Quiltmaking Tips: Quilting Shapes on Quilts

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Do you avoid free motion quilting or free hand drawing with your sewing machine because you feel you are not good at it? Don’t let that stop you from doing some machine quilting. Mary Mashuta gives you great ways to quilt wonderful gently curved designs in her book, Foolproof Machine Quilting. She shows you that by using a walking foot with the feed dogs up, you can sew around a few predrawn shapes. Your quilting will be even and professional looking.

One of the many helpful ideas in Mary’s book is to draw or trace the quilting design onto self-adhesive shelf paper (Contac paper), cut out the shape, stick it to the quilt and sew around it. One way to use this idea is to use one of the appliqué shapes already in the quilt as your quilting design. Use a copier to enlarge and reduce the shape for variety, cut out these shapes from the Contac paper, and place them to fill in the background of the quilt. Use a larger size for a larger space and a smaller size for a small space. When you finish one area, reposition the shapes onto another area. The Contac paper will remain sticky for several uses. If your curves are a little too tight to use a walking foot, use a free-motion foot. Quilting with a free-motion foot and the feed dogs down takes a little patience, but because you have a shape to follow, it is still easier than having no design to follow.

Top left photo: The plant appliqué shapes are traced onto self-adhesive shelf paper and used to quilt the background of this crib quilt made using a pattern in Covered With Love, by Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins.

Top right photo: Using various sizes of the plant shapes creates an organic, jungle-like filling for the quilt's background. They can be overlapped if necessary and sized to fill in the open areas.

Middle photo: Position the letters before quilting around them.

Bottom photo: Finished quilted letters

The same technique can be used to quilt words in a quilt. Create the letters needed, cut the shapes from self-adhesive shelf paper and sew around the letters. A free motion foot will probably work better than a walking foot because the curves are rather small. The great advantage of the Contac paper is that the letters can be positioned so you can adjust the spacing before you quilt. In addition, if you need to use a letter more than once, just make one letter from Contac paper and use it as many times as that letter appears.

Your quilting may not be as perfect as what a professional quilter would do, but it is satisfying to know that you made the quilt from start to finish. Remember—most recipients of your quilts are not expecting perfection—they only see the love you put into their quilts.

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