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Hand quilting is alive and well all around the world! Join with fellow hand quilters to share techniques, tips,
and the BEAUTIFUL quilts being made by others who share your passion for quilting... by HAND!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Let's Talk About Marking Quilt Designs!

Let's start a discussion about marking your quilt top to prepare for hand quilting.  How do you choose the design you will use?  What goes through your mind?  What tools do you use to mark your quilts? What do you like?  What don't you like?  Please write your thoughts in the comments section below.  We look forward to hearing from you! 


27 comments:

  1. MY Favorite marking tool is Dritz Mark-B-Gone wash away blue marker. I have used them on many of my quilts. easy to use and always wash out when used correctly. As far as the design, I can't give a logical answer. I like to think that the quilt top tells me what to do if I listen. I have a few stencils that I have used but mostly I like to design my own quilting to fit each specific quilt. For Baptist fans and circles I find a piece of string and a marking pen will do the job well and work for any size.

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    1. Tim, I'm not as brave as you are. I use template plastic and create a series of circles or arches. I'd like to be more free with my design methods and should give that a try.

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    2. I am going to be brave and try the wash away marker this year, Tim. I mostly use chalk.
      ~Billie Farley

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    3. I like the wash away markers because the don't come out until I want them to come out, I always seen to wear away the chalk marks with my hands and have to re mark several times

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    4. The wash away markers will come out when humidity is very high. I marked a quilt and the markings disappeared!

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  2. Early on in my quilting journey, I read in Marguerite Ickes book, The Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting (Dover - 1959), about choosing the quilting design and her wisdom has influenced my planning for quilting my tops. She suggested that the quilting should enhance the overall appearance...not be the star but complement and improve the top. It should also be something you enjoy doing or you will lose interest and not finish the quilt. Along with Ickes advice, I also listen to the words of Jinny Beyer and Nancy J. Tozier Seiling: Jinny Beyer tells the story of her early impression of quilting choices – that they looked like mattress covers and she tries to always choose designs that do not look like mattress covers. Nancy J. Tozier Seiling wrote a wonderful article for Quilt World magazine (For the Love of Quilting by - Quilt World - July/August 1984) that suggested to include motifs from nature in your planned quilting designs whenever possible. Armed with the thoughts from these three women, I try to give my tops character with my quilting. I spend a lot of time mulling over quilting choices before, during and after I quilt on a top. (This mulling sometimes invades my sleep!) I have been known to rip out quilting and try again if the design doesn’t complement and improve the top. I study other quilter’s work to see if incorporating some of their ideas will work on my tops. I draw, also. One new idea that has really helped for previewing a quilting design on a top is using heavy plastic (like tablecloth plastic that can be purchased from a yardage/craft store by the yard) as an overlay on the top, then drawing with a dry erase marker on the plastic to get an idea about the overall look of a design on the top. I will write about marking later. (This is a great idea, Caron!)

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  3. I love adding motifs from nature on my quilts. And the idea of using a plastic cloth over the top to try an idea is super! I'll give that a shot! Thanks!

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  4. I use a very fine lead pencil on light fabrics and a charcoal white pencil/or chalk marker on darker fabrics.

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  5. Spent far too much money on marking tools that don't work for me... been using blue and white wash out markers with no issues so far (about 2 months now) and masking tape.. interested to see what others are saying

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  6. What I use to mark a quilt top depends on what the quilt will be quilted on/in. Old school square clamp frame, grace 3 frame, quilt hoop, my lap. If I am rolling a queen or larger size quilt I mark as I go. Since it is being rolled as it is quilted. Than there is if it is a whole cloth or a quilt with 1000 triangles.
    2. Another deciding factor in what I use to mark is the age and size of the quilt for me. If I am working on a 100 year old quilt top I will use a different marker than if I am doing silly small wall hanging. That being said I do not use blue wash out, or other types of markers ever, they did not need them in 1860 so why should I?
    3. most of the time I do not mark my quilt top. Example baptist fans do not need to be marked.
    4. I never use any type of blue marker even if it is on a little quilt.I do not use anything chemical.Even if it washes out.
    5. I do use Roxanne chalk white (the silver can stain light/white fabric), soap stone or tape. I enjoy using the little white plastic guy (forget name) to push up on the fabric.
    6. I sometimes use a pencil that has a fine point my engineer husband gave me one.
    7. I also use straight pins set using a ruler when I am doing things like feathers.

