Whether you are hand quilting or machine quilting, choosing a quilting design is one of the most difficult parts of making a quilt. The problem is that since the quilting design is such a personal thing, it’s difficult for someone else to tell you how you should quilt it.

In a way it’s like choosing the fabric for your quilt. Even when you get a quilt kit with all of the fabric chosen and cut, there are probably fabrics in the box you would rather not use in your quilt. Maybe you even switch those patches with other fabric, so you will love the quilt when you are finished.

Choosing quilting designs is somewhat the same thing.

When you buy a quilt pattern, often there is a suggested quilting design. Sometimes it is just perfect – in your view. Other times, you wouldn’t even consider quilting the quilt that way.

The quilter who designed the pattern thought it was perfect, and therein lies the point – it’s personal preference. And that is why when you get a quilt pattern, it often says “quilt as desired.”

Early in my quilting days, I found some quilting design books. They contained tons of patterns in all different sizes, and served as guides and inspiration for quilting ideas for my quilts.

Most of these designs are taken from vintage quilts. Another perfect place to get ideas.

When you are at a quilt show, take pictures of the quilting designs – whether the quilts are vintage quilts or ones made last week. As you look through books, make notes (or copies) of quilting designs that interest you.

And invest in some quilting design books. Today’s books are much easier to store, since they are smaller in size (mine are about 11 inches by 17 inches). You simply copy the designs and increase or decrease the size to fit your quilt.

All that said, here are some hints to help you choose your design:

  • How much is your quilting design going to stand out in your quilt?
  • How formal or casual is the quilt?
  • What style is the quilt – traditional, contemporary?
  • How much do you enjoy quilting?

You’ll get more details about how to use these considerations in choosing your quilting design when you visit:


Happy Quilting!


Better late than never… Actually, this time I have an excuse.  You see on March 30th – the real Pencil Day – I was on a ship cruising my way through the Mexican Caribbean.

And enjoying every minute!

It occurred to me that maybe I should wait until next year to send out information about Pencil Day. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was important information – no matter when it was sent.

So, I decided that two months after the celebration might be an appropriate day. After all, “March” . . . . “May” . . . . they both begin with “Ma.”

Onward we go – – -

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Quilt Block

When I first began quilting, I used a plain ol’ pencil for a few things – marking my templates and sometimes marking the sewing lines on my fabric. (Remember those were the days before rotary cutters and I used to mark the sewing lines on the wrong side of the fabric and then cut with scissors.)

Fortunately, early on I was warned not to use a pencil for marking anything on the front of my quilt. It turns out that many quilters had done just that only to discover that the pencil marks don’t come out.

My horror story was with one of those blue markers that is supposed to come out – but that story is for another day.

There are, however, other uses for pencils in quilting:

* pressing seams – usually with the side of the pencil – but watch out for the yellow paint coming off onto your fabric

* the eraser as a pin cushion

* a blunt point for helping to turn corners inside out

* and, as I said earlier, for marking templates

You’ll find alternatives for pencils when you visit:


Happy Quilting!


Maybe you played the game Hide and Seek when you were a kid.

The game is easy to play. One person covers their eyes while everyone else hides. At some point, the person who is “It” warns them that he or she is uncovering his eyes and coming to find them.

Then the fun begins, and people “race” to get free when they think the person who is “It” isn’t looking.

I remember one day I was playing with my little cousin who was about 3 at the time. I was probably 12 years old. My cousin teaches high school science now, but when she was 3, she had her own understanding of “hiding.”

She simply covered her eyes and stood there. When we asked if she was going to hide, she said “I am; you can’t see me with my eyes covered.”

We all got a good laugh, and she learned that just because she couldn’t see us, it didn’t mean that we couldn’t see her.

Sometimes we see things in our finished quilts that others don’t see. But that’s not because the extra long stitch or bulge of seam allowances isn’t really there, it’s because most people looking at our quilts don’t know to look.

But knots on the top or back of your quilt and pencil or ink lines that mark quilting designs are a different story. Even someone who is looking at a quilt for the first time might ask about those.

So, one of a quilter’s jobs is to play hide and seek – but make sure that nobody will find what is intentionally hidden.

There are just a few things we want to hide:

  • starting and stopping knots
  • marking lines for quilting
  • seam allowances (most of the time anyway)

With just a few techniques, all of these are easy to hide so that nobody will find them. You can:

  • bury your knots inside your quilt
  • use the right marking tools and your lines will disappear on their own
  • fold your seam allowances in the right direction and they, too, will be hidden

To see how to do all of these, visit:


Happy Quilting!


