Tutorial on choosing Quilting Motifs

I’ve had a request to discuss how I decide on what quilting pattern to use. I will probably do this in a few different posts, using different criteria for how to decide.

First, you need a little background on me. I used to hand quilt everything I made, because I didn’t like machine quilting until smart people started doing more custom work with machines. I have been machine quilting since about 2005, I think… The quilt shop owner I worked for, Julie Thorum, taught me to quilt for the shop. About a year and a half later, I bought my own machine and started my business from home. I wanted to be home more for my children, and this was a great way to do that.

I still own the machine I bought in 2006, so I don’t have any of the “bells and whistles”, of computers, or even a stitch regulator. So, every pattern I do is freehand, although I do follow a paper pantograph with a laser light occasionally. (I still manually move the machine.) The computers on newer machines allow people to put intricate designs into blocks that I can only freehand, so my designs are quite simple, although I think my clients are happy with that. I don’t do “show quilting”, which is where the quilting is really tight, or even makes the pattern of the quilt. (See quilt index.org for a Sue McCarty quilt that is a fabulous example of this type of quilting.)

So, with all of that said, the first method I use to determine quilting motifs is the fabric itself. Sometimes a fabric will “tell” me what to quilt. For instance, a quilt with some nice paisleys might suggest a paisley quilting pattern.

Paisley quilting pattern

Paisley fabric, and quilting.

These next examples are from my own quilts. The first is from Holly Jolly from Fresh and Fabulous Quilts. The great tree print inspired a tree motif in the border.

Tree quilting

Detail of Holly Jolly quilt from Fresh and Fabulous Quilts ©2008 That Patchwork Place/Cheryl Brown

Next is Fruit Basket, also from Fresh and Fabulous. This fun fruit print came into the quilt shop where I worked, and the employees all took yardage that day, until there was a only a couple of yards left by the next day! (Just an added funny story.) I quilted some fruit motifs in the blocks with that fabric.

Fruit quilting

Detail of Fruit Basket quilt from Fresh and Fabulous Quilts ©2008 That Patchwork Place/Cheryl Brown

This last one I just quilted. It is as yet unpublished, unnamed, and even the binding is not sewn on! But the floral fabric suggested that some similar flowers in the border would be fun.

Floral quilting pattern

Detail of floral fabric and quilting.

I’ll follow up on some additional methods of picking quilting patterns in some more posts. Plus, I just realized I need to highlight Sue McCarty, because I just found another of her quilts that deals with my beloved hobbits!


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