Quilt Whisperer Wednesday #1

Today is part 1 of my new weekly post on the topic of Quilting design, which is one of the final steps in the quilting process.  The “quilt whisperer” title came about as a joke title for my “How Do I Quilt This Quilt” kind of class.  Perhaps margaritas were involved, I can’t remember.  LOL  (Apologies to Caesar though)

First quilt is courtesy of Sandy from the Quilting Nanny blog.  Here is the before quilting picture:


When I see a quilt like this- with lots of black empty spaces, I really get excited because I know good quilting will elevate and make this quilt shine.

From a quilting standpoint, any quilting in the colored fabric areas will not really show, so most of my effort will be in the black areas that do.

This is also a feminine quilt, so feathers, flowers or anything frilly will look just fine.  Here is how I would quilt it:


I have chosen freehand flowers in the negative black space for two reasons- lots of interesting visual punch and I also can easily quilt this flower in my sleep.  The ferny feather in the triangular spaces would also be freehand, however the straight lines would be quilted with a small ruler.

The freehand fill in the outer border is also one of those designs that is easy to do for me, so I would quilt it to match the “feel” of the quilt.  Same goes for the floral block in the interior of the quilt.

Threads: I would audition threads for the floral sections, picking something that would blend nicely and not fight with the fabric. The thread for the black area would be a dark gray.  My thought is that using lighter thread for this quilt in the black would diminish the stark contrast between the black and the floral parts.  Sometimes, subtle is better.

Those of you wondering why I would not pick black thread?  LOL   Because if I used black, I would have a hard time seeing what I was quilting, much like quilting in the dark.  Using a dark gray allows me to see what I’m doing.

Domestic Machine Quilters (sit down quilters): What would I suggest for a  quilter who is using their home machine??  Here is a simpler design that you could easily manage with your walking foot:\qwwdomestic

Other than the flower circle center, and the curve at the end of the flower, the rest of the quilt are straight lines or slightly curving lines.  For thread choice, the same reasoning applies as above.

There are thousands of ways to successfully quilt this quilt, however, this would be how I would quilt it if it were on my machine table today.   Thank you Sandy for sharing your quilt!


I’ve decided to do a second quilt today, this one is from Maggie.  This one is a very traditional design (called a Churn Dash) using modern fabrics in a black and white fabric palette:


From a quilting standpoint, the complexity and busy-ness of the fabric would rule out any custom quilting.  Certainly, the customer could pay for- and get a custom quilting job on this quilt, however,  I see an Edge-to-Edge (E2E) quilting design or a panto design for this quilt.

Before I chose the E2E quilting, I would need to know more information.  For instance, who is this quilt being made for?  What will be the use of the quilt?  It would be a shame to quilt trucks and sailboats on the quilt if the recipient were a little girl who loved flowers.

So Maggie, go ahead and tell me who the quilt is for, do they have any particular likes or dislikes, and next week I’ll suggest some E2E  and panto quilting choices for you.  In other words, to be continued next week- or once I have more info.  LOL!

I hope you have enjoyed this first of many QWW posts.  I hope this will be helpful to people who quilt their own or send their tops out to a professional machine quilter.  I also hope this is helpful to newer machine quilters who quilt for others.

Let me know what you think?  Regards, Carla

31 thoughts on “Quilt Whisperer Wednesday #1

  1. Hi
    sorry it took me so long to get back to your blog. thanks for posting my quilt. all i know is that she plans on putting on a red binding so thought i’d use red thread. probably a variegated.
    one of the fabrics in there has black and white zebra with bits of red.
    i had thought of stippling but it just seems so ordinary.
    am hoping you come up with something brilliant.

  2. Carla this idea of giving new machine quilters ideas, including me, is fantastic. It will really help me in knowing what to think about in all the spaces. I have a couple of quilts that need quilting that I want to do, but unsure what to do with them. I look at the quilt top and my mind does not know where to start in designing a pattern. Thanks. Cheryl in FL

  3. What a fabulous feature to your blog!! I really need some major advice on how to quilt a paper pieced Civil War Love Letters quilt with a million little blocks….help!?

    Hi Jennifer, go ahead and send me a good picture of it if you’d like. Regards, Carla

  4. Carla, this is a great idea. I don’t have a LA but am envious of those that do. I think I might be able to attack some of your ideas on my DSM however. It amazes me how you are able to draw/quilt freehand in a manner that keeps everything looking the same. Is it just PPP or do you have a little magic up your sleeve? Thanks for taking the time to help the rest of us figure out how best to quilt our creations. I love your blog…Kathy

    Hi Kathy, when I do this in my class, I tailor the quilting ideas to the student’s quilting level. The design would look different, of course, if all they could do is a walking foot straight line. Hmmm… if I have time, I could also show home machine users simpler ways to do a quilt, too, with a second drawing targeted to them. Would this be helpful? C

  5. Carla, I really like what you have done in the setting triangles…..I have such a problem with those….but breaking it up like you did with piano key, has added another element to the quilt that wasn’t there. Keep up the great work….this will be a great feature.