January just flew by. And even though we’ve had more than our share of rain here in normally-sunny Southern California, this weekend we are dry and having fun getting our quilting lined up for next week.

m. mouse is fully recovered from losing his fang, and Quilter Sue found the kitty tooth fairy in her neck of the woods.

The great news is that m. mouse will receive a special tooth-fairy treat in the mail. He’s got his eyes out for the mailman, and I’m certain we will have pictures later this week with him and his tooth fairy reward for being a brave kitty during the whacking and ultimate loss of his fang.

We are thankful for the continuing adventures of m. mouse in his aging condition – whatever his adventures bring.

Heart Log Cabin Quilt Block

In the meantime, we’re excited for February and all of its holidays.

In our newsletter this week, you’ll find links to pages showing last year’s quilt block videos demonstrating how to sew special holiday quilt blocks for the month of February.

In addition, our current demonstration shows how to use some fantastic water soluble stabilizer for guiding your machine quilting. If you haven’t discovered or used this, you will be amazed.

And, you’ll find our February quilt block patterns, too.


Happy Quilting!


Once you finish and layer your quilt, you’re ready for the next step – quilting.

There are no right or wrong ways to quilt your quilt, including your choice of a quilting design.  And, there are several different sources for inspiration for your design:

  • Other quilts – whether you find them hanging in your local quilt shop or at a quilt show, check out the designs other quilters have used.  Take pictures of them (if you can) and keep a file of your ideas
  • Quilt design books – there are books that show various quilting designs that you can use for your quilts.  You’ll find traditional designs, fun designs for children’s quilts, and designs for the borders of quilts. You’ll probably also find instructions telling you how to make the design the perfect size for your quilt.
  • Stencils of designs – especially if you are machine quilting, there are paper or plastic templates you can use to either sew on or mark your quilt with the design
  • Internet sources – do a search for quilting designs and see what comes up.  Often you will find beautiful designs for quilting spaces on your quilt.
  • Antique quilts – this is a rich source for quilting designs – they may be hanging in a museum, in a book of antique quilts, or in a local thrift or antique shop.

Whether you are hand quilting or machine quilting, there are some methods to quilt your quilt that are easy to accomplish while enhancing the design of the quilt top itself.

You’ll find a description of various techniques for quilting:


Happy Quilting!


One of the great adventures in quilting is deciding how you will quilt your quilt.

There are tons of hand quilting designs to choose from – most of them are decades old.  And, some of them are great for machine quilting as well.

For example, the feathered wreath is a traditional hand quilting design that has been around for years, and has been used by quilters to fill square spaces on a quilt, both large and small.

And now it is commonly used by machine quilters.

When machine quilting arrived on the scene, new possibilities opened up.

Maybe it was because guiding the machine was a little more difficult than creating perfect hand stitches, and quilters were looking for a design that looked somewhat planned yet more than just stitching straight lines.

Or possibly it happened entirely by accident – a machine quilter just started moving the quilt under her sewing machine and discovered that a simple, relatively unplanned but structured design could be created easily and without marking the quilting design on the quilt.

Whichever it is, stippling has become a well-known and easy way to machine quilt.

And, although it looks like it would be easy to accomplish, anyone who has tried stippling without any tips or inside techniques has probably discovered that it is a little more difficult than it might appear.

Fear not, though, with just a few secrets (and practice), your stippling can be beautiful:


Happy Quilting!


If you have been quilting for even a short while, you know how resourceful quilters are.

For years, my templates for cutting patches were made from sandpaper.  I still use freezer paper for stabilizing fabric for appliqué.

So, I wasn’t surprised when machine quilting expert, Pam Bauer, suggested shopping at a hardware store and garden shop for some tools to make your machine quilting easier and more fun.

It turns out that Pam uses that blue painters’ tape for marking her quilt for straight lines of machine quilting.

I had used masking tape before, but the blue painters’ tape came as a new idea, and because it is less sticky than masking tape, it most likely is better for the fabric in your quilt.

As for the garden shop – Pam found gloves there.

For years I have seen machine quilting gloves in my local quilt shop.  And, I’ll admit I wasn’t quite sure why they would work.

It turns out that since your hands serve as the feed dogs for free motion machine quilting, you need to be able to guide the quilt under your needle while the quilt is flat.

And Pam’s recommended gardening gloves have a special finish on them that allows you to hang on to the quilt to guide it – without actually grabbing the quilt, and the quilt stays flat.

During our Eavesdrop on a Telephone Conversation last May, Pam shared a few other tips about how to make machine quilting on your home sewing machine easier and more beautiful.

You can find them here:


Happy Quilting!


Once your quilt top is finished it’s time to plan your quilting design.