    That being said I do not judge other quilters. If they use wash out markers more power to them. I a totally serious. For me I am careful with what I use if I mark at all because by the time I am hand quilting my quilt I have spent a serious amount of time constructing it or restoring it. So I guess I am a luddite but that does not mean I do not enjoy watching others and what they do.

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    1. I agree heartily with you concerning using anything chemicsl on my quilts. A textile specialist who works at restoring old quilts said that chemical markers have not been around long enough for us to know what long-term effects they will have on textiles. She is especially concerned with those pens, like the water-soluable ones, and with the residue inevitably left behind in the fabric and batting. So, I use thin-lead mechanical pencils, very sharp chalk pencils, or quilter's tape when I mark. I may be overly cautious, but it works for me.,

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    2. I can't find it offhand, but they did some research on fusible battings, and found that they do indeed damage the quilts long-term. I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. They don't really work with hand-quilting anyway, from what I've heard.

      However, I do use washable marking pens, and give the quilts a good solid wash before they go to their new home. I don't use the ones sold to quilters, they're expensive, poor quality and often fade out quickly, not to mention only coming in turquoise (which is my favourite colour, so I use it a lot). I use Crayola washable markers, which are fantastic, far cheaper, wash out beautifully (I've heard rumours about those blue marker pens coming back a while later), and I imagine that they're subject to far more rigorous testing. Crayola wouldn't still be in business if its washable pens didn't wash out properly. Hopefully they never cause any damage.

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  7. Most of the time I have no idea how I am going to quilt something until I sit down at my frame. I definitely mark as I go, and here's why: several years ago, I was making a wedding quilt for a friend of a friend and I made my own quilt design of two swans (I've come along way since then . . .) Anyway, I marked the entire quilt in blue wash out marker and packed it up for a week long vacation to a little seaside cabin on the Gulf of Maine. It was bliss! One morning my husband and I decided to go for a day long hike. When we returned in the evening, I was looking forward to a night of stitching by the fire. After dinner I unfolded my quilt, put it in my hoop and threaded my needle. Much to my surprise, all of my markings were gone. I had underestimated the moisture in the air on the coast - it was enough to remove every mark I made. Fortunately I had about half the quilt done, so my fingers had kind of memorized the quilt pattern and I continued. Needless to say, I rarely use wash out markers anymore. I use a very light chalk pencil mark or Clover rotary chalk stylo. I considered using a hera marker, but I was concerned about the sharp edge weakening the fabric. What do you think?

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  8. Thank you for asking the questions, Caron, and to the rest of you for responding. I'm a new hand quilter and have only quilted two baby quilts and three larger quilts. I used lead pencil on one of the quilts and it washed out fine. When I used it on one of the baby quilts it didn't wash out! (Woe!) I've quilted Baptist Fans (free-hand) on 3 of the quilts. When I think about a pattern to quilt I'm always thinking about how to avoid quilting over seams. Am I cheating?

    I'll come back in a day or two to read what others use to mark their quilts. Thanks again.

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  9. I'm a wholecloth quilter and I my quilt tops are made of solid fabrics. For marking I use a darning needle and that works perfect for me. I found a description of this method once in an old book about British quiltmaking and it works perfect for me. Because the marking must be done after the layers are put together I can mark as I go. Some smaller details I also quilt freehand. Before I found the method of needlemarking I used watercolour pencils (oil-free) in a matching colour, but the pencil markings are gone quicker than the needle markings!

