One of my most popular classes, Techniques for Quilting Negative Space, is also one of my favorite to teach. Whether the negative space in a quilt is small or large, the machine quilting designs you choose can really highlight a quilt. But sometimes, it can be so overwhelming! Usually the problem isn’t a lack of quilting options, it’s the fact that there are so many fun ways that you can go with the quilting.
You could think that since I teach this class a lot, and that I have been a professional machine quilting for many years, that I would never get stumped by a quilt. While, I would love for you to think I am perfect, that isn’t the case at all. I get stumped all the time!
To help get you motivated to tackle that project you have been putting off, I have put together a 4 part blog series on different techniques for quilting the negative space. With each post featuring a different quilt and a different technique. My hope is that by time you have read through the series, quilting the negative space on your quilts won’t be so daunting.
Technique #1 Use the quilting to break up larger areas of negative space.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of quilting this beautiful quilt, Centerpiece, for Erin Harris. It’s featured in her book, Make Your Own Medallion
My excitement turned to apprehension when I realized that I had to figure out how to quilt it!
(I actually remembered to take a picture of the quilt before it was all quilted!)
Such a stunning quilt……..but what to do in all that negative space? You guessed it, I used Technique #1
Using the quilting to break up the negative space in a quilt achieves a couple of different goals.
It makes the space more manageable.
Have you ever heard of the saying, “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time?” This is the case with larger areas of negative space. Breaking it up into smaller pieces makes the area more manageable.
It gives you time to come up with some more ideas.
The best way to decide what to quilt is to start quilting! By quilting the diagonal lines, and breaking up the area, I am giving myself time to choose what to do in the rest of the quilt.
It can create an awesome secondary pattern.
One unexpected perk of using the quilting to break up the negative space is that it sometimes can result in amazing secondary patterns. I love how the diagonal lines emphasize the center of the quilt.
A final thought:
Don’t make it hard on yourself.
When using the quilting to break up areas on your quilt, look to the quilt for guidelines. On this quilt, I was able to use the half-square triangle blocks as guides for quilting. All I had to do was connect the dots. That meant I didn’t have to do any marking, always a win in my book!
Here are a few more detail shots. They have nothing to do with the blog post, but some eye candy is always fun!
Make sure to tune in for the next post in the series! Now go pull out that quilt top that you have been meaning to finish and see if you can use the quilting to break up the negative spaces.!
You did an amazing work of art! I think the quilting enhanced this quilt! I probably would not make a quilt with all this negative space, unless I could quilt like you!!
Sure you could do it!!! It just takes practice!
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. As asked in an earlier comment Where did you start? Did you start in the middle and work your way out ? Could you advise us?
Hi! Since I quilted this on a longarm, I started at the top and worked my way down, which was a little tricky. If I had been working on my sewing machine or a sit down longarm, I would have started in the center. Hope that makes sense!!
You are my inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to share your expertise.
what a helpful blog post. I’m very intimidated by chunks of negative space.
Angela, did you start quilting in the middle of this quilt and work outward? I have been looking and looking at a quilt and can’t decide where to start
Since I quilt on a Longarm, I started at the top and worked my way down. If I were to quilt this on a sewing machine, I would start from the center. Hope that helps!
I especially like your corner treatment on the dark gray–and the companion triangles more in the middle. I always wonder when to echo straight lines of a top design and when to contrast with curves, and you have a great balance in this quilt.
Thanks so much! I try to use the quilting designs several times in a quilt. It makes it so that I don’t have think of new designs and also adds a bit of repetition to the quilting.
Thank you so much for sharing your talents and skills with us. It’s sooooo helpful!!!
Any chance you’d show us the path for that beautiful scroll/swirl?
Definitely!!! I think that I will have to make that my next tutorial!
I absolutely love your swirls and paisley! I seem to start every swirl with a straight line, so it never looks as good as yours. I need to try to curve more. I think I’ll do as you suggest in your books, and doodle with a pencil for a few evenings before I start quilting the next quilt top. I need to watch the feather class again on Craftsy, too. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
So glad you took a shot of the quilt before it was quilted. The quilting definitely makes the quilt shine! Just finishes it up.
Great quilt and tutorial on using the quilt design to break of the negative space. I love your Craftsy classes. I notice you do not put your top on the pole, can you speak to this technique, benefit and such, in a future blog post? Congrats on the opening of your shop. Best of luck to you.
I love your Craftsy classes and how you make quilting seem so do-able. I have an Avante and so far only quilt for myself. I do have one question and it’s about thread color. I have a log cabin quilt I need to get quilted and what is holding me back is thread color. Do I change my thread color when I move between the lights and darks or is there a good neutral that works for both? I admit I’m a lazy quilter and would rather quilt than change threads! I’d appreciate any thoughts you’d care to share. Thanks!
I’m about to start on a log cabin, too, Diane, and was wondering the same thing!
Hey!! It definitely depends on what your preferences are! I have changed thread colors before, and I have used the same one all over the quilt. If you use a thinner thread (I like aurifil 50 wt, or superior so fine) in a neutral thread color such as a tan or a shade in between the two fabric colors, it should look just fine. Let me know if that doesn’t make sense!! I am having a sale on thread right now if you wanted to check it out.
Thanks so much for reading my blog!!!