other problem is some of the black ink bled onto the quilt top (augh!!). I wish I had pre-washed the blocks before I stitched them into the quilt.

So, at this point, if I were you… I would throw each of the blocks with the photos sewn onto them,  in into the wash.  Run them on a gentle cycle. Lay them flat to dry (don’t throw them in the dryer or they will shrink and not fit the quilt).

Finishing the Quilt:

After you’ve completed all of your photo blocks- you simply need to sew your 9″ squares together.

Stitch 6 blocks together for row 1, repeat for rows 2-8.  When you’re finished stitch the rows together.

Quilt as desired (if you want more information about making a lap quilt, you can view my previous posts about it here).

How to make a simple photo memory quilt

When you’re done, you can wash and dry the quilt as you normally would. However, I would recommend a gentle detergent (like Woolite) to help preserve the photos.

If you’ve caught the quilting bug then you may want to check out this post with 45+ Beginner Quilt Patterns & Tutorials

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  1. i just used photo fabric for the first time… after the fact, another quilty friend told me that whenever she’s used it, it washes out! i’m so nervous to wash the quilt i’m working on (mainly because it’s not for me). my question is- when you set your pictures, did you rinse them with water and then re-set them again?

    1. Hi!
      To set the pictures all I did was iron them… a LOT! Then I washed the quilt normally but with no detergent- this is where I found out that the photos bled- my photos faded but were still visible… Maybe throw it in the dryer before you wash it?

      1. You can have photo quilt squares made inexpensively, that are guaranteed not to fade. I have had great luck with Portrait Quilts (www.portraitquilts.com). They charge $12.00 for photo squares up to 11″ x 14″, but give great deals on smaller photos, especially if you order 10 or more. You can go to their website and ask for a free sample and they will send it to you.

  2. This is so cute! I used photos in a duvet cover a made a while back – added a great personal touch!

  3. I used a printable fabric product called “Printed Treasures”. This product seemed to work best and after your photo is printed, if the ink is wet, put the photo sheet in cold running water to set the ink then let dry naturally. This will set the ink so that it won’t run.

  4. I’d like to suggest a better way to print photos. There is a product called Bubble Jet Set 2000 that allows you to pre-treat your own fabric. (Don’t want white? Choose a different light color.) The process is extremely easy and well worth the DIY, but what makes Bubble Jet a better choice is that it’s about 65-75% cheaper to use, it is definitely permanent (I have quilts that are 12 years old and they look great) and because it’s cheaper to use, you have less expense for mistakes. All of the printable fabrics should be rinsed to remove loose ink after printing, but if you follow directions carefully, the image will not wash out. (If it disappeared, you should be complaining to the manufacturer.) Bubble Jet Set can be purchased from various online locations, such as Soft Expressions, Dharma Trading and C. Jenkins and a single bottle will treat enough fabric to create roughly 75-80 printer sheets.

    1. Thank for the tips everyone!! I hope that whoever reads this tutorial can use them!! I’ve learned a lot and and am going to try a few of the techniques you guys suggested!!

  5. I just started making a photo quilt. I am using “printed treasures” paper. So far i am disapointed in how the pictures are turning out. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to make the picture quality better.

    1. The paper I’ve had the best results with is the June Tailor paper, you can buy it at craft stores, I got mine at Joanns.

      1. I used June Tailor Sew-In Colorfast Fabric Sheets for Ink jet Printers, printed the photo directly onto the fabric and they work perfectly! Best price was on eBay. I learned the hard way and used “iron-on” sheets the first time and most of the photos started peeling…nightmare!

  6. No one has talked about what printer you are using? It’s been a couple years since I took a class to sew a picture quilt and the instructor used a Hewlett Packard — I’m willing to purchase a printer but I need to know make, model, etc. THANK YOU

    1. Hi Sharron,
      I use and Epson R1800 printer. It’s more pricey since it prints up to 12×12 paper. I think as long as you stick with a good quality photo printer you’ll be fine. I bought my printer 8 years ago and technology has come a long way since then (and prices have come down too).

