Retro Plaid Free Quilt Pattern

Retro Plaid Free Quilt Pattern

For a link to the FREE Retro Plaid quilt pattern, scroll to the bottom of this post. The SQ quilt pattern library includes other similar designs that come in lots of different sizes. The following patterns are not free, but if you need a pattern for a size other than throw, I encourage you to check them out!

What's the Difference Between Tartan and Plaid?

Before naming this quilt Retro Plaid, I first called it Tiny Tartan (something you should know about me – I LOVE alliteration. It makes my heart skip a beat! If Suzanne Summers wasn’t already taken, I would seriously consider a legal change.)

As this Tiny Tartan quilt pattern ruminated and simmered in my brain, a baby quilt concept began to form. Maybe it was that I had just finished reading about Scottish clansmen in Outlander or maybe I was trying to expand my pattern-naming vocabulary, but I really latched onto this one.

Just before going public with the idea, however, I had a mini panic attack...what if this pattern technically wasn’t tartan...but just plain ‘ol plaid?? Oh dear. The truth was coming out. I was acting too fancy for my midwest britches and I didn’t 100% know what made a tartan a “tartan” and what made a plaid a “plaid.”

FREE Retro Plaid quilt pattern by Suzy Quilts -

Off to the intro-net!

“Dear Google, what is the difference between Tartan and Plaid?” And oye! You would not believe the amount of contradictory information out there related to this question. At one point I was on a Scottish website about to buy a purple kilt before I realized, “Scrappy doesn’t even like purple!” aaaack!

FREE Retro Plaid quilt pattern by Suzy Quilts -

Eventually I found an interview with Ralph Lauren (the Tartan Tycoon, the Plaid Potentate himself!) about this controversial question. He made lots of points on the subject, however I really couldn’t tell you if they were good points or not because at some point he mentioned geometry and I was like, “Hell NO! I’m out.”

Basically, before the geometry part he said that all plaids and tartans are comprised of stripes that meet at a 90-degree angle. With tartans, the pattern on the stripes running vertically is exactly duplicated on the horizontal axis the matching pattern on both sides will create a grid.

He then said this kernel of mystery, “All tartans are plaid, but not all plaids are tartan.”

  1. Whaaaat?? So thanks for nothing, Ralph. I still wasn’t 100% sure about my quilt, so I tabled the sketch and moved on.
FREE Retro Plaid quilt pattern by Suzy Quilts -

THEN I saw these fabrics….ooooohhhhh aaahhhhhhh…. and I was like, forget that tartan baby! We are going to make this HUGE and RETRO!


I never did conclude the difference between plaid and tartan, so if you know, please tell me. In the meantime, I better stick to Mr. Lauren’s words and call everything plaid...because not all plaids are tartan.

The math on this quilt took me a bit of time to initially figure out, but that's not totally surprising after hearing my response to geometry. At one point I even tried to use the Pythagorean Theorem! haha oh funny times. Yes, so that obviously failed.

But once the numbers were reached, it all fell into place much quicker than I anticipated. I made this cute little video (with the help of my long-limbed husband) to show how quick and simple the process of sewing this quilt is.​

It's not sped up at all! It really only takes 5 seconds to make! 😉

Essentially, this design is four triangles built up by sewing strips of fabric to each straight edge. In the end the four units created are sewn together with white sashing as seen in the video above. Eazy Peezy!

Since the quilt top did sew together so much faster than I thought, I had some extra time on my hands – so I spent it wisely by photographing myself jumping from higher and higher locations in my house while holding this quilt. Just figuring out the timer on my camera took about 20 minutes, so I'd say that was an hour VERY well spent.

FREE Retro Plaid quilt pattern by Suzy Quilts -

Retro Plaid Quilt Tips

Before sending you off to create your own Retro Plaid quilt, I will leave you with one important tip. Actually...I take that back, here's two important tips that will save you from frustration during the sewing process:

  1. To create the four base triangles you start with a square and slice it in half from corner to corner diagonally – creating a bias edge. A bias edge is super stretchy and easy to warp out of shape because fabric is made from threads criss-crossing each other vertically and horizontally. By slicing those threads on a 45-degree angle, it cuts through the fabric grain and causes those threads to be less secure.

    The point to saying all of that is that the triangles that will act as the base to the four units creating the Retro Plaid pattern have bias edges and need to be handled with care so as not to stretch and warp them – thus warping the entire quilt. New quilters, don't be scared! As long as you are not tugging and pulling the bias edges you will be fine. Also, always pin fabric together so it doesn't stretch while being pulled through the sewing machine.
  2. Do not trim the final sashing (the final two pieces that connect the four units – see video) until the ENTIRE quit is sewn together. I mention this in the pattern, but it's important enough that I want to mention it again. If you square up the edges of the sashing before the two halves of the quilt are sewn together, you will trim too much and one whole side of the quilt will be smaller than the other.

