Nancy’s Quilting Classroom: Choosing Quilting Designs, Part 1 – Fons & Porter

Spin City – Loop-and-Circle Quilting Design

The quilt top is finished—now what? Occasionally, I take a quilt top and backing to a professional longarm quilter. But, most of the time, I like to quilt my own quilts because I can add one more design element. In this 3-part series, I’ll share my insights for choosing quilting designs.

I quilt on a sit-down sewing machine, where I’m moving the quilt, so my approach to quilting is different than if I used a longarm quilting machine for longarm quilting designs. Although, many of the ideas I use for my quilts apply to both sit-down and longarm machines.

I start thinking about the quilting design when I’m assembling the quilt blocks and adding quilt borders. The size of the quilt and how much time I have are big factors when choosing a quilting design. However, for me, the most important decision is whether I want to quilt an allover design or use the quilting design to enhance the patchwork.

Today, I’ll share a few of my go-to allover quilting designs. One of my favorite allover designs is a loop-and-circle design. This is a quick and easy design because I can adjust the size of the loops and circles to fit the space, and I can cross any stitched line. I randomly stitch the design, but if I find myself boxed in, I stitch a loop or two and work my way out to an open area. I used this design in the center of “Spin City” from Love of Quilting January/February 2010. Then I quilted the same design in a straight line in the piano-key border.

Spin City Quilt
Spin City Quilt

Once I’ve decided on an overall design, I also think about thread color. For “Spin City” I used a cream color thread because it would blend with all the fabrics. For “Crooked Path” from Easy Quilts Spring 2015, I used a light gray thread and a swirl-hook quilting design. When stitching this design, I need to plan ahead since I don’t want to cross any previously stitched lines. If I need to work myself out of a corner, I echo quilt to the next area and start another swirl.

Crooked Path Quilt - Quilting Design
Crooked Path – Swirl-Hook Quilting Design
Crooked Path Quilt
Crooked Path Quilt

Straight or wavy lines are another option. To stitch evenly spaced straight lines, I use a walking-foot and either mark the lines with a removable marker or use a guide (such as masking tape). On the other hand, to stitch wavy lines, I use a free-motion foot for free-motion quilting and a more random placement. When quilting the wavy lines in “Four X Squared” from Quilty July/August 2014, I used the block lines as a guide and quilted two wavy lines between the seamlines in the quilt blocks. I used a removable marker to extend the seamlines into the border, so I could quilt edge to edge in one direction.

Four X Squared Quilt - Quilting Design
Four X Squared – Wavy Lines Design

Allover quilting designs are like doodling with your needle. Actually, doodling on paper is a good way to practice any quilting design because it builds muscle memory. In Choosing Quilting Designs, Part 2, I talk about choosing quilting designs to enhance the quilt block design. And, in Choosing Quilting Designs, Part 3, I discuss quilting borders. Take a look!

Nancy Mahoney, Fons & Porter Guest Blogger


Happy Quilting!



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