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  10. So nice to read the answers. I have used a blue marker once, but I had problems with seeing the markings on some darker red fabrics. And I thought the marker ran out of ink rather soon. I live in a small Dutch town and go to a quiltstore just one or two times a year, when we make that trip I don't like to spent my savings on blue markers. Now I mark with a cheap refill pencil. And on darkfabrics I use a Sewline refill. Up until now I mark my quilts as I go.

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  11. I use a very thin mechanical pencil for marking my tops. It really doesn't show when the quilting is completed. Lately my quilts haven't had a lot of "blank" space to fill. I have to say that it depends on the quilt. For a Baltimore style quilt I like cross hatching. Otherwise I like to look at meandering, but I do not like to stitch "meandering". Too much turning of the quilt hoop...

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  12. I forgot to say that I love this blog. I thought I was the only "dinosaur"--hand quilter left in the world. Thank you for starting this, and I'm so thankful to find it.

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  13. I used yellow chalk in a rotary type dispenser which did not come out when washed. I recently tried the pounce type chalk with their special stencils but the chalk seems to come off easily. Not sure what I will try next but the Sew-Expo comes to our area in February so I am hoping to see some new products.

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  14. hmm I "eyeball"a lot ... that is the whole echo quilting ... things for marking - I like to open my kitchen cupboards,plates, bowles, galsses for various sized circles ... cream tube caps for the tiny stuff ... and more eyballing in form of free drawing to connect the shaps .. and of course a straight ruler ...
    The design - as I usually do a lot of patchwork I don't really invest in intricate quilting designs .. I tend to go with the patter (echo) or against the pattern (circles over squares, squares in circles .. )
    And I don't always mark the"complete" stitching line I just make short marks for long lines or dots / x where lines cross ...
    The pen I use ... I haven't decided on one yet I use colouring crayons and they usually wash out .. same as pencil, but I recently red so many bad things about them ... I have a chalk pen, but that's only useful for small-areas-at-a-time-marking

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  15. PepperCory's collection has been My favorite designs . For embroidery marking I use wax carbon paper and treat with filteredWater/vinegar for final rinse then air dry.

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  16. I've used a lot of tape in the past when I just wanted to do straight lines - either 1" or 1/4" wide. However, I do find I tend to stitch too close to the tape and my needle gets sticky. Lately I've started using water soluble marking pens and disappearing ink pens. I've also tried Bohin chalk pencil's but I'm not sure about them yet. I used them on dark fabric and can still see the lines. I think I need to fully immerse the quilt in water which I'm yet to do. I've only tried spraying water on the surface so far. (it's only a little mini I'm making for fun)

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  17. I used a Fons and Porter white chalk pencil and sealed it under pieces of Glad Press-N-Seal. It worked okay for a baby quilt but for my only other quilt I marked as I went with Sewline ceramic mechanical. It was just quarter inch quilting but I can't eyeball anything. I think I recall not to iron the marks and to rinse with plain water first--no detergent or soap. My own marks just wore off and I haven't rinsed that quilt yet.

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  18. The hand quilting blue ribbon winner at Paducah three years ago had clearly visible thin pencil lines. It was a Japanese hand quilter and I always wonder it that quilt has been rinsed and whether those lines ever came out.

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  19. I use a mechanical pencil and mark a stencil design or follow the edge of masking tape or painters tape.

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  20. Great topic and I have enjoyed reading all the input. I do very little hand quilting, but I did have good experience with Dritz blue be gone on a whole cloth baby quilt this year. It took quite a bit more than simple spritzing to remove though, and were it meant to be heirloom I would not likely want to use it. I do a lot of FMQ and avoid marking as much as possible. I tend to use the patchwork to guide, as well as a darning needle to mark areas (much like a herra marker). That is my favorite method. I also have a hard lead, thin mechanical that I like to use to mark points etc. - it is barely visible. Many will wince, but I've become much more lax about it, and have even embraced imperfection. I like the organic look of unevenly spaced echoes and not-necessarily-straight-lines.

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