Selecting Edge-to-Edge Designs



Selecting Edge-to-Edge Designs
Selecting Edge-to-Edge Designs
Part One of Two
Angela Huffman
he first major decision a machine
quilter needs to make for a quilt
top is whether to create a custom
treatment or stitch an allover pattern. Custom quilting is where each block and
border is treated separately, whereas allover, or
edge-to-edge quilting, means that the quilting
pattern starts at one side of the top and goes to
the other side regardless of blocks or borders.
There are some quilts that shout out for custom
quilting and others that scream just as loudly for
an edge-to-edge design.
Civil War
Reproduction quilt,
pieced by Mary
Schoeder, quilted by
Machine Quilting UNLIMITED | November/December 2013
When should an allover pattern be chosen for a
quilt? In the top shown in Photo 1, there is so
much happening with the fabrics and the pattern that custom quilting would not be a good
choice. It would be impossible to see the hours
of intense labor from the front. Assuming that
it is not intended to be a show quilt, this piece
is an excellent example of a quilt that should be
quilted with an edge-to-edge quilting pattern.
The stitching is only needed to provide texture
and movement. Pantograph quilting will be
perfect for the quilt, and the stitching will be
finished more quickly.
pantograph designs offered. Even the eye doctor
does not force you to make that many decisions!
The most important thing to remember is that it
is difficult to make a bad choice. Thankfully, the
quilts we work with are usually not completely
blank canvases. Instead, there are clues in every
quilt top we encounter. These clues will help
you determine which design to stitch on your
quilt. They provide ideas and help narrow down
those 2000+ pantograph pattern choices we are
fortunate enough to have.
1. Pieced by Becky
West, Kathy Cascinto
and Vickie Saling.
2. Tracing paper
pantographs with a
laser using an APQS
When you have made the decision to quilt an allover, edge-to-edge pattern on your quilt top, you
are now faced with choosing the right pattern.
Sometimes it can feel like you are at the eye doctor. Will it be choice A or choice B? C or B? D or
A? At some point the possibilities become overwhelming! This article addresses what additional
factors should be considered when edge-to-edge
work is your choice.
When using most stand-up frame quilting
systems a paper pantograph pattern can be traced
using a laser light. (Photo 2) If you are working
on a sit-down machine or simply prefer not to use
premade patterns, you will be stitching out the
design on your own. Do not let that intimidate
you. Remember, you are providing the texture so
the quilting will not be the most visible feature.
Let that give you the courage to try something
new and different.
In Part One of this article we will walk through
the clues each quilt holds to help you determine
which predesigned pantograph will look best
on your quilt top. In Part Two, in the January/
February 2014 issue of Machine Quilting
Unlimited, we will look at how to design your
own freehand allover patterns using many of the
same decision points below to create a unique all
over design for your top.
How does one determine which premade
pantograph pattern to use? At one of the leading pattern companies there are over 2,000
November/December 2013 | Machine Quilting UNLIMITED
3. Pieced by Mary
4. Pantograph
Modern Maze ©
Krista Withers.
5. Pantograph Baptist
Fan © Jessica Schick.
One thing to avoid is selecting a quilting pattern
that does not have the same ‘voice’ as the top.
For instance, look at the Civil War Reproduction
quilt in Photo 3. Now, imagine a modern funky
squares and swirls grid on it. (Photo 4) The quilt
top and the stitching design are definitely not
working together. This contemporary stitching
design is fabulous, but not for this quilt top. The
voices are too different.
Let’s try it with a traditional Baptist Fans pattern
instead. (Photo 5) Ahhhhhh…. serenity. This
design enhances the quilt top, speaks the same
language and makes sense given the nature of
the fabrics and piecing pattern. (See this quilt
with the stitching completed on page 60.)
Many quilts have a balance that can be enhanced
with the quilting design. It could be a balance of
color and/or a balance of shapes. A quilt generally
repeats elements of fabric, color, shape or style
throughout the top to create a cohesive voice. For
example, take a look at the batik quilt in Photo 6.