​Here is the link to the FREE Retro Plaid PDF download. If you are on Instagram, use the hashtag #RetroPlaidQuilt so we can all see your beautiful creation! Enjoy!

Check Out My Favorite Notions!

FREE Retro Plaid quilt pattern by Suzy Quilts -

89 thoughts on “Retro Plaid Free Quilt Pattern

  1. Sue says:

    I think the difference between plaid and tartan is about the English – American naming thing, like diapers and nappies; and trash and rubbish; and sidewalk and footpath. In other words: there is none. We don’t have any plaid here in Australia, it’s all tartan. (Love your blog & IG feed btw, have just discovered it thanks to Debbie’s newsletter)

  2. Colette says:

    Enjoyed reading about tartans and plaids, I had no idea! Thank you for the pattern, definitely in my queue now. I love your blog!

  3. Tess says:

    I have a question, what is sashing? Does it have to do with sewing the seams together? And how much of a seam allowance do you use

    • Suzy says:

      Great question! Sashing is border fabric used to connected quilt blocks. In this case, it is the strips of white fabric that connect the 4 triangle blocks. Seam allowance for quilting is usually a 1/4″, that includes the sashing. I hope this answered your question. Happy sewing! xo

  4. Kathy Raab says:

    Love the pattern. Would it be possible to increase the size to a queen 60X80 without distorting the pattern? Your thoughts.

  5. Victoria says:

    It’s all tartan. Plaid is the “blanket” that hangs from the shoulder of a Highlander – I guess nobody has ever asked you to come under his plaidie with him. LOL

  6. Kerri says:

    Suzy, I’ve been looking at this pattern for awhile but have a question about the fabrics. It appears more fabric colors are used in the quilt top picture (I count 7) but only 5 are listed in the directions. Can you help me with this? I want to make sure I get it right bc I love it just the way it is. Thanks.

    • Suzy says:

      You’re totally right. This quilt can be made using the fabrics listed in the pattern, or if you would like to make it exactly like the picture, add Firefly Dots Dusk (the dark navy squares), Firefly Dots Pond (center square) and Wink Mint (4 – 5 1/2” x 20 1/2” strips).

  7. Ann says:

    Tartans are a Scottish and Irish material that the colours and lines denote the different families/clans. Plads are a material that have squares and lines that can be any colour combination and look similar to tartan but you don’t have to wear the ugly one because that’s your surnames/clans tartan 🙂 hope that helps

  8. Gayla says:

    The way I understand tartan and plaid is similar to squares and rectangles. All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are square (geometry for you). Tartans have the exact same pattern each direction. Plaids can have different colors/lines/widths/ running on each way.
    And I love alliteration, too. I prefer pretty, pleasing plaid patterns – planning this project promptly. Lol

    • Debee says:

      Gayla you are quite correct, tartans have a set repeat of the design across and down, a repeat which is not necessarily found in a plaid. The other very important difference is that a tartan designates a clan (Scottish), or region (Irish) and are officially recorded. So yes a tartan is a plaid (Gaelic word for blanket) but a plaid is not a tartan until it meets those two criteria.

  9. Chris says:

    I love this pattern and your blog. So happy I found both!

    Whenever I have to cut a square on the bias, like in this pattern, before cutting it I iron some feather-weight stabilizer on the back – then I don’t have to worry about it stretching out of shape as I work with it.

    Keep the modern quilts coming!


    Instead of using bias edges, how big of a square would I need in order to cut in both directions diagonally thus creating straight outer edges or could the first round of “logs” be sewn to the squart then cut?

  11. Betty Lou says:

    I am currently cutting the pieces for this quilt and have noticed that the Firefly Dots Mint says to cut 4 strips – 5 1/2 x 14 1/5 strips. Is this correct or should I assume a typo and its supposed to be 114 1/2. if not how do you cut 1/5 ????

  12. Gala says:

    Thanks for your response and so much for the free pattern. I am trying to purchase backing as we speak and I am a super newbie.

  13. Lauren Marie says:

    Hi Suzy,

    I was wondering – I’ve finished this quilt, but the sashing is almost two inches too short in the corners. I made certain to cut each piece of material very carefully, and each piece of the middle sashing is 39″ exactly – any ideas on how to fix this? Have you run into this before? Thank you!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hi Lauren, I haven’t run into this before. At this point, I think you should add a few inches to your sashing by sewing an extra small strip to the end. Once your quilt top is finished, maybe go back and measure the width of your other strips. It’s possible one or more of them are too wide.

