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!

machine quilting negative space

(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

handi quilter quilting

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.IMG_9544

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.!

Happy Quilting