5 ways to audition quilting ideas on a quilt top

December 15, 2015

You’ve spend time picking out the perfect piecing pattern for your quilting project. You’ve found the best fabrics to bring it to life. You’ve selected the perfect backing fabric and all that is left to do is to decide what quilting motifs you’ll use on your project, right?

If you are like many quilters, this is the point in the process where the room starts to spin and you feel overwhelmed. There are so many choices! How do you know which motifs are the best ones to make your quilt top sing?

Some quilters use the stand and stare method to decide what to quilt. This method involves hanging up the quilt top on a wall in the sewing room for a few days hoping it will “talk” and provide inspiration for the quilting designs. But what about the quilts that don’t seem to speak? How do you play with ideas in order to drill down to find the best motifs to use for a particular quilt top?

Fortunately, there are many ways to audition quilting ideas on your quilt top. Here are five of the best:

Quilter’s Vinyl or Plexiglass

Get a piece of quilter’s vinyl or plexiglass about 20” x 15” and place painters tape all around the outside edge of the cut vinyl or plexiglass. On one side of the tape write the word “UP” along all four sides. The painter’s tape will ensure you know exactly where the edge begins and the “UP” label will ensure you always keep the side against your quilt top clean as we will be drawing on the “UP” side.

Using a wet erase marker, doodle your designs on the side of the vinyl labeled “UP” while it is overlaid upon your quilt top. Play with the density level of the design you are considering to be sure it is all going to work and to be sure you’ve found the continuous path you’ll use for the quilting process in order to minimize your stops and starts.

If you have paper pantograph patterns and would like to see if they’ll look at home on your quilting project, trace the pantograph with a permanent marker on one side of a piece of Quilter’s Vinyl. Lay this vinyl tracing over a quilt to determine if you like the look of the pantograph pattern on your project. If you quilt for others, this is a great way to help your customers see how an all over, edge to edge design will look on their quilt top.

Vellum Paper or Tracing Paper

This paper is a little see through so you can lightly draw on it with a pencil. Lay the paper over the quilt top and lightly sketch out some ideas. You’ll be able to see through the paper to the patchwork underneath as you flesh out your ideas. Doodle your designs to audition motifs and find the one you like best. Don’t like it? Rip up the paper and get a new sheet!

how to audition designs on your quilt top, tutorial, APQS longarm quilting

Print out a photo

Take a photo of the block or quilt and print it out using your computer printer. It will be best to print the photo in black and white so the colors don’t distract you as you play with quilting motifs on top of the photo. Draw on the printout or slap down some tracing paper on top of the photo for your doodles. By using both a close-up photo of a block and a wide shot photo of the entire quilt, you’ll be able to determine if there are secondary patterns that will emerge from the quilting patterns you are considering.

Draw on the photo in your computer

You likely have a paint program or a photo editing program already on your computer. Open a photo of your quilt in your favorite paint program on your computer and draw electronically on the photo using your computer’s mouse. Or, better yet, invest in an inexpensive pen stylus that acts just like a computer’s mouse but is held like a pen. You can get a USB pen stylus to replace your computer’s mouse for around $50. It is much easier to draw quilting ideas holding a pen instead of a mouse. Doodle on the photo inside the computer and if you don’t like it… hit undo!

how to audition designs on your quilt top, tutorial, APQS longarm quilting

Draw on a photo using your iPad or tablet computer

Do you have an iPad or a tablet computer that allows you to draw right on the screen? If so, there are some wonderful apps for both IOS and Android that make it easy to audition quilting ideas.

To doodle you can use your finger or a stylus. I have a special stylus for my iPad with a very skinny tip that allows me to draw with precision. The free apps I use include: Paper, Penultimate and Skitch. But, my favorite app, ProCreate, is about $5. It is very powerful. ProCreate provides layers that can be turned on and off. I can draw an idea on one layer, turn that layer off and then create another layer for a different idea. Multiple layers can be turned on and off so I can layer ideas on top of each other to decide what I like.

The APQS Forum

Have you lingered and lurked in the “How should I quilt this?” forum at APQS.com? The incredible APQS community is so generous with their time and their ideas! Post a photo of your quilt and get ideas from the “hive.” Some forum members have been known to download the photo posted, draw on it with their computer and then upload those drawings back to the forum so you can see their suggestions.

You can even search the forum for a particular piecing pattern name or block name to see if anyone else has posted something similar to your project so you can see what they did. Join in the conversation, help others when they ask for ideas and soon you’ll find the inspiration start to flow.

Are you stumped by a quilt top right now and can’t decide what to put on it? Post a photo of it on our APQS Facebook page or in the forums. We’d love to see what you are working on and the APQS quilting community would love to share their ideas with you!

Angela Huffman is an APQS dealer and the owner of Quilted Joy Studio in Louisville, Kentucky

how to audition designs on your quilt top, tutorial, APQS longarm quilting