Quilt doodling

Sometimes I sit down at my sewing machine with my freshly layered quilt top and I get stuck. How should I begin? Usually at the center–but what should I quilt? What if it looks horrible–who wants to rip out free-motion quilting? Nobody. But I don’t want to live with a bad quilting choice either. And I really don’t want to do much marking–I love when my free-motion quilting isn’t perfectly consistent–I want it to look like a human quilted it–not a computer.

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I usually piece together scraps from my quilt top into a sample piece–usually about 18″ square. This goes together quickly, and then I have something to practice on. I can try different thread weights and colors and make sure my tension is perfect. But I still get stuck when I put the actual quilt under the needle.

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I’ve always taken pictures of my quilts in progress. It occurred to me one day that I could print one of these pictures and draw my quilting designs right on the image of the quilt with a pencil or marker. I pin the quilt top to my design wall and take a picture–almost always with my phone. No need for anything fancy! I print two or three copies on regular cheap inkjet paper–filling the whole page. I print using the “draft” setting on the printer–not only does this save ink, but it also prints a lightened version which makes it easy to see my drawing lines.

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Then I start doodling away. I can plan the quilting for the entire top–and see how the quilting designs in different sections interact with each other. I can also work out the tricky spots–like corners and intersections–before they come up under the needle. I never worry about scale or try to make these drawings perfectly match what I plan to quilt. I just want to get a good idea of what I might do before I start sewing. Once I have a plan that I’m happy with, I just pin the photo up where I can see it when I’m sewing–and off I go with the quilting!

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  1. So awesome, Kim! I loved learning about your process! And you do such beautiful work, I’m so amazed by your talent!

    • Awww, thank you, Nance! I’m enjoying myself–the quilting, the photographing and the writing!

  2. Im fairly new to patchwork and have recently completed several quilt tops and sandwiched them ready for quilting, however I’m nervous to begin quilting . I’ve experimented on practice pieces but can’t seem to get into a rhythm ,the result being uneven, I go to a quilting class and many of the students appear to have the same problem. Do you have any tips
    Regards Marie Ellis

    • Hello Marie–
      I was very nervous at the beginning as well, and my first attempts were jerky and not very pretty. I often practice patterns on paper first (with a pen or pencil) to get some muscle memory for the design. Then I practice on small sandwiches–lots of them (making a set of placemats was one of my first free-motion projects). Practice for at least a few minutes every day. At some point you just have to dive in and start quilting on a real quilt top. I started on baby quilts–they are a good size to handle. And really try to realize that you will see things in your quilting that no one else will ever notice! Honestly! Good luck!


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