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Quilting over Embroidery

I purchased some quilt blocks which are to be embroidered with mostly cross-stitching.

The design is rather large (a sunflower girl). When I put these blocks together in a quilt, how should I quilt over these embroidered designs? It seems too large an area to not have quilting there.

Wouldn't quilting over the embroidery look odd and even risk pulling the stitches loose?

Thanks for any advise about this.

It seemed like a fun idea at the time, but now I can't figure out how to quilt the quilt when it's done.


If it was me, I would not quilt over the hand stitching but rather around it.

Quilting stitches as a layer of design

Besides holding the layers together, the quilting is supposed to 'add' to the design, the final look, and not detract from it.

For example, on an applique quilt, the hand applique is the 'star'...just like your hand cross-stitching is the 'star'.

Typically, the backgrounds behind applique are more heavily stitched than the applique shapes. This stitching 'smushes down' the background, causing it to recede visually.

The applique literally rises above the surface of the quilt. It comes forward. Your eyes focus on it. It is the important part of the design. The quilting stitches highlight the handwork and don't detract from it...just as it should be.

If you were to quilt over the cross stitching, the stitching would push the background and the design to the same level, so I would not recommend it. (I, too, am concerned that stitching over the handwork could possibly pull at the stitches and loosen them.)

What to do?

I took the following photo at the Gems of the Prairie Quilters 2010 'Autumn Gems' quilt show in Peoria, Illinois. This block is from a redwork quilt, hand embroidered by Jean Casey and pieced and quilted by Debbie Spencer.

Hand embroidery with machine quilted grid quilting

Hopefully you can see in the picture that Debbie quilted a grid--quilting as far as she could into the design--stopping and tying off where the hand embroidery became too dense or complicated.

There are a couple of places where she stitched over the embroidery, but only for a stitch or two. And this stitching was all done in a cream/white thread. (You could just as easily use a monofilament to hide the stitches.)

It is a beautiful execution of quilting! The embroidery stitches come forward. The quilting serves to hold the layers together and emphasizes the hand stitching. Perfect!

Grid quilting will emphasize the 'X' in your cross stitch. Take it only as far into the design as you are comfortable.

Does it need more quilt stitches?

Depending on how large the hand stitched design is, you may need to go and add some additional stitching within the cross-stitched design.

Since you're clearly OK with hand work, use a matching thread and as needed, add a few stitches here and there to hold the three layers together. It's possible that you might want to add some beading to the finished quilt to add a little dimension to the centers of the sunflowers. The beading stitches, if taken clear through to the backing, would also serve to hold the layers together.

If this quilt will hang on a wall...

...use a stable batting like Quilters Dream or Warm and Natural (these are both needle punched and quite stable). There will be less drooping in the quilt as it hangs, and both have longer maximum quilting distances.

Readers, what do you think? How have you quilted hand embroidered blocks? Please share your experiences using the 'comments' link below. Thank you!

Good luck with your project. I'd love to see it when it's finished!


Julie Baird

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Thanks for the tip!
by: Linda Hoenigsberg

I just finished Crabapole Hill "Over the River and Through the Woods" quilt and wondered how to quilt over the large quilting panels (3 of them). I had thought about a grid pattern but had not thought about just stitching up to the design and then using hand-stitching to tack the layers together where needed within the design. This was so helpful.

Thank you so much!

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