How do I choose the right quilting designs?

June 20, 2019

I think the #1 question new APQS longarm owners ask me during their free beginner class is, “How do you know what to quilt on a quilt?”

I wish someone would create an app that automatically chose the best possible quilting design for a quilt top. Wouldn’t that be awesome??? Just snap a picture of the quilt top with your phone, answer a few simple questions in the app, and then out pops a quilting plan!

If you have a bright computer geek in your family—what are you waiting for? Plant that seed already, will you? The whole quilting world is constantly searching for inspirational genius and that “magic answer.”

I would love to say “Alexa, how should I quilt my quilt?” and she’d politely describe exactly what to do in that soft computer voice of hers. But before she would answer, I suspect she’d ask me many of the same questions I also ask students when they pose that question in class:

  • Who is the quilt for?
  • What do they like?
  • How will it be cared for?
  • How dense do you like the quilting?
  • What quilting style are you after?
  • How much time do you want to spend on it?
  • What batting and thread do you want to use?
  • What areas do you want to stand out? What do you want to downplay?
  • What quilting skills are currently in your wheelhouse?
  • Describe what you like and don’t like about the quilting in other quilts you’ve seen.

I think the reason no one has created that app yet is that it’s impossible to pick one BEST design for a quilt. Answering the questions above can certainly help narrow down the design choices. But a quilt can have multiple personalities; how you ultimately quilt it depends on which of its “voices” speaks loudest to YOU. The design that pleases you most is the best design for the quilt!

You probably know a quilter or two who seem to be “quilt whisperers.” They come up with fabulous quilting ideas after waiting patiently for a quilt top to “speak” to them! But it’s not a one-way conversation. They listen to their instincts, their hearts, and their creative minds as they spend time with a quilt top.

They ask the questions above, just like everyone else. But quilt whisperers ask one more critical question that reveals many secrets that would otherwise remain hidden inside the quilt’s folds. Quilt whisperers ask, “WHAT IF….”

  • What if I took my quilting lines across both my dark and light fabrics?
  • What if I added circles in the center of the white space and quilted around them?
  • What if I used red thread instead of matching thread in the backgrounds?

When you ask yourself “what if,” you open your mind to thousands of possibilities—none of which are right or wrong. You remove shackles that keep you locked into a narrow mindset and set yourself free!

I asked Amy Stuart, APQS Lead Service technician, and my daughter, Nicole, to try some quilt whispering with me. I printed out some color copies of a quick start quilt available in Electric Quilt 8, handed each of them a few copies and a pencil, and challenged them to create some quilting designs simply by thinking about “What if….”

It took several minutes of staring at the paper before either of them started listening to their own inner voices, along with what the quilt was saying to them. With no preconceived notions or expectations of what the quilt should look like, they finally broke out of their self-imposed shackles and the inspiration started flowing. Their designs transformed the quilt into amazing works of art—each with a unique speaking voice.

Amy mixed traditional feathers with dimensional lines that make the quilt look like stepping stones in a modern garden.

Nicole split her quilt into four sections, which made the quilt even more interesting. I love the contrast between the circles and straight lines! Any quadrant design would look fabulous even as an overall design across the quilt!

A recent annual visit to my eye doctor may have subconsciously influenced my design. I think I’ve got about 50 eyeballs staring back from my design—but I actually love it!

Once we got rolling, it was hard to stop! Now it’s your turn. Download the photo, grab a pencil, and ask yourself “What If?”….. Don’t wait for Alexa to tell you what to do. Go ahead—unlock the quilt whisperer in you!