Tips And Tools Tuesday – Machine Quilting, Part Three, Deciding on a Design

If you’re just venturing into the realm of machine quilting, deciding on a quilting design can be a stumbling block. It doesn’t have to be.  Before I began making quilts, I admired them. Their beauty. The piecing. Their overall design. I wished, oh, how I wished I could make something so lovely! But, I knew, just KNEW I could never put pieces together like that. But that was because I had a completely wrong concept of how quilts are sewn together. I thought you started with cutting out different shapes of fabrics.  Okay, I had a little bit right. But, then, I thought you sewed one piece to another, then a third piece to those, then a forth piece, then a fifth, etc. I thought you had to keep adding piece by piece until the entire quilt top was made. Yep, I was quilt construction clueless. When I learned that quilt tops are made by sewing those cut out pieces into units, sewing the units together into blocks, and that sewing the blocks together, is what creates such beautiful designs, a whole new world of creativity opened up for me!

It’s been the same kind of experience with learning to machine quilt. I no longer look at the entire quilted quilt and immediately feel overwhelmed. I’ve become a quilting sleuth.  I look at the quilting design, one section at a time, and start trying to figure out the stitching route the quilter took to create such beauty. As in following the order of assembly for the blocks, you learn to discover the route to follow to travel from one section of the quilt to another.

Be a quilting sleuth. Look through your quilting books and magazines and just pick out quilting designs that you like. Not the entire quilt. Just a few portions of it where you like the quilting. Examine the quilting lines. See if you can find the route that the quilter took to travel from one section of the piece to the other. Machine quilting is all about learning to “travel” from one section to another without having to stop. I had made a pinwheel quilt in which each pinwheel was made from a different green fabric. I did some doodling.

I use a kitchen product that seals itself around the rim of your bowl when you apply pressure around it. I lay this film over the block, using extra large pieces, and overlapping them, if needed, to cover the block at least two inches all the way around. I use a Sharpie marker and trace the outlines of the block. I then, use a different color marker to doodle some designs inside the block. In this pinwheel block, I started each design in the middle. Can you find the route I took to create each design and bring my stitching back to where I started in the middle?

For this particular quilt, I decided to use the angular thing in the lower left triangle, as my design for each pinwheel blade. I changed it up a bit to make it an angular “J”, the first initial in the name of the lady who would be receiving  this quilt. Then did a meandering design in the background fabric. I realized I didn’t want the “J” to fill up the space, so made it a bit smaller. I was able to work out what I like and don’t like on the plastic wrap film, and could see what it would look like on the real thing.

The first background design I doodled, I didn’t like in this particular quilt. I’m glad I doodled it first. I really like the quilting design, just not in this particular setting. (I did use it as an over all filler on the back of the Gnome Place Like Home Tea Cozy.)

This is the background filler that I ultimately decided to use. I really like the way it turned out!

If you feel comfortable doing a simple meandering line of stitching, try doing a smaller version inside the pieces of your block and a larger over all meander outside. Sometimes, something as simple as changing the size of your motif can make a huge impact when viewing the entire quilt.

Today is a good day to do some sleuthing and doodling.

Give it a try.

Next time, I’ll share some more ways that I come up with machine quilting designs.

Happy creating!


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