Hand Quilting - Marking Out Amelie's Quilt

Following the previous post I received a question about how I'd marked the quilt. I hoped it might be useful information to share so here's a mini tutorial…

I'll begin by saying that I'm by no means an expert on traditional hand quilting. I love to quilt by hand and have finally got a grip on using a hoop and a thimble. I don't think there are any rules, this is just what works for me.

For this quilt I'm using cotton poplin front and back. That's perhaps not the best choice, poplin has a high thread count so it's not the easiest to quilt through, but it's what I'd got and you know what happens when inspiration strikes, there's no waiting for supplies to arrive. The wadding is cotton/polyester. 100% polyester is easier to quilt but I like the finish that cotton gives so the blended wadding is a nice compromise.

I'm using a smallish quilting hoop (14" I think), thimble on my right hand (nothing on the left) and quilting with a 40wt mercerised cotton thread and a size 11 or 12 between needle.

I mark the quilt design before layering up the quilt sandwich. Because this quilt is white it's fairly easy to do. This design is basically a central panel surrounded by borders of differing widths. I mark out the perimeter of the quilt (based on the size of the bed it's for), using the largest rotary cutter ruler I've got and a metre stick. Obviously it's important to take time with this or it'll be downhill from here!

With the outer limits established I'll then mark the centre and place the rectangle for the central panel. I'm doing all the marking with a water-soluble graphite pencil sharpened to as sharp a point as I can manage. Why water-soluble graphite? Well I don't trust any of the marking pens, wash away or fade away. I much prefer pencils, even though it can look grubby while I'm working because of the grey. The quilting of this quilt will take me ages, I'll be carting it around for literally months sneaking any opportunity to put in a few stitches. It'll be out in the garden, at the dinner table, in the kitchen while the tea cooks, you name it. By the end it's going to need washing! That'll serve several purposes, it'll be nice and white again and the quilt marking will all wash away.

Washing will also shrink the quilt so I'll get that nice antique effect I'm looking for. If you don't want that you need to prewash the top and backing fabric and the wadding (if it's cotton).

Back to the marking. With the central panel marked I then worked out the borders or frames that would surround it. I like to use narrow (1/4") channels here and there to help add definition.

Skinny borders filled with a column of circles are also effective.

One of my favourite fill patterns is a simple grid. It's easy to mark, use a rotary cutting ruler to establish the angle of the first line, mine is 45degrees, and mark. Then mark parallel lines to fill the space before going back to add the perpendicular ones to complete the grid. Mine's spaced at 1/2" which is close enough for lovely texture, but not too mind-numbing to stitch.

The simple geometric fills complement other more pictorial motifs quite nicely. This is for Amelie's bedroom and she has a bird and birdhouse theme going on so I've drawn both in the central panel and then framed with a border of birds in facing pairs. You can just draw these freehand, but if you've got a pale fabric like me, then you can draw (or print from the computer) a master motif on paper with a bold outline and slide that under the top fabric and trace. That is much quicker and it's also helps with making sure motifs fit nicely into the available space.

With traditional embroidery samplers in mind and the thought that it's a quilt for a young child, I've filled one border with the alphabet and numbers. I've personalised the quilt with her name and for text like this I'd really recommend printing out the lettering that you want to use on the computer. It'll allow you to play with the font choice and size so you can be sure it'll all fit on. When you're happy just slide the paper under the fabric and trace to mark the lines.

An echo around the lettering isolates it from the background fill to ensure that it stands out well.

Finally I'm going for a heart-filled scalloped edge. I've not quite decided on how best to finish the edges, but I've got plenty of time while I quilt to fathom it out!


  1. This is really beautiful. I'm finding your tutorials really useful. The combination of photos and text really works for me as I can puzzle over bits I don't get and expand it so I can work it out. Thank you so much :-)

  2. love this and a very helpful tutorial .

  3. Thanks for a wonderful tutorial. I love to hand quilt and embroider. You've inspired me once again to pull out some cloth and start stitching. Then, I watched Linda's show and I want to have a go at gouache and India ink. How I wish for a 36 hour day. Thanks again and have a wonderful, relaxing weekend.

  4. You talk a lot of good sense. I too do not trust fade out markers. I have had them leave a bleached line on a purple and green quilt, and I am not sure whether it was the pen reacting with the fabric, or whether it was left in the sun, and the heat triggered a subsequent reaction. I also suspect these pens accelerate the degradation of cotton fibres, leading to the fabric rotting. Much more sensible to use an old fashioned pencil, and wash it afterwards! After all, we are women! This is what we do! Well done

  5. I love this Laura! I do hope that you will show us the completed quilt. Your daughter will certainly love this quilt for ages to come!


Post a Comment