Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #7

I received this question among the comments…

“Do you mark your quilting at all? Or is it all freehand? Do you have a plan before you start? “

I shall try to answer that by showing you different quilts that I have quilted, maybe that would help you better and more creatively quilt your quilts. Please feel free to click on the links provided below for more pictures of the individual quilts. And do ask questions if you have any – I will try my best to answer them.


I mark or don’t mark my quilts based on how I envision the end result I desire. So, I have done them all – heavily marked, sparsely marked, and no marking at all…

1. For my Pieceful Garden quilt, I didn’t want the quilting to be the focal point because I wanted the fabrics to shine. I merely wanted the quilting to provide texture to the fabrics. So, I opted for an overall feather quilting – unmarked and entirely free-handed. I generally do not mark my quilts for overall quilting.

You can see my unmarked free-handed feathers “texturizes” the tonal fabrics really well. Notice on the 9-patches, I free-handed the Diane-shiko motif (by Diane Gaudynski):

A peek at the back of the quilt:

2. My Christmas in Ohio (to be featured by Fons and Porter this winter) is another quilt where the quilting is totally unmarked and free-handed. I did an overall swirly on this. The reason? The toile winter scene fabric was a bit too busy for any planned and fancy quilting to show. I had initially planned to do a circular wreath on the star blocks, but I decided against it because I wanted the star blocks all look a bit different from the effect of the overall quilting. Having planned quilting on the star blocks would have made them a bit too stuffy for me, and taken away the overall cozy feeling of that quilt, I think.

3. Fruit of the Vine is another example of unmarked and totally free-handed quilting. I love feather plumes that curve. So, I knew from the get-go that the space underneath the vine will have curved feather plumes. The curvature of the vines made easy guides for me to quilt the curvy spines of the feather plumes.

Tip: Look for elements on your quilt top to use as guides for quilting (in this case, the vines) to avoid having to mark your quilt. Click here for more ideas.

4. My Marabella quilt was partially marked for me to quilt the apple core motif (also introduced by Diane Gaudynski). But the rest is unmarked.

5. I used a bowl to mark on the border the boundary of the scallops – and filled in with feathers for To A Garden Tea Party. Feathers are unmarked, only the boundary. I thought the scallop feather quilting would make a nice change to just the criss-crossing straight line quilting on the pieced border squares.

I had used the individual wedge on the fan block as guides for me to fill in with feathers. Fun quilting with no marking – yay!

6. When I do my wholecloth quilts, I mark for sure. I had spent 15 hours just on marking a quilt that is in my work-in-progress stash. I would only mark the main motif, the background quilting is still unmarked and free-handed. So, it’s really handy to master a few background quiting motifs you like. You might find some motifs you may use here.

7. I marked the border of Poinsettia Fiesta with a stencil prior to quilting.


Now, as for planning my quilt. I like to have an image of the quilt I am working on up at all times so that I can be thinking about how to approach the quilting when I am working on the quilt top.

Oftentimes, the general theme of the quilt determines the quilting — as in Peppermint Packages (to be featured in the December 2010 issue of Quilter’s World). Ribbon streamers were quilted on these present blocks to fit the theme of Christmas presents.

If there’s not a theme, I would generally decide how I would quilt a quilt based on how I eventually want my quilt to look like after being quilt. Quilter’s World is featuring my article on “Quilting Around the Block” in their February 2011 issue. Keep your eyes peeled for the magazine hitting the newsstands sometime in December this year. You will see this quilt and how I have quilted the different blocks:

I hope this gives you a glimpse of my thought process on how I decide to quilt my quilts. Remember, quilting is a personal and subjective matter. You quilt to please yourself, not me or anyone else! Happy Quilting.

16 thoughts on “Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #7

  1. As a beginner, I went on a ‘spree’, buying all the things I thought I might need. I purchased a set of marking pencils, made for quilters. I tried one out the other day, and found that it was quite difficult to get a nice mark on the fabric. It was like it was WAY too hard to ‘draw’ with. What do you use for marking? I was wondering if there is a good marking pen. I’m sort of at a loss as what to do. Thank you SO much for all your beautiful work, and the great photos you take for this blog (were you a photographer in another life?) I really appreciate the time you give to share with us your work.

    • I use the regular fabric washable blue markers to mark my quilts, not the fine point types. I find those to not glide on the fabric very well. I think I get them at Walmart for less than $2 each.

      Thank you for your kind words — you would probably be surprised to find out that in my younger years, my mother would NEVER give me the camera to take pictures because I would always cut off people’s head. It wasn’t till after I went to college and decided to venture into the mystical realm of photography. :)

  2. As always, your Thread Talk is sooo helpful! I’ve done smaller table-sized pieces FMQ, but now I’m headed to my first (other than an all over meandering) bed-sized project. I’m quaking in my sewing socks!

  3. As usual, Wendy, your Thread Talk posts are very enlightening and helpful. I do have another question for you, related to your comment on your planning process. I notice you have used an applique motif or two from the EQ library in a couple of your quilts, so assume you are using that software to design and plan your quilts. Do you use that software to design any quilting stencils when yo do decide to mark? Do you use the software to audition quilting designs before you actually commit to the quilting process? I ask this because I am just now becoming more and more interested in machine quilting. And I am an EQ junkie, so I pretty much plan every aspect of my quilts with this software… my “design wall” is pretty much my computer screen. If you do use this quilting software for any stages of your planning, I would be very interested in knowing how you go about that.

    And, by the way, I never get tired of admiring your work. Thank you so much for the wealth of photos!

    • Hi Angie,

      Thanks for your kind kind words. Actually, I do everything with EQ up till the quilting part. I don’t actually use EQ to try to decide how to quilt my quilts. I don’t know why, maybe I just never got into the habit of doing so. But I also find the black quilting lines on the software a bit distracting, and keeps me from focusing on the matter on how to quilt my quilts.

  4. Wendy – great insight into your process. It is so helpful to someone like me who always struggles with what to quilt on the quilt! Thanks for taking the time to do this. o:)

  5. Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions! I really appreciate it. I would love to see you in action sometime… I have been free-hand monogramming since the 70’s…I was a teenager then. The motions to quilt are similar, but having so much bulk in the machine…I just can’t get over how smooth your lines are. I would love to see how often you stop to readjust every thing.

    Anyways, thanks again and I will keep coming here for more tips!

  6. This is a really nice post. I cannot believe the apple core quilting – dont know I’d ever attempt it. I’d never have it that even if I did! Can you toss me the name of some stencils you use and like? I think what people don’t realize that see your quilts is that it is really hard to quilt a cohesive design on a domestic machine because you can only see a small part of the pattern. Yet you make it look effortless-kudos!

  7. Pingback: French Bouquet in JUMP-START YOUR QUILTING « Ivory Spring

  8. Pingback: Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #15 « Ivory Spring

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