What shapes do you think would work well on
this top? The main design element is circles, so
something flowing, curvy and well, circle-y will
work to bring the balance seen in the top through
to the quilting. (Photo 7) In this case, repeating
the circle designs found in the piecing enhances
the balance and symmetry of the quilt top.
Do you remember ‘opposite day’ as a kid? Where
you ate mashed potatoes and hamburgers for
breakfast and wore your jammies to school? Or
how about the game where you repeat everything
someone says like a mocking bird until they
scream at you to stop? You do not need to be a
certain age to remember these games; you just
had to have had contact with a second grader at
some point. Well, using opposites or mirroring
techniques, we can frequently find the perfect
motif to use on a quilt top.
Take a look at the piecing pattern on the quilt top
in Photo 8. It is very angular. There are lots of
Machine Quilting UNLIMITED | November/December 2013
straight lines, right angles and strong contrasts.
You could mimic those choices by using a
pantograph with strong lines and strong angles.
(Photo 9) Or, you could play the opposites game
and select a pattern with circles to soften the
sharpness of those piecing lines. (Photo 10) Both
would work well. I personally lean towards using
opposite motifs in quilts with bold color palettes.
fabrics? A pantograph with leaves or flowers
might complement those fabrics well. Is the quilt
covered with sock monkeys? Then what you need
is a banana pantograph, of course! (Photo 11)
6. Pieced by Linda
7. Pantograph Curley
Bubbles © Patricia
Ritter, quilted by
8. Pieced by Debbie
9. Pantograph Angle
Play © Celine Spader.
The fabrics in a quilt top can also inspire you.
Take a close look at the designs. Is there a motif
that is common to many of the fabrics? Is there
a theme to the fabrics? When examining the
fabrics for quilting inspiration, pantographs to
consider would be those that are similar to what
you find in the fabrics. Are there lots of floral
November/December 2013 | Machine Quilting UNLIMITED
10. Pantograph
Swirling Meander ©
Jessica Schick.
11. Pantograph Sock
Monkey Bananas ©
Angela Huffman.
Even the movements of the colors in
fabrics will hold clues. I find this is
especially true of batiks. There are some
batik fabrics that remind me of water.
(Photo 12) Or, more specifically, they
remind me of the water I would see in a
fancy tropical location while sipping a
fruity drink with a paper umbrella in it.
Quilts made with these batiks are great
when paired with a pantograph that
gives the illusion of water moving over
a quilt top. A flowing design is perfect.
(Photo 13)
Or course, the overriding factor for all
of our quilting choices is passion. Do
you have a new pantograph you just
bought and cannot wait to try it out on
something? Go for it! Do you only feel
comfortable with a couple of designs for
now? That is fine. Stay with what you
are familiar with at first, but push yourself to move on to something new when
you have the time. Do you know the
quilt will get washed a bazillion times,
be used to build forts and dragged
around by the dog? In that case, a common meander might be the best choice
for this project.
If you find that there are two or three
pantograph patterns that you feel would
all look equally nice on the quilt top and
you are not feeling drawn towards one
over the other, do not agonize or over
think your pattern selection. Just pick
one. You will meet very few quilts that
will look great with only one particular
pantograph. Most would be pretty
with any one of a number of different
approaches. Remember to ignore the
quilt police living in your head. There
are few wrong choices in the edge-toedge quilting world.
