Quilt as Desired

Do the words “quilt as desired” cause you to throw your hands up in frustration?  I understand how you feel but here’s a view that may help you understand why it isn’t always easy to give specific quilting options.

First, think about how many different ways there are to do the quilting.  Some are quilting by hand, some are quilting on regular sewing machines, some are quilting on shortarms, or longarms.

Second, think about the purpose for the quilt.  If I’m quilting a top that’s going to be donated to a children’s home, it may get a whole lot different type quilting than if it’s going to be used on my bed.  Or, depending on how much use it might get, it may be quilted differently.  If I’m quilting a quilt to be hung on the wall, or folded over a stair rail for display, it may get a completely different type quilting than if it’s a quilt to be used for snuggling on the sofa.

Quilts that are heavily quilted, maybe with lots of intricate work and micro-stippling, can sometimes be stiff and not so snuggly but they look gorgeous hanging on a wall.

Take this quilt for example:

This quilt was quilted to be a show quilt.  But, if that quilt pattern were in a magazine, or in a pattern, and the quilting designs I used were included, would that really help you if you’re quilting that quilt on a home sewing machine or would you use this quilting desing if you’re making it for your daughter to take to college?   This quilting surely could be done on a sewing machine but I wouldn’t do it!  And, there’s nothing wrong with putting this much work into a quilt for your daughter to take to college, but I wouldn’t do that either.

And, this quilt:

This one is quilted with Spiral Square panto by Keryn Emmerson.  This is probably not a design someone would do if they were hand quilting or quilting on a sewing machine.

So, do you see why sometimes, “quilt as desired” seems to make more sense than trying to lay out several options?  For me, I’ve been longarm quilting for 11 or 12 years and it’s hard for me to even think about how I would quilt a top on my sewing machine versus  using the longarm. But, any time I write “quilt as desired, I feel like I should write “Don’t be mad at me!  I don’t know what else to say!”

Even though it’s really nice to see a quilting design or two (or more) when you buy a pattern or magazine, at least now you can think about it from the designer’s point of view and have mercy on us when you see those words!

Finally, when I was quilting for others, when I received a top to quilt, I asked the maker not to give me their quilting ideas . . yet.  When someone would tell me their quilting ideas, that was all I could think about.  It worked better for me to look at the quilt, think about how I could see it quilted, then I’d share with them my quilting ideas and ask them to give me their ideas and we’d go from there.

If you find yourself struggling with quilting ideas, visit some of the photo sharing sites, like webshots or flickr, search for quilt photos, maybe even the name of the pattern if you know it.  You can get ideas from there.

When I first started longarm quilting, I spent hours on webshots.  Many quilters had a webshots link in their signature lines and I soon discovered which quilters’ styles I liked and I’d study their quilts to see what they did with sashings, borders, blocks and I learned a lot by seeing what others had done.

So, if you see a quilt you want to make and there are no quilting instructions, do not fear!  You can come up with a perfect quilting plan on your own . . with just a little help from seieng what other quilters have done.

Thank you for your understanding!  🙂


  1. 1

    Peggy says

    I started out as a hand quilter, then do to making quilts for a fabric company, I moved to home machine quilting. I find that the most frustrating part, because I can not quilt well on my home machine.

    When I teach I like to tell the students to let the quilt talk to you. It will give you the perfect idea as to how to enhance the piece or applique pattern.

    Lovely quilts Judy.

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    You know, I never minded “quilt as desired” I just have a hard time getting the quilt design set before I load it. Every single time I’ve had a design set up before loading, it’s been scrapped once loaded for a variety of reasons.

    I can only visualize the quilting once it’s on the frame. One of these days, I’m going to spend time trying to come up with a better solution for me but for now… I say bring on the “quilt as desired”! Everyone’s tastes are so different it’s neat to see the variety IMO.

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    Jeanne Bancroft says

    Your comment about using sites such as Webshots or Flickr as inspiration is spot-on! I found out about them when I got my Millie and read the APQS forum (where your comments were always helpful!). I did the same thing… followed links from there to Webshots… and boy oh boy, did that help me break through quilters block alot of times! I still use it when my brain refuses to work!

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    I will only buy a magazine now if it has some quilting suggestions for the quilts. Not that I actually use the quilting designs or make any of the quilts from the magazines, but I feel like I’m getting more for my money when I get both a pattern and a freemotion quilting design in one. I have learned so much from looking at the quilting designs others have done and just playing around. I’ve made hundreds of charity quilts and just played with the quilting on them. Not one of them was a show stopper or perfect, but because I wasn’t worried that they had to be perfect or that the child receiving the quilt would criticize my stitches, I felt free to try new things and my quilting has gotten better because of it.

    I would say, give me your ideas, but don’t feel bad if I do things my own way 🙂

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    That little phrase is why there are sooo many more pieced quilt tops than finished quilts in the world!

    I have the usual trouble coming up with a quilt design, but that is mostly because of my set up–sewing maching on top of a desk–which makes it hard to do more than simple quilting designs. That is okay with me, as I make quilts that I hope are going to be loved, washed, and used a lot.

    Someday I am going to at least have a sewing desk with an inset for my machine to make it easier to quilt at home!

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    I’ve always liked quilting books that show the same quilt with different designs on it. Of course, books are my answer to everything and there are so many wonderful books on quilting.