      • Christy says:

        The is totally happened to me, too and I can’t figure it out. Maybe I trimmed the finished triangle blocks wrong? I am not sure but I am glad I’m not the only one. I think it really might be a trimming issue for mine

  14. Jackie says:

    Hi, I’ve never quilted before and want to start. I love your Retro Plaid quilt – would love to make one for each of my daughters 🙂 I notice that you have stitched a pattern throughout this quilt but do not see how to do that in the instructions. Is this difficult to do? Also, I would like to make it large enough for a queen bed (comforter size). How do I measure the fabric based on the sizes in the instructions?
    I love your website BTW!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hi Jackie, the stitching that you see on the top was quilted by a longarm quilter. You can definitely do it, and I have a few blog posts on machine quilting if you search, but to get an intricate pattern like this, a longarm quilter will do the best job. If you search “longarm” quilter here I have a great list of those too.

      As for sizing this pattern up, unfortunately it would need to be scaled proportionally because of the design, and that would involve a lot of math. If you would like a similar design in a queen size, check out the Maypole quilt pattern –

  15. E says:

    I have not been able to print out the “free quilt patterns”. Is the way to print out without all the commentary and ads? The pattern I want to print shows 28 pages!

  16. Carole says:

    I love your website and I love this quilt pattern. Thank you for sharing the pattern. I would like to make it in a larger quilt size, but I am not good at this type of math.
    Followed you through your pregnancy and watch Desi’s grow with John, Scrappy and you! Makes me fell like we are good neighbors!

  17. Maudie says:

    Seriously! Could you be any funnier or wittier? I loved this post! I laughed and laughed and totally understood about the math part. Beautiful quilts and patterns. I really needed this lighthearted post today with all the MADNESS going on right now. Keep on doing what you do so wonderfully; share a laugh and a lot of talent! God bless you and yours!

  18. Margie says:

    “All tartans are plaid, but not all plaids are tartan.”
    Think of it this way: All strawberries are fruit, but not all fruits are strawberries.” Basically, he’s saying tartan is one kind of plaid. LOL
    But your post provided clean explanations, and I’m definitely going to try this pattern!

  19. Ness Fu says:

    How can I convert the measurements for this quilt to a cal king size? Sorry this quilt will be my intro in quilting. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE for any tips and help on this.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hi Ness, converting this quilt design into a king will be really tricky since it doesn’t use repeating blocks. What you can do, is make four of this pattern and then sew them together top to bottom. That will give you a quilt that is 110″ x 122″ – which isn’t quite a California king, but pretty close.

  20. Shaela says:

    Love this quilt and I’m so excited to make it! I have one question: what is the finished size? Maybe I’m blind, but I can’t find it anywhere on the pattern or in this post. I can guess… but I’m terrible at guessing, haha.

  21. Donna Layden says:

    I see that this pattern makes a 55 X 61 size quilt. I would like to make it to fit my king size bed so it would measure 76 X 80. Can you tell me if the pattern can be modified in order to do this? I can’t seem to be able to wrap my head around the calculations to modify the pattern and fabric requirements. Can you help me please?

  22. connie says:

    look like such a fun quilt i would love to make this for my new grandson put i can not find the free pattern could send this to me or tell me how to get it


    • Laura Hopper says:

      Hi Connie! Under the heading “Retro Plaid Quilt Tips” you’ll see the first sentence of the last paragraph says “​Here is the link to the FREE Retro Plaid PDF download.” Click there and the pattern should download automatically!

  23. Barbara says:

    Just found this pattern and love it! I am printing it off for my next project. Thank you for sharing so much knowledge with us. Very generous and much needed as I am learning to quilt. Very much a beginner.

  24. Judy Frearson says:

    I have signed on to your site several times.. I absolutely admire your designs and quilting tips. Your attention to detail is so encouraging and the end results in your completed quilts is so motivating. I really like the arrow quilt that you have on the original page to sign up with you and it has said that you can get this free pattern. I have never been successful in finding this pattern to download. Is it hiding from me ??? Please advise me if this still available as a free pattern and how I can locate it. Thank you very much. Judy Frearson
    [email protected]

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Hi Judy! Hotmail users in general have difficulty receiving emails from businesses, which has to do with hotmail itself, so it’s possible that the email was lost! Make sure that you check your spam, junk, or promotions folders to make sure you are receiving our weekly newsletter each Saturday! Hotmail users also sometimes have an “Other” tab that business emails can be filtered into. I’ve emailed the Bow and Arrows quilt pattern to you! If you don’t see it in your inbox, be sure to check those other folders to see if it’s in there. Thanks!

  25. Cat says:

    This is a beautiful pattern, bus for sharing. I’ve question – on page 3 at the top it says that it’s comprised if 4 blocks, two are unique and the other two are duplicates, but further down in steps 6 and 7 it tells you two make an identical block of each. Not sure if there’s two unique I’m not understanding or if that’s possibly a typo?

    • Suzy Williams says:

      Hi Cat, sorry for the confusion. The patterns means that there are four blocks total, two sets of duplicate blocks. So two of them are unique and two of them are duplicates of those blocks. Does that makes sense?

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