Finally, if you are feeling uncertain
about the pantograph you have selected
for your quilt top, use a lightweight
thread such as Superior’s The Bottom
Line 60wt. polyester or Fil-Tec’s Allure
Silk Tex-10 (a very fine thread) to quilt
it. Lightweight thread, especially when
it is non-reflective, will sink down into
the fibers and be very forgiving. Do not
let indecision about which edge-to-edge
pattern to choose stop you from finishing a quilt. Choose the pattern that
appeals to you and go for it! MQU
12. Pieced by Leslie Ristaneo.
13. Pantograph Cascade © Keryn
Machine Quilting UNLIMITED | November/December 2013
Selecting Edge-to-Edge Designs
Part Two of Two
Fabric Inspirations for Allover Patterns
Angela Huffman
Lakeside Dreams,
pieced by Melissa
Levinshy. Pattern by
Heather M. Peterson
of Anka’s Treasures,
quilted by the author.
art One of this article, published in
the November/December 2013 issue,
discussed how to choose a premade edgeto-edge pattern for your quilt. In Part
Two, I demonstrate how elements of the fabric in
the quilt can be used to design your own unique
allover pattern.
Creating a quilting motif from scratch can be
intimidating, but using a stitching pattern that
features some of the same shapes and motifs that
are found in the fabrics can bring the design of a
quilt together like nothing else.
My client, Melissa Levinshy, brought me a top to
machine quilt made from the pattern Lakeside
Machine Quilting UNLIMITED | January/February 2014
Dreams, by Heather M. Peterson of Anka’s
Treasures. (Photo 1) It is a perfect example of
a quilt that will benefit from allover quilting as
opposed to custom quilting. Remember that custom quilting is where each block and each border
are treated separately. If I were to do custom
quilting on this top, it would be hard to see the
stitching because the wide variety of fabric prints
would hide intricate quilting.
Instead, this top will benefit from the texture an
attractive allover pattern can offer. A premade
pattern could be chosen, but sometimes it is fun
to design your own. To create an original edgeto-edge pattern, first examine the design motifs
found in the fabric and isolate those designs as
individual elements that can be tweaked, spliced
and joined in new ways for use in the final
There are a number of ways to do this. For
example, you can take a variety of photographs
and print them out in black and white in different
sizes. Then, using vellum paper or tracing paper,
trace over the motifs that you find interesting. I
like to use Golden Threads paper for this tracing
process. (Photo 2)
The spiky flower design found in this quilt top’s
fabric caught my eye right away. By printing a
close-up photograph of the fabric in black and
white, I can more easily see the shapes to determine how to quilt the flower in a continuous line.
My first attempt was too complex. (Photo 3)
I want something less dense as this is going to
be a snuggle quilt for the end recipient. Do not
over think things in this step. Just trace a shape,
get another piece of vellum and trace another
shape. It is not going to look polished or pretty
at first; that will come later. While I want to use
the fabric for inspiration, I do not want to copy
it exactly. Eventually you will look just at the
tracing without the photo below it to see how you
can tweak the element. The goal is to find a small
collection of shapes that reflect the voice of the
fabric motifs without replicating them. (Photo 4)
January/February 2014 | Machine Quilting UNLIMITED
6. Trace the design
using a light box.
If you do not have
a light box, tape
the pieces to your
window and let the
sun help you.
7. Place more tracing
paper down and use
this as a template
to trace over to
practice the shapes
before moving to the
machine, or make
copies and tape
them together to
create a traditional
pantograph pattern.
Please observe copyright laws. You are using
the fabric merely for inspiration, not to make an
exact copy. Make the design your own and give it
your own spin.
window to trace your final design onto a plain
piece of paper, adding in simple connecting
lines so your new pattern can be stitched in one
continuous line.
