The biggest problem I hear from quilters when it comes to the quilting part of their project is that they don’t know what motif to put on their quilt. They’re afraid that they’ll “ruin” their quilt, either through lack of skill or poor quilt motif choice. I’m not going to say that you can’t ruin a quilt through poor choices in these areas, but there are 4 considerations that I think will help you to avoid “ruining” your quilt. (And you can’t really ruin a quilt unless you tear it, stain it, burn it, etc. – everything else is just a learning opportunity).
This is what I like to consider before I choose a quilt motif for my quilt.
1. What is the purpose of the quilt?
This is the first thing I consider before quilting any of my projects.
Most quilts we make are ones that we want to be used. They may be baby quilts to be dragged around the house, a lap quilt to be snuggled under when reading, or a bed quilt to keep us warm at night. These types of quilts will be used and washed repeatedly – they’re what I call “utility” quilts. These types of quilts don’t merit custom quilting. A simple pantograph or all-over design will work perfectly well for the majority of these types of quilts. Pick a quilt motif that compliments the fabric or design of the quilt and get ‘er done.
If the quilt top you have created is intricately pieced, it may merit custom quilting. If you would consider this an heirloom quilt to be viewed, but not used, custom or semi-custom quilting is the way to go. This might involve smaller, more complex quilting motifs or ruler quilting. You may want to use different quilt motifs in different parts of the quilt. This type of quilting takes more thought and will take longer to complete, but, if the quilt top merits it, this is the way to go.
Decide what type of quilting this particular quilt top needs and you are then ready to move onto the next consideration.
2. What is the focus of the quilt?
When I’m looking at a quilt top, I need to decide what will be the focus or star of it: will it be the piecing or appliqué or will it be the quilting itself?
For appliqué quilts, you definitely want to emphasize the appliqué itself. The quilting should enhance or accentuate the appliqué, not compete with it. In this case, the appliqué is the star, and the quilting is the supporting actor. Keeping your quilting motif simple will work on this type of quilt.
If, on the other hand, this is a pieced quilt with lots of negative space, for example, a modern quilt, the star will be the quilting. You’ll be able to do lots of custom or semi-custom quilting in the negative space on these types of quilt. The sky is the limit here, so have fun and combine multiple quilting motifs to show off your skill.
Which brings us to the next consideration.
3. What is your skill level?
I always say that it is better to do a simple design well than a complex design poorly. (I should have this tattooed on me!).
If you struggle to do feathers or don’t like how yours look, don’t do feathers on your quilts! If you are a master at stippling, use this on your quilts. Simple designs can look just as good as more complex ones if done well.
Don’t think you have to do a certain quilt motif because you see it on many quilts. If you can’t do it well (yet!), stick to the designs that you have mastered. There will be lots more quilt tops just waiting for those feathers when you have mastered them.
The next thing to consider is…
4. What is the style of the quilt?
Some quilt motifs are more appropriate on certain styles of quilts. I’m not saying that this is a rule (are there really rules in quilting?!), but it’s something to consider.
Is your quilt a traditional or modern quilt? You may want to use more traditional quilting motifs, such as feathers, crosshatching, etc. on a traditional quilt top.
If you have a more modern quilt, simple designs, such as geometric shapes, stippling, or wavy walking foot quilting, might be more appropriate.
All of these considerations are suggestions only as everyone has their own ideas as to what type of quilting they want to have on their own quilt tops, but they are a starting point to help you in making this decision.
In all cases, remember that if your quilt has busy fabrics, you won’t see the quilting well, so your beautiful custom quilting won’t be seen. If you choose to put this amount of effort into quilting a quilt with busy fabrics, don’t be disappointed when the quilting doesn’t show. The reverse is true: you will definitely see the quilting on solid fabrics, so go for that custom work.
In general, I like to use curved quilting motifs on quilt tops that have straight lines in them and straight line quilting motifs on quilt tops that have curved piecing in them. Use the opposite type of quilting motif to the quilt top to work harmoniously together.
For more information on choosing a quilt motif, click on the image below.
These are some ideas you can use when considering the quilt motif to be used in your next quilt project. What are the things you consider when choosing a quilt motif for your quilts? Leave a comment below to let me know.
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