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Quilt design question on larger quilts

by Pam
(Colorado Springs, CO)

On a queen size quilt, using a domestic home sewing machine, which is easier--an over all quilt design or doing different stitches in each block?


Because I have never quilted a whole quilt with a single all over design...that would be the one that's harder for me...for a couple of reasons:

  • It gets boring. Maybe that's just me! I like to do feathers and other drawn designs on my quilts and the stitching goes pretty fast once I settle into a rhythm for the day. It's the background fill patterns that take so much time to do...because I like to stitch them small.
  • You need to watch the scale of the design. If you're doing a freehand, unmarked allover design, you'll want to keep the size of the pattern pretty uniform as you quilt. Unmarked, that is harder for me.
  • I design machine quilting patterns. I can't help myself. I think it's very satisfying, if not downright fun, to figure out the quilting for a new quilt. Don't get me wrong, it can be frustrating, too. But there's a certain satisfaction to creating your own. (I am working on an e-book to help others learn how to do it!)
If it's a quilt that's going to see some heavy use by someone who won't really appreciate the time it takes to do essentially custom work (anything not an allover design), then allover patterns are a good choice for the quilting design. The quilt gets finished and used, instead of waiting for that perfect quilting-inspiration to strike.

If you don't have a lot of time, again allover patterns are a good choice because once you decide, it's just repeated over and over again. You needn't stop to figure out what you're going to quilt next.

With custom quilting... how I prefer to finish my quilts.

I do a lot of stabilizing quilting--stitching in all the ditches that I can--first. That means a lot of the safety pins used for basting can be removed. That allows me to quilt where I want to so I get to see the quilt come alive with each additional step.

Another benefit is that the quilting is devised to highlight or emphasize the piecing or applique. In an all-over quilting design, nothing in particular is highlighted. No part of the quilt is raised above another.

Think about the background quilting behind applique. Those stitches smush down the background and the applique design rises above the surface of the quilt. The applique comes forward visually; it is emphasized.

Custom work is generally more time consuming. You have to think up a variety of designs to complete the project. If you quilt each block with a separate design, then there are as many designs as there are blocks to do. That is a lot of work.

In this raffle quilt below from Pride of the Prairie Quilters in Plainfield, IL, each of the large star blocks is quilted differently. That added significantly to the time spent designing the stitching patterns.

Stars of the Prairie by the Pride of the Prairie Quilters Guild

To see more of this quilt, visit our page Stars of the Prairie. The custom-quilting brought this quilt to a whole other level.

So while is it 'harder' (because it takes more time and thought) to do the blocks individually, in my humble opinion the extra work is more than worth it. You grow as a quilter because you are honing your design skills when you have the opportunity. And it doesn't have to be super fancy...just something that's appropriate for the quilt.

Readers, this is a question that will probably have as many different answers as there are quilters. We all quilt to achieve different things. So what do you think? Please share your opinions below. Thank you!

Good question, Pam! I hope this helps you with your quilting decisions!


Julie Baird

Comments for Quilt design question on larger quilts

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Beginner on plain blocks
by: Anonymous

Gifted a set of William Morris fabric, I extended it to a queen quilt with plain colours, triangles mixed with squares, with plain border. To reduce bulk, I cut the square of batting that covers the central square, marking the match points, freehanded the plain squares, and reattached the frame. About to stitch top on edges.

Would not have been so manageable to freehand with that extra border.

Question answered
by: Helen

I should have searched first. Your comment answered my question, yes pin and ditch stitch for best results. Thank you for this great site.

From the Editor: Thank you! Your kind words are appreciated and most glad to be of some help.

~ Julie B

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