Once you have an approach to a shape that is
pleasing, cut out the sections of the tracing
paper with those elements and start to layer
them together to form combinations to audition the final pattern design. (Photo 5) At this
point do not worry about how to connect each
shape. Focus only on the elements and how they
complement each other. Because each element is
on its own piece of tracing paper, you can rotate,
stack, and change the spacing of the motifs until
you are pleased with the result. Tape the shapes
together in the configuration you like and take
the composition to a light box (Photo 6) or a
The easiest way to travel from one element to
another is to echo or repeat the outside shape
of your element until you have traveled to a spot
ready for the next main motif. Echoing the lines
you have already quilted helps the eye see the
motifs more easily and gives you a path to the
next segment of your pattern. (Photo 7)
Use this paper as your master pattern. Place tracing paper over it and trace the shapes until you
feel comfortable moving to the machine to stitch
the design out freehand. Keep your master pattern nearby to refer to as needed. In this tutorial
Machine Quilting UNLIMITED | January/February 2014
the pattern is not intended to be traced with a
laser light during the actual quilting, but you
could do so if more copies were taped together. In
this example we are simply making a tool so we
can doodle the shapes and create muscle memory
for when we stitch the pattern freehand on the
The only limitation to designing your motif by
hand is sizing. If you wish to make certain shapes
bigger or smaller, they can be taken to the copy
center to change their size or re-drawn in the
size you prefer. Alternatively, you could change
the size of the image you are printing prior to
tracing the shapes.
Because of that limitation, my favorite way to
design my own patterns is to bring a photo of the
quilt top into photo editing software or a drawing
program, like Art and Stitch. Because I am a
computerized quilter, when I create an original
pattern my end result will generally be stitched
out with either the Intelliquilter or the Quilt Path
system on my APQS Millennium. If you are not
a computerized quilter, then use the drawing
or photo editing software that you may already
have on your computer, or look at Inkscape (free),
SVG-Edit (free and functions inside the Chrome
or Firefox browser) or even the ProCreate app
($5) on the iPad.
The secret weapon to this approach is a USB
graphic tablet. (Photo 8) It works just like your
computer mouse but the stylus is held like a
pencil, which makes it easier to draw and sketch.
8. Bamboo USB
Graphic Tablet by
shaped element but the shape is very small on the
fabric. When using a computer, I can zoom into
the photograph and trace just one petal from the
clover shape. (Photo 10) I am consciously simplifying the shape and actively thinking about how
just a small portion of the shape could be used in
the final design. How to enter and exit the shape
with one line is also on my mind, as it will need to
be connected with other shapes in the final design.
The Undo button is my friend in this step. I
can trace a shape, discover that the path is too
complicated or does not look right and hit Undo
and try again. Or I can make a new layer, hide
the one I was just working on and see if a new
approach to the shape that I like better can be
teased out.
It is best to use a software program with layers.
The bottom layer is the photograph of the fabric
from the quilt top. Each layer on top of that one
holds only one element traced from the fabric.
(Photo 9) I can turn the visibility of each layer on
or off while I am working. By giving each element
its own layer, I have control over the shapes and
can delete the layers with shapes that will not
work, while keeping the layers that I like. This
helps narrow down my choices.
Let’s take a look at the setting fabric strips in this
quilt top. I really like the curvy lines of the clover
January/February 2014 | Machine Quilting UNLIMITED
In this quilt I have identified two basic shapes
that will enhance the existing fabric motifs, the
spiky flower and one half of the clover shape, to
which I have added a little flourish to one side
that balances the motif. (Photo 11)
Now it is time to consider how these two elements can be connected. First a new document
is created to play with proportion. Using Copy/
Paste, I will bring the elements over to my new
document and make any necessary adjustments
to their proportions. (Photo 12) This is where I
experiment with ways to connect the patterns.
If the entry and exit lines are kept on the same
plane, multiple copies of my design can be
printed out, taped together and used as a printed
Machine Quilting UNLIMITED | January/February 2014
pantograph instead of as a freehand quilting
motif master pattern. (Photo 13)
The next time you need an idea for a freehand
quilting pattern to use on a quilt, look carefully
at the fabric motifs and see if you can find
inspiration in their shapes to design an original
quilting pattern for fun, edge-to-edge stitching that will enhance the overall voice of the
quilt top. (Lakeside Dreams, on page 52, and
Photo 14, showing the stitching from the back of
the quilt) MQU
14. Back of Lakeside
Dreams showing the
quilting pattern.
January/February 2014 | Machine Quilting UNLIMITED

Similar documents