    Karen L

  6. Carla, I love seeing how you overlay the design. I am just getting really comfy with my machine and find that I love free motion MUCH better than pantos! Call me crazy I know! I see quilting designs EVERYWHERE and have started carrying a sketch book with me to capture them. My latest designs came from a big gift bag and our pastors SHIRT! (Can you tell I was not REALLY paying attention during the sermon!…and no, I did NOT whip out the sketch book right then! HA!) I DID however ask a lady in line to board a plane if I could take a picture of the design on her shirt. Once she knew what it was for, she agreed. My family thinks I have gone bonkers…hehehehehe ::::waiting impatiently for NEXT Wednesday::::

    Beth, you are pretty funny! I say take your sketch book to church! LOL Carla

  7. Hey it’s me, owner of the first quilt. I am totally blown away by your ideas. THANK YOU, WOW

    I love everything. I had no clue what I was going to do.

    Do I have permission to post the information on my own blog? Of course, I’ll backtrack to you.


    Hi Sandy, of course, permission is granted! Glad you like it. C

  8. What a fun way to help other quilters with designs!! As a design/piecer and a non-quilter I find your ideas for quilting so exciting — you are truly amazing!! I’m looking forward to seeing all your ideas.

  9. Kathy’s comment got me to thinking…. how would I quilt it if I were using my home machine and wasn’t all that comfortable with freehand- mainly comfortable with my walking foot?

    So I edited and added another drawing to the post.


  10. Love the setting triangles. The straight lines will look great! I should do some quilting designs to go with my virtual quilts! If you run out of real quilts to draw on you can have some virtual ones anyway!
    Judy B

  11. Hi Carla,

    I read your blog daily…I’m Cindy from Cedar…..near where you delivered the yacht awhile back. Anyway, I just found out about this website …and you probably already know about it …but just in case you don’t, you should.

    I think your quilt whispering idea is wonderful.


  12. hmmmm…. the address didn’t show up. Let me try again.

    Lori over at Art & Play blog told me about this site and so I signed up in January. Yes, I plan to design some fabric just for fun. Thanks for reminding me… C

  13. Carla,
    Of course, I think this is a great idea. So many of us do the “stand and stare” and have no idea what to do with our quilts. That is probably the biggest reason that so many quilters have a closetful of UFOs.
    I follow your blog regularly and am lucky enough to get to attend your Quilt Whisperer class tomorrow. But I am so looking forward to these weekly blog classes. I’m sure it will help so many quilts to be quilted and loved instead of hiding in closets.

  14. This is great, Carla. Your designs are so innovative. Thanks for sharing. Do you try to plan your designs so they continuous, or doesn’t it matter? I get hung up, often, trying to be continuos so I was just wondering…. KS.

    Hi Kathy, I’m not afraid to have starts and stops, but I do keep the designs as continuous as possible. In the stand up machine quilted design I drew, the border is continuous, the floral block treatment would have one long pass for the wavy line, then one more start and stop to finish the block. Each flower design takes only one start and stop. The ferny leaf feather in the triangular spaces would be mostly continuous, depending on how comfy the quilter was quilting in each direction. The straight lines would be quilted using a quilt and drag technique. Thanks for the nice complement, Carla

  15. Carla,
    what kind of program do you use for drawing on your ideas on the quilt photos?
    I am just a beginner, and I was wondering how long it was before you were really comfortable with freehand quilting.
    On your blog it always talks about freehand quilting, so I am assuming you don’t use one of those fancy computers that does it almost all for you.


    Hi Doris, I use photoshop, only because I have it and love drawing with it. Any photo editing software can do this. For people that may be techno-challenged, simply take a picture of a quilt top, print it out, slide it between a sheet protector and draw on the plastic.

    Freehand quilting means I move the machine with my hands guiding it where I want. Another term for computerized quilting is also robot quilting. The system operator sets up the design and size perimeter, then pushes the button and off it goes.

    Does that answer your question? Regards, Carla

  16. Carla,

    Thank you for sharing your ideas on how to quilt these quilts. While I might do everything that is suggested, I can see elements to use on similar area quilts. I also like that you don’t have to do a dense fill on those busy backgrounds where it isn’t going to be seen anyway.

    Would love to see a ‘Thursday’ feature on background Fills, especially backgrounds around applique. Hint hint….

    Betty in Texas

  17. Wow! This is a great idea. I love seeing the long arm ideas, but have a regular machine, so I appreciate that addition too! Someday I’m going to have to find a long arm to rent or something too–seems like so much fun!

  18. Pingback: Quilt Whisperer Wednesday #3 « Feathered Fibers

  19. Hi Carla:
    Just discovered your Quilt Whisperer feature…what a fantastic resource for those of us quilting at home. Love the diversity of quilts you are using as examples and the different quilting options you’re illustrating. It’s also helpful to know the reasons WHY you are chosing a particular design or thread color. Many thanks and please keep your ideas and wonderful work coming. I’ll be sure to check back regularly.

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