  7. P.S. to my 12/23/2012 question:
    I had one site tell me to purchase an Epson C80 inkjet printer–which I did, but the Timeless Treasure paper gets caught in exiting and wrinkles the printing process. So…knowing which printer is working for you would be very helpful. SharronP

  8. I think this is wonderful.It,s a memory quilt and a great gift, you could also print little family sayings or quotes, things that mean something,these may be put in a heart shape perhaps. This is my project for 2013, for my son and his glorious american wife.It,s been in my little project book for months you av given me the umph to get cracking.!!

    1. Hi Ida,
      You can’t. That’s why I ironed the photos onto 9×9 pieces of white fabric.
      Print your photos black and white onto your printable fabric (you can get it at craft stores). You want your photos print size to be 8″x8″, you’ll need a simple photo editing software to do this (like photoshop elements or iPhoto).

      Trim your photo down to 8×8 (it prints on a 8.5″ x 11″ size of fabric).

      Iron your photo onto your white fabric. Press well to heat set the ink- trim this piece down to 9″x9″.

    1. I don’t ever pre wash my fabric, that is all personal preference though- I know many that do. Yes 100% cotton is the best!

      1. If you don’t pre wash the fabric does the quilt have issues once you wash it? I’m really new to quilting so still learning how fabric sets


  9. I have used the June Tailor product with success and no bleeding. I use an Epson printer and the inks are *supposed* to be fade proof, so that can’t hurt. But here is what I do to fully set the ink…..allow the photo to dry for at least 30 minutes after printing. Then with a hot, dry iron heat set the ink. Keep the iron moving but on the print for at least one minute. Allow to cool and soak the photo in lukewarm water. There may be a small bit of ink bleed but it shouldn’t be much. Don’t wring or twist but allow it to dry for about 10 minutes. Then heat set the ink one more time until the fabric is dry to the touch. I hopes this works for you!

    1. Thanks for all of the tips! I’ve had good luck with the June Tailor sheets in the past too- I think what I messed up on this project was not running them under water to release the extra ink. Thank you again!

  10. I love your quilt and I am so happy I found it! I just finished piecing a quilt top for my 1 year old and have a couple questions. I used June Tailor colorfast sheets and followed all the instructions to set the ink. For the first wash after it is finished should I wash it with no detergent or use a detergent like Dreft? I am so nervous the pictures will wash out after all that work! In the package it says you can use a bit of liquid fabric softener and it acts as a detergent. My other question is did you stipple over the pictures? I don’t know whether I should go around them or if I can go over them. Any suggestions to my questions would be great!

    1. I would wash it ONLY in Dreft or woolite ever! I wouldn’t ever use a regular detergent. I’d also try to see if it washes okay without soap. Sometimes all quilts need is a trip through the wash (even without soap) to get out dirt – Either way I’d use a Shout Color Catcher just in case. Good luck!

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  12. Nice tutorial! Thanks for sharing…one question…once you iron your photos onto the white 9×9 fabric, how do you get them to adhere? Do you use an appliqué or other decorative stitch around edges before you sew all squares together?

  13. I made my Mom one with all her great grandkids on it I bought a bottle of photo stuff but can’t remember what it’s called I have some but most of my sewing is been moved to do my room any how you have to use all cotton material and put it in the solution for 5 min let dry then I ironed it on butcher paper and printed my pic from my computer and let them set so ink is good then you rinse it and let them dry then iron them my Mom washed her quilt and it never did fade

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  15. Hi! I really love your photo lap quilt and was wondering how big the entire quilt was? I would like to make a baby quilt, but not sure if this one will turn out to be too big. Might just go for it anyways. Thanks for the tutorial ?


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  17. i would like to get your pattered but i have no way of doing it . so i was wondering if maybe u could send it to 1172 CO.RT85 Oswego,ny13126. if u can then i thank u so much. if u cant then i guess ill understand.

  18. I would like the pattern for this photo quilt, also. I have a grandson that is graduating from High School. Would love to make him one.

    Thank You,

    1. I would love to know how you done your photos on the fabric I have spent ages on the computer trying to get a tutorial on how to do it I live in Ireland and Quilting suppliers are not available i have to wait weeks for fabric to be shipped thank you and I just love your quilt Thank you

  19. I would love to make a quilt similar to this for my aunt who is battling lung cancer. What is the best picture process to be able to wash the quilt (almost weekly) with minimal picture fading?

  20. Question how do you put pics on jean material?
    Here in Missouri It would be good to have a heavy quilt. It gets cold.

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