It’s so much fun to quilt freehand, but many times, even in a folk art, informal, or pictorial style quilt, it’s nice to be able to plan ahead, plot out your special design, and mark it on the top. You have the control to see where it looks best, move it, change it, be the designer who steps back and looks at the result before stitches go in.
I love to do freehand work, but I do also like to control where designs will end up on my quilt top and how they will look. Often as a counterpoint to freehand designs I definitely like to mark some repetitive, symmetrical design and quilt on the lines rather than “winging it” when the quilt is under the needle.
When I first began quilting I marked everything, absolutely everything. I was way too afraid to try to quilt with no lines. Now I love to do that, and if I draw my own designs many times change them as I quilt them, when I see they would be smoother, better, easier if I make a quick modification. But, those lines are still guiding me, giving me the basis of the design.
You can choose from purchased standard stencils, newer designer stencils, basic traced quilting designs from books or magazines that you must do with a light box, or tracing around moveable motifs.
I really like to draw out a design on freezer paper, cut it out, and place it on the quilt and trace around it. The motif can be pressed with an iron for easier tracing, but be careful not to press any previous blue washout markings when you do this.
For me, with years of experience, I only trace major elements—the outside border, crucial interior lines—and do much of the interior work freehand. Designs will look alike at first glance, but will have variety of detail because of the freehand work.
You can also choose to change out some of the interiors for more interest. Fill one flower center with clamshells, and others with tiny leaves, rocks, or bananas. It also keeps work interesting for you.
Sandra Leichner’s blog shows you how she does freezer paper stencils for her original designs: http://sandraleichner.com/wordpress The entry is titled Freezer Paper “Stencils.”
Try marking a few designs. It’s easier than you think, can be your original work or something standard, and it is SO nice to quilt when the lines are there for you to follow.
Keep quilting, your work gets better every day.