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What to Quilt on Your Quilt: Choosing a Quilt Design

Plenty of quilters will admit that they have an unfinished stack of quilts laying around. Oftentimes these are quilt tops that are completely pieced and are ready to be quilted. The actually quilting process can be rather daunting though, can’t it?

Maybe you know how to quilt, but figuring what to quilt on your quilt may be this issue. How do you decide? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Quilt in Process Photo via Fussy Cut blog

Stitch in the ditch

This is type of quilting that beginners use often. Stitches are sewn parallel to the seams in the quilt, and they are placed just beside the seams (approximately ⅛” – ¼”). They can also be sewn directly in the seams.

Try to keep your stitching neat and straight at a uniform width from the seam. Choose a thread that matches the fabric well, keeping the fabrics from both the front and the back in mind. Even though the stitches will not be very visible on the front, they will show on the back.

See also our article on machine quilting in the ditch.

Straight line

Quilted lines sewn at specific widths are often used by contemporary quilters. Straight line quilting creates a modern feel, and those lines contrast especially well with quilts that are full of curves and movements. The lines can be sewn in many directions! Vertical, horizontal, diagonal, crosshatch and diamonds are just a few ideas.

These lines can be marked beforehand with chalk, fabric markers, painting tape, or hera markers. If you don’t like marking up your quilts, a metal guide from your machine can be used.

Free Motion Quilt - Bluprint Member ProjectFree motion quilt via Bluprint instructor Leah Day

Free-motion quilting

If your quilt top consists of straight lines and angles, you may want to consider free-motion quilting. In FMQ, the sewing machine’s feed dogs (or the grippy feet underneath the needle) are dropped, and the quilt is being moved freely in all directions by the quilter. This allows freehand designs to be stitched across the quilt. Think of this quilting approach as drawing: the needle is a stationary pencil and the quilt is the paper.

Common free-motion quilting designs are meandering, loops, circles, swirls, feathers and pebbles. Free-motion quilting is a bit harder than others. If you are new to this technique, make several mini quilt sandwiches out of your scraps and practice. This will give you the chance to perfect your stitches and adjust the settings on your machine.

Conquor your free-motion fears with the Bluprint class Machine Quilting: Free-Motion & More, taught by Wendy Butler Berns. You’ll learn five easy walking foot designs and simple free-motion stitches, before moving on to more complex free-motion quilting patterns.

Specialty feet

When deciding what to quilt on your quilt, be aware of the quilting feet that you have available to use. In order to quilt straight lines, you really need a walking foot. This specialty foot attachment has its own feet, similar to the feed dogs on a sewing machine. It allows the quilt to be fed through the machine from both the top and the bottom at the same speed. When a regular foot is used, the top and bottom are not feed evenly, causing puckering and tension issues. A walking foot ensures a nice even feed.

If you’d like to free-motion quilt your machine, a specialty foot is also needed. There are several different types that can be used, and they allow the quilter to see clearly while also making it possible to move the quilt easily. Use a free-motion foot, a darning foot or an open toe machine foot to do the job.

What’s your go-to quilt design?

One Comment


GENERALY, WE `always point our watch-on the machine needle I think in free-motion( as a pencil).
it’s gander to eyes, so we patchworker need a safer design about the needle feet (plus the sewing machine ‘s needle set ) is’nt it?


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