Reducing and Enlarging Patterns (aka… thinking outside the block!)

Reducing and Enlarging Patterns (aka… thinking outside the block!)

My mother has put together a beautiful collection of Applique Blocks. Although the reason they are popular with quilters is obvious, I am challenging our readers to think “Outside the Block.” There are many ways to use these Applique Block Patterns in other crafty endeavors. But first things first, we need to know how to re-scale the patterns and that is what we are going to talk about today.

Reducing and Enlarging Your Patterns:

All of our pattern blocks are designed to fit on a 6 inch square but of course often your project will vary in size. Here are several ways to reduce or enlarge our patterns to fit everything from a 1 inch barrette to an 8 foot tall wall mural, using a bit of math and a variety of tools depending on your needs and what you have available to you.

First let us talk about the basic math formula for reducing and enlarging. You will need to know the existing size of either the height or width of the image and your desired size of the same measurement.

Desired Size / Existing Size = Percentage to Enlarge or Reduce the Pattern

Reducing for a t-shirt pocket example:
You have a pattern with a width of 5 inches and would like it to be 2 inches wide.
2 / 5 = 0.4 (40%)

Enlarging to Make a Wall Hanging example:
You have a pattern with a height of 6 inches and would like to be 14 inches tall.
14 / 6 = 2.33 (233%)

Second let us talk about tools for scaling. Depending on your home computer/printer’s capabilities, learning to use that may be all you need but there are other ways to think big (or small) as well that requires nothing more than a ruler and a pencil.

Using a Home Printer…
Most home printers today can also make photocopies. This is a great tool for minimal scaling options. Use the scaling formula above to determine the percentage to which you will need to set your printer/copier. This works as long as the finished image size will fit on the printer paper.

Some home printer/copiers will allow for tiling, which means it will enlarge and print an image that is greater than a single sheet of paper by printing a portion of the image on several sheets of paper that can then be taped together to form the one large image. Check your printer’s manual for details on this option.

Using a Copy Center…
Copy Centers have the ability to print very large images. This is a great option if you would like to enlarge your image to create something like a large banner. They will even do the math for you if you haven’t already calculated your scaling percentage.

This is an old school technique (very old school, it was employed in decorating the pyramids) for scaling images. Draw a grid over your pattern. For our six inch blocks a one inch grid pattern would be an easy starting point. This means you would have 6×6 block grid pattern to follow. Now draw another 6×6 block grid pattern at the scale of your desired size. If you would like your image to be 3 feet tall, draw a 3 foot tall box and then grid it with 6×6 blocks. In this example, you would have 6 inch square blocks in your enlarged grid. Now you need to freehand copy what appears in each pattern grid blocks to the new sized grid blocks. Breaking up the image into these smaller blocks and then focusing on drawing one block at a time makes it easier to draw the pattern and keep it in proportion… even for the untrained, I can’t draw anything crafter.

Overhead Projector…
If you have an overhead projector available to you, it also can be a useful tool for enlarging images. You will need to copy your pattern onto a sheet of transparency paper. You can get transparency paper that will run through your home printer/copier. Once you have your transparent pattern, place a large sheet of paper on the wall, set up your projector so that it is displaying the pattern at the desired size on the wall. You can then trace the projected image onto the paper.

Now you have the tools to think outside the 6 inch block.

Michelle ~ Wee Folk Art


  1. I’m like Kimara. I always sit at my computer running reductions and measuring wasting tons of paper. I seldom bring math to the table but WOOT! I thank you and the trees thank you!

  2. Thank you for your tutorial on enlarging a pattern. So far my endeavors of recreating your blocks for my use have been using the computer and printer to reduce your patterns for my use. I have made your ballerina slipper bookmarks for my granddaughters for Christmas. I plan on getting the book “Angelina Ballerina” to go with their bookmarks. I reduced the slipper pattern and am making Christmas ornaments for my children. I love handmade ornaments for the trees. Thank you for all your work. I really enjoy your blog even though I dont have small children or home school.

    1. I love the ballet slippers, too. I gave Fairy the whole set of Angelina books last Christmas 🙂 And, although most of our crafts can be appreciated by children, we hope we have a little to share with everyone. Would love to see some of your finished projects. You can add them to our Flickr group, or on Facebook, or link to a blog, or email them to us. BTW… I love handmade ornaments, too!

  3. I lucked out & found not one, but two overhead projectors at the thrift shop for $8 each – bulbs still working in both (that’s the expensive part, just like printer ink), so bought both & gave second to a friend. They work sooooo much easier & faster than the pencil & paper enlarging method we used to have to do. At church in the weeks before Vacation Bible School, there was always a long list of who needed to use the projector next!
    They thank you for writing up your all your beautiful work.

    1. Lucky you for your fantastic find! I’m lucky because where Tim works they have the large bed printers. I’ve used them before for a few projects. I’m glad you and your friends have enjoyed our projects. Blessings of the season 🙂 

  4. You might find my Rapid Resizer Online useful.

    It lets you print patterns to any size, automatically tiling across pages.

    No software to install. Works on Macs and PCs.

  5. I lucked out last night when I needed to enlarge something and found your page. I used your math formula and it was exactly what I needed.
    thank you for sharing!

    1. So glad you are able to use them. Most of them are fairly simple which makes them easy for children to use. Love to hear about school craft clubs. Wish more children had that opportunity.

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