If you decide to stitch a simple design, it could be possible to quilt without marking your quilt.

Often when I am hand quilting, I use 1/4 inch wide masking tape to mark my design.  It’s easy to find – either at a quilt shop or paint store – and fairly inexpensive.

As you can imagine, you can mark straight lines for quilting.  In addition, you can mark some gentle curves using the tape.

You can place it on your quilt, stitch your quilting stitches, and then move the tape to a new place on the quilt. It’s usually good for 3-4 moves before it won’t stick any more.

If you are going to quilt a grid or parallel lines, using wider masking tape (or painters’ tape – the blue stuff) is a good choice since you can quilt on both sides of the tape.

If you have a more involved design, marking your quilt with masking tape usually doesn’t work.

There are still several things to choose from, and one of them is Soapstone.

It was one of those items that jumped out at me as I was scouting the notions in my local quilt shop.  Once I used it, I was pretty impressed.

You can read more about soapstone and see how I used it to mark a quilting design:


Happy Quilting!


Quilting daughter, Stephanie's, drawing inspired an interesting quilt.

Quilting daughter, Stephanie's, drawing inspired an interesting quilt.

In addition to holding the layers of the fabric together, quilting designs can enhance various aspects of the piecing in your quilt.

Or even create a unique look for your quilt.

When quilting daughter, Stephanie, was in kindergarten or maybe it was first grade, she drew a picture of a rainbow.

I’m not sure whose idea it was, but that simple drawing became the design for a quilt.

At the time, some quilters were creating truly 3 dimensional quilts by sewing strips of fabric between strips of fabric.

Now that sounds pretty strange, and it works like this.

You take a background design – in this case the rainbow – and sew it together in sections of long, narrow strips, generally adding seam allowances.

The idea is that you will be sewing those pieces together to create your whole design.

Then you take sets of strips that you have sewn together and folded wrong sides together.

In the case of the rainbow quilt, I sewed a white strip to a gray strip, and then folded them wrong sides together so one side was white, the other was gray. One long edge had a seam, the other edge was the raw fabric.

The next step is to sew the folded strips between your background strips so that the folded strips stick out and are perpendicular to the background.

It almost looks like the blinds on a window. (In my case they were vertical blinds.)

Once all of that is sewn together, you can add borders and then quilt the quilt or wall hanging.

I had in mind that I wanted part of each strip to show as white and the other part to be gray. But, how to accomplish that was another question.

That is where the quilting came in. I was able to secure each strip to the quilt top by running a quilting line along the edge of the rainbow.

It’s really better to see the picture:


In another example shown on this page, I was able to increase the size of my quilt by sewing plain fabric blocks between butterfly applique blocks.

Maybe that’s not such a light bulb, brilliant idea. What I did, though, to carry out the butterfly theme, was to make a quilting template of the applique design, and use it as a quilting design in the blank blocks.

The result is a quilt that highlights the appliqued butterflies while it is a nice size wall hanging. (The number of butterfly blocks I had was limited.)


When you are on the page, click on the pictures of the quilts to see up close pictures of the quilting.

Bohin Chalk for Marking Quilts

Bohin Chalk for Marking Quilts

As a hand quilter, I am always in search of ways to mark my quilting design on fabric.

As we heard a while back from Dierdra McElroy on our Eavesdrop on a Telephone Conversation, we should be looking for something that will reliably wash out when we are finished quilting.

In addition, we need something that will continue to make a relatively thin line so we know exactly where to quilt.

And let’s not forget that we need to be able to mark on many different colors of fabric. Keep in mind that white marks won’t show up on white fabric, and black marks won’t show up on black fabric.

Dierdre suggested chalk products as a great solution.

I remember the hunks of chalk my mom had for marking hemlines. Each piece was about 1 1/2 inches by about 2 inches. You always needed to keep one side sharp, so you could make a nice thin line.

It was great for making hemlines, not so great for marking quilting lines.

Things have gotten better, and recently I discovered a mechanical chalk pencil with several different colors of chalk.

Using this means that you can mark any color quilt – front or back – and be sure that the mark will show up when you need it to, yet will wash out or rub out and completely

In addition to marking quilting lines, As you work on Quilt as You Go projects, you may find chalk handy to mark sewing lines.

As I worked on my 3 Kings Journey Quilt as You Go Project, the blocks needed to be “squared up.” Since they were sewn onto a foundation of batting and backing, I couldn’t just trim the blocks.

But by using my chalk, I was able to mark lines on the blocks so I could match the raw edge of the sashing to a line drawn on the block in order to sew the sashing on and square up the block.

To discover more about chalk to mark your quilts, visit:


Happy Quilting!

Penny Halgren


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