Quilting Plan

As I shared on Monday, I haven't been doing any free motion quilting lately. But I've got plenty of projects in the works. Whenever it's time to quilt, you need a plan and that's what I'm blogging about today.

Now, I'd love to talk time management plans and how to get all those quilts in your mind done. But I am the least qualified to talk about that!

Most quilters tend to make a top without thinking too much about the quilting until the top is done. So the first thing to do is study that top. What type of quilting is it wanting? Traditional, simple, complex, or maybe even pictoral? How will the quilt be used? Are there construction issues that need to be addressed like wavy borders, fullness in a block, or missing points? Sometimes these can be "quilted out".

Hang your quilt up on a design wall if you've got one big enough to get the full view of it. I have a large design wall where I used to have my sewing space. Now it's the wall behind my bed. (We tend to play a room version of musical chairs in our house, switching things around according to the needs of our family.)

studying a quilt on my wall

 I hung a customer quilt on it this week to plan my quilting. This lovely quilt actually belongs to one of my blog readers and when she asked me about doing some quilting for her, this one spoke to me right away. She included this cute card in which she gave me full rein to quilt it as I saw fit. Words to cheer any quilter!

Sometimes just looking at the quilt will give you the obvious plan for your quilt. Sometimes you need to do some testing of designs. Since this quilt is symmetrical, I really only need to focus on the center and one quadrant of it.

dresden plate quilting plan

You can use Plexiglas or clear vinyl and an eraseable marker to draw designs in place on the quilt. This will really help with planning the scale of quilting too.

Pictures of the quilt can be handy for planning your quilting also. Take the picture and print it out so that you can draw on the picture. Or use the picture in a graphics program (paint is available to most folks and works for this) and draw on it electronically. More advanced graphics programs can really help with this, but unless you're very skilled with them, it can use as much time as getting hooked on Pinterest!

I play around with several different graphics programs; mainly because I'm too cheap to buy Adobe Illustrator. All of them are better suited to different things. File compatibility is a royal pain. I know a few long arm quilters who use a tablet and stylus (like a Wacom or Bamboo brand) so they can draw on the computer more naturally than using a mouse and more efficiently than using a ton of graphic elements to create the design.

I now know from looking at the quilt that I want to quilt that border around the central block as a unit. It could be quilted like a double border, quilting the lines of strips individually, but I'd rather quilt them together as a single border. I haven't settled on a design yet. Size-wise, this is a good spot for feathers, but the quilt doesn't quite look like it wants them.

There will be stitch-in-the-ditch between the blades of the Dresden plates and continuous curves around the edges. Some sort of fill in the cream. There's not quite enough background area to make me think I'll quilt a motif in the corners, but I won't rule it out. I'm not sure about the rest of it yet, but I think it's going to be fun!

Once you've got the designs figured out for the most part, do yourself a favor and take some time to figure out the order of quilting. Does the quilt need stabilized along the main piecing lines? Will an over-all design work best? That's one design or design group worked across the quilt regardless of piecing. How can you quilt your planned designs with as little back-tracking or stops and starts as possible?

I hope that's given you some ideas for planning your quilting. Have you got any tips to share?


  1. I like to look if there are patterns in the fabrics and use some of those in the actual quilting. For instance I might be tempted to use a zigzag somewhere because of the border fabric. But.... I do not have much experience with quilting for others!

  2. I love your idea of quilting a single border unit. Your practiced eye and ability to articulate the quilting thought process is a great help to someone like me who struggles with 'seeing' a quilting design that enhances the image design. :)

  3. I invested in several books last year that talk about quilting designs exclusively. I find browsing thru them will spark an idea in my head. Too many quilters get confined by the piecing seams, so much more fun to think outside of the box and cross the those seams anywhere you see fit. I often think about how I will quilt a quilt before I even start making it, but I am one that quilts my own tops.

  4. Thinking "outside the box", for me, is what echoes in my head as I plan my motifs. Listening to the quilt is 1st, though. Your approach is on the same track as mine. I don't see the need, or have the desire, to purchase expensive programs or tech gadgets for drawing either. Thanks so much for sharing!!!! Hugs.................

  5. Thanks for the plexiglas idea. What a great way to audition designs on your quilts.

  6. Hi Amy,
    Great idea, the plexiglass! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  7. Thanks for the great ideas and tips! I cannot wait to see how you end up quilting this beauty!

  8. Yes, I also like the idea of the plexiglass. For smaller portions of my quilt I've used Glad Press'n Seal. Just lay it down over your quilt and then mark on it with a sharpie. Pull of the plastic and try again. A bit more wasteful than the plexiglass.