Deciding What to Quilt – A New Blog Series

Have you ever looked at a beautifully pieced quilt top and thought, “I have no idea how to quilt this!”

Deciding what quilting designs to use on a quilt can be harder than actually quilting it…..well, sometimes! I am a professional machine quilter and I still have difficulty deciding what to do from time to time. That’s why I am starting a new blog series, “Deciding What to Quilt”.

deciding what to quilt blog series

Over the next 5 posts, I will share practical tips to help you choose quilting designs for your quilts. My hope is that by time we are finished, you will feel ready to tackle some of those unquilted tops that you might have lying around.

There’s no wrong answer!

Before we get to the quilty pictures and tips, I want to first clarify that I am only the expert of my opinion. Ultimately, you should quilt whatever you think looks good….because you are the expert of your opinion. There is no wrong way to quilt your quilts!

If you want to quilt an allover design….do it. If you want to give yourself carpal tunnel and quilt tiny pebbles over the whole quilt…….um…..sure, go ahead and do it.

But, if your inner expert isn’t being too talkative and you aren’t sure what you want to do…here are a few things to help get you started.

Deciding What to Show Off

Before you even start thinking about what quilting designs to use, first determine the most meaningful thing about the quilt top itself.

It could be a number of different things, but the most common include:

  • The Pattern
  • The Fabric
  • The Recipient
  • The Quilting
  • The inspiration or the story behind the quilt.

Once you decide what that most important element is, you can use the quilting to really show that off.

During this series, I will cover each of these things in a separate blog post. Today’s post focuses on how to use quilting designs to highlight the quilt pattern.

Highlighting the Quilt Pattern

More often than not, the quilt pattern is the most meaningful part of the quilt. Probably because that is what we spend the most time on. The cutting, sewing, ironing and intermittent cussing all culminates in a quilt top that you can help but be in love with.

Perhaps it’s an intricate pattern that you F.F.F. (finally freaking finished). It could be a pattern that you made with a friend or maybe it’s a pattern where all the points actually match.

No matter the reason, the good news is that putting the focus on the quilt pattern is easier than you might think.

Here’s just few tips to get you started in the right direction:

Echo, echo, echo

Echoing the quilt blocks is a great way to separate them from the filler and puts a little extra emphasis on them. As a bonus, echoing repeats the basic shapes of the pattern put even more attention on them. But my favorite thing about echoing……it’s not too hard to do!

Here are just a few examples of where I have used echoing to put the focus on the quilt pattern.

alphabet soup book by julie herman

This block from Julie Herman’s Alphabet soup book (which, by the way, is an amazing book) show how echoing around the block separates it from the filler.

quilt with tula and angela

Echoing doesn’t necessarily have to be outside of the blocks, you can echo inside the blocks as well.  In this Tumbler quilt from the book I wrote with Tula Pink, “Quilt with Tula and Angela”, I used different spacing between the echo lines to really highlight the optical illusion effect of the quilt.

tula pink reject quilt

For Tula Pink’s “Reject” quilt which is in my book “Quilting Is My Therapy”, you can see how echoing inside and outside of the block creates a lovely effect.

Keep it basic in the blocks.

It may seem counterintuitive, but when I want to show off the quilt pattern, I tend to keep the quilting designs in the blocks fairly basic.

If the quilting inside the quilt block is too busy or overly complex, it can detract from the piecing. This isn’t a hardfast rule by any means, but it’s a general rule of thumb for me.

Of course, the term “basic quilting design” is subjective. But the good news is that quilting more basic shapes in the quilt blocks means you can get done with the quilting faster!

ventana quilt by alison glass

In Alison Glass’ Ventana quilt, I quilted straight lines that radiate from the center of the block. Since they are less densely quilted than the background, they almost “pop” off the quilt.

tula pink orange peel quilt

This quilt by Tula Pink is a great example of using echoing around the blocks and a gentle serpentine line inside of them. This really helps show off the curvy quilt pattern.

Using the quilting in the background to draw attention to the blocks.

What you put in between the quilt blocks can be just as important as what you put inside of them. You can use the quilting to draw attention to several quilt block or just a single one.

For instance, I quilted the same two “X” blocks in different ways, with completely different results. (Both from Alphabet Soup by Julie Herman)

In the one on the right, all the lines come to the center of the block and practically shout, “Hey, this is where I want you to look” But in a completely nice way, of course.

On the left, I quilted lines that echo the sides of the center X. Which one is the right way? Both, of course!

You can also recreate the quilt blocks in the negative space with you quilting. This is one of my favorite ways to quilt backgrounds.

crapehanger quilt by emily cier

With Emily Cier’s crapehanger quilt, I recreated the strips in the background and quilted them just as I would have quilted the blocks.

deciding what to quilt blog series

Your Turn!

Remember, these aren’t set rules, they are merely suggestions to get you started on your quilts. Let me know what you think or if you have tips for picking out quilting designs for your quilts.

Happy Quilting!