I do get asked from time to time about marking designs, usually by beginners who are busy trying to juggle all the variables of free motion quilting and find that having a line to follow seems reassuring. I really try to discourage marking designs. I'm not talking motifs or major foundational lines like a feather spine here, rather, marking every line of stitching for even a filler design.
I find that many people will tense up more when following a line or make more noticeable 'course-corrections' trying to follow the line than when the design is unmarked. Of course, not marking means that the shapes of the design need to be in your head, built into your muscle memory via practice.
But that's my opinion and I know there are others who encourage using a marked design for beginners. There are even pre-printed panels and stencils available for practicing your free motion quilting. I'm sure some folks find them helpful. If you feel stumped by the "where do I go" feeling, and marking makes it more comfortable, give it a whirl, but try to use the lines as merely a suggestion of where to go. Once the lines are gone, no one will know that you didn't stitch right on them.
I still swear by doodling designs on paper (or other drawing methods), practicing on a batik quilt sandwich using no thread in the needle, and plenty of practice.
When do I recommend marking designs?
|Many of the trees and shrubs were doodles with an erasable marker, though I didn't follow the lines very much in actual quilting.|
|Marking with my favorite kind of marker.|
Visibility Issues: When quilting on a domestic sewing machine, the visibility can be limited to the area directly around the needle and our hands. This is especially true when quilting a large quilt. Sometimes we need to step away and look at the whole of the quilt and mark certain areas. Maybe you've got a nice area of 'white space' to fill and you want 3 different fillers across it. Mark those areas. You can get in the flow with one design and never realize you went too far. When doing large designs that are bigger than the space between your hands, you might want to mark it, since you might not be able to see the entire design at once.
When you just can't get it right: A difficult design have you stumped? Maybe you can make a feather plume to the right, but when you go to the left, it looks all squished. Maybe you want to make sure your pebbles are all the same size and round, not roundish. (Be realistic here, do you need to trace a half-inch circle repeatedly over your entire quilt? *shudder* I hope not.) Sometimes you'll have an odd space to fill and you know only a certain stitched path will look right. Mark it. Sometimes I'll doodle the design on my quilt with an air-erase marker to see how the design will look, like a tight inner curl of a feather. Then I'll quilt it.
|Motifs in a wholecloth need to be marked.|
It was a combination of visibility and I just couldn't get the design right. I was stitching a very narrow border between two larger borders. The borders on either side were dark fabrics while it was a cream fabric and I was stitching in cream thread. The design was a deceptively simple design, an open "S" curve from side to side of the 3/4 inch wide border. But I couldn't see it well and I kept getting the spacing uneven and sometimes overshooting my stopping point and stitching the cream thread up onto the dark fabric. That, I had to avoid at all costs. After the 4th ripping in what seemed to be a few minutes, I went ahead and marked it.
See there's only one thing I hate worse than marking my quilts and that's un-quilting! I gave myself permission to not stitch directly on the lines and then began stitching again. Worked like a charm.
So, when it comes to marking, do what works for you! Do you do a lot or a little marking?