Is that the quilt stitch look I want? Auditioning quilt stitch designs

Posted by on June 26, 2017

Some quilt tops speak to us and it’s easy to see a stitch design.  Then there are those that have us stumped.  We want to have our design pretty well set when we start stitching – if we don’t, we may be picking out stitches.  And I haven’t had anyone tell me that their favor part of quilting is ripping things out!  So, what are some ways to ensure the stitch design you’re thinking about is going to give the look we want without redoing?

Here are some of the techniques that I utilize.

Graph paper, pencils, erasers, and a copy machine.

  • My husband and I travel quite often so I have ‘ride time’ to create.  I sketch out the quilt top piecing/design onto graph paper and make several photocopies of my sketch.  The photocopies are the standard 8.5”x11” paper.  They travel easily in a folder for this type of create time.  I use a sharp pencil and begin drawing out a possible stitch design.  I only erase if I need to move a design element over – I don’t erase the entire design.  I set it aside and start a new sheet for moving forward with the designing.  Saving a previous design is helpful because sometimes I end up with elements from each trial design sketch in my final stitch out.  Just remember that the designs you are sketching are not exactly to scale and may need some adjustment when actually stitching on the quilt top.

Tracing paper, pencils, erasers, and a copy machine.

  • To sketch a design closer to scale, I take a black and white or gray scale picture of a section of the quilt top.  I use a computer program that allows me to print the picture in sections.  (I import the picture into a spreadsheet program, size it to the final print dimension that I want it, set the print margins to the smallest the program will allow, print the pages with the picture on it, remove the excess margins, and tape the picture pages together to have one, to scale, picture.)  Depending on your area, there are printing sources that will make large scale paper copies of a picture for you also.
  • I tape the picture to a flat surface and then tape tracing paper over the picture.  I note on the tracing paper reference marks and top, sides, etc.  I then start sketching my stitch designs.  Again, I don’t erase everything, I tape down another piece of tracing paper and start again.  These designs usually translate to the quilt top as closer to scale and don’t require much adjustment.

Plexiglass, dry erase markers, dry eraser, tape, digital camera

  • This is my go to sketch option when I already have the quilt loaded on the machine and I’ve spent some time removing stitching.  My plexiglass is sized to fit between my take-up rollers and is as long as I could find at my local hardware supply store.  I have a taped ½” border around the entire piece of plexiglass – this keeps me from accidently running off the edge with markers onto the quilt top.  I place the plexiglass on the quilt top where I want to design my stitching.  I draw my stitching design on the plexiglass and take a digital picture of it.  If I want to try another design I erase and start again, but always have the digital picture to refer back to if I want to go back to a previous design.

Heavy clear plastic, dry erase markers, dry eraser, tape, digital camera

  • This works well when you can lay the quilt top out on a flat surface.  I have a roll of heavy clear plastic that I taped over the edges on – to prevent the markers from going over the edge onto the quilt top.  I secure the plastic over the quilt top and use dry erase markers to create a stitch design.  Depending on the size of the roll of plastic you can move to a clean section and create another stitch design or you may need to take a digital picture, erase the design, and then begin your next design.

I know there are other tricks and tips to determine if your quilting stitch design will give you the look you want.  And not every technique will work in every situation. I hope the techniques I use will help you the next time you look at a quilt top and think, ‘I wonder….’


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What did I stitch on that quilt? Quilt Documentation

Posted by on June 20, 2017


Have you ever been in this position?  Someone says, “I really like the quilting pattern and the thread you used on Susie’s quilt!  Can you do that on mine?”  You think you remember what Susie’s quilt looked like, but you’re not 100% sure what quilt pattern was used and have no idea what brand or weight of thread was used.  This happened to me a couple of times when I first started quilting and had done some close family and charity quilts.  You notice I said a couple of times….

There are some basic things that I have found to be important to me for quilt documentation in case I want or need to duplicate a quilt stitching design look.

1.  What are the dimensions of the quilt?

  • Comparing quilt dimensions helps me determine if a re-create is feasible.

2.  What quilt stitch pattern did I use?

  • Is it free hand?  What style of free hand stitching; meander, swirls, loops, etc.?  What did I use for reference marks to keep the free hand stitching evenly spaced and sized?
  • Is it a paper pantograph?  What is the name and size of the panto?  Where did I start the panto; was it a full stitch out in the first pass or did I do a partial row stitch (stitching off the top/bottom of the quilt)?  How far did I start and end off the side edges of the quilt?  How many rows of design are down the quilt?
  • Is it a digital stitch design?  What size is the individual design?  How many repeats?  What is the spacing between the repeats?  Where did I start the design – off the side edge, over the top edge?  How many rows of design are down the quilt?
  • Is it an edge to edge pattern or a block by block pattern?  Are there borders?  If multiple borders, is each one stitched differently or were they combined?

3.  What thread/threads were used? (Defining information for the top and the bobbin.)

  • What brand of thread was used?
  • What type and weight of thread was that brand? (Cotton, poly, silk, metallic, 40, 50, 100, etc.)
  • What needle brand and size were used with that thread set-up?

There are several ways to document this information.

4.  It can be done digitally.  Create a document form to write in all the information and also add digital pictures.

5.  It can be documented by hand in a notebook.  Include all of the written documentation and add a sketch of the quilt design.

  • If print pictures of the quilt design they can be added to the notebook.
  • Clear, plastic 3-ring binder sleeves can be used to store quilt documentation notes and printed pictures.  The 3-ring binder size can grow with your documentation or you can use divider tabs to section your creations into years or categories.
  • I often sketch stitching designs on graph paper and I like to include those sketches with the quilt documentation.  The plastic sleeves work well for this.

The documentation process doesn’t take that long once you decide what information you want to have for reference.  And, it can save time and frustration if you want to re-create a previous masterpiece!


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