Custom Block Boundaries

Lucy Boston POTC finished

Custom quilting adds another layer of design to a quilt. It can highlight individual blocks and borders with a single or multiple designs. And, stitching designs can accentuate a quilt’s theme.

Some projects, like hand-pieced quilts, deserve nothing less than the special attention of carefully placed stitched designs. Even the simplest quilt can gain more character with custom quilting.

Here’s a little peak into the process of custom quilting. More specifically, this is how I create a precise alignment of a computerized design with an actual quilt block.

The quilting software that I use allows the identification of specific points on the quilt workspace. The needle of the sewhead is placed above each point (highlighted by the laser pointer) and then the coordinates are sent to the computer. These strategic points are typically located where patchwork seams meet.

Using the laser pointer
Using the laser pointer to identify specific points on the quilt

The design in red (below) needs to be aligned with the appropriate block in the quilt.

Unset computerized quilting design
Unset computerized quilting design

Sometimes a block’s corners are not defined by seams as in the case of this Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses block.

Unquilted POTC Block
Unquilted Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses block

Time to be creative. A sturdy piece of cardstock is aligned with the patchwork to extend the lines of the patchwork and indicate where the block corner would lie. I could have used a small square quilting ruler but that did not fit under my presser foot in its down position. A personal preference, I believe a lowered presser foot delivers more accuracy when defining points.

Aligning the POTC block
A square card aligned with the patchwork helps identify the block corner

Now that the four corners of the quilt block boundary are defined, a margin is added to keep this stand alone quilting design from stitching to the very edge of the boundary. In this case, a buffer of 0.2 inches will remain between the block boundary and the stitching. If the design was intended to connect to another, the margin would remain 0″.

Computerized quilting design in defined boundary using Qmatic software
Computerized quilting design in defined boundary using Qmatic software

It’s time for some fine tuning. Points from the patchwork’s seam lines are identified (as markers) and connected on the computer screen to create guidelines to center, align and nudge the computerized design to a more exact location.

Aligning a digitized quilting design
Red dots, markers, indicate points along seam lines. Blue lines connect the markers to create guidelines.

Note: For the first few blocks of this custom quilt, I placed markers at every outer point of the Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses block and then connected the markers to create a visual boundary of the patchwork. I had a visual confirmation that all of the stitching stayed in the proper parameters before the actual stitching occurred. Because of the accuracy of this quilter’s piecing, it was not necessary to continue this check thoughout the whole quilt.

The time spent identifying alignment points is clearly time well spent!

Memories of Grandmother

Grandmother's Quilt with custom designs

A customer (and friend) brought a vintage quilt top pieced by her grandmother. This quilt top had been stowed away for many years. Could I finish it? I would be honored to give it some life.

Close inspection revealed sturdy seams and intact cloth. Made in the traditional manner at the time, pieces of clothing salvaged from mostly worn out or outgrown garments supplied the majority of material.

Grandmother's Quilt Top
Grandmother’s Quilt Top before quilting

I often look to the fabric for a quilting design inspiration. This top included mostly stripes and plaids, with a few floral or prints scattered throughout. I was going to need more help and input from the customer.

Not wanting to add heavy quilting, we looked at some basic designs made of feathery loops and swirls but none seemed to be right. I often use a basic looping pattern that can have custom designs added, an option worth exploring.

I asked the customer what she thought of when remembering Grandmother. Lucky the dog, gardening, homemade strawberry jam, and baking chocolate chips were at the top of the list. I already had pawprint (Lucky the dog) and flower (gardening) designs.

We thought about just a strawberry, but why not have it label a jam jar?

Strawberry Jam Jar Design
Strawberry Jam Jar Design

The chocolate chip cookies were tricky. I searched and found a baking icon that was the basic inspiration for the oven mitt and cookie tray design.

Cookie Tray with Oven Mitt Design
Cookie Tray with Oven Mitt Design

Fairly quickly, the custom designs were created and dropped into the looping pattern. With the okay from the customer, it was time for quilting.

Grandmother's Quilt - custom designs
Grandmother’s Quilt – custom designs include pawprints, a flower, a strawberry jelly jar and a cookie tray with oven mitt.

Simple custom designs truly can make a quilt top more meaningful. Not only can the fabrics evoke memories, but, in this instance, the stitches are reminders of Grandmother in the garden, in the kitchen and with Lucky the dog.

Grandmother's Quilt - finished
Grandmother’s Quilt – ready fpr cuddling

Happy Harmless Bugs!

A special couple recently welcomed their baby boy into the world…time to make my first baby quilt!

My inspiration fabric: a colorful large print full of happy little bug faces!

Button Holes by Kari Nichols is the perfect pattern to showcase large prints like these happy bugs.  Soon more joyful creepy crawly fabrics joined the party.

I love how the black sashing helps the bright colors pop even more.  Why not add a bit to the back and add some interest to it?

What quilting design fits better on a happy bug quilt than cute quilted ladybugs, dragonflies, bumblebees and butterflies?  Purchased designs were combined with original to create a fun pattern full of cuteness!

Like the  “Where’s Waldo?” books by Martin Handford, a good search reveals the quilted bugs…unless the light hits the quilt just right.

Such a happy quilt!  Now, off to finish the binding and send it to a special little boy and his family!

Happy Quilting!



I love the challenge of designing quilting for a particular project…most of the time … my husband will attest that sometimes I get a little crazy during the process.

Wanting to build my portfolio of custom quilting, I was looking for a fun and fast quilt top pattern that could handle a scrappy look and offered areas for some unique quilting designs. The “Primrose” pattern in Fat Quarter Style Book – It’s Sew Emma patterns fit the bill!

Construction of the top moved quickly and was finished in July 2017.  Quilting designs, unfortunately, progressed much like I drive a shift … not very well. While staying busy quilting charity quilts and building my pantograph designs during the next few months,  my attempts to finalize a quilting plan for “Primrose” just wouldn’t settle with me.  I fought the urge to complete the quilt with all-over pattern and I’m glad I did.

With the new year, all of the previous “Primrose” design attempts were scrapped and the final design came together in three days!  I spent portions of the next 3 days stitching and am thrilled with the results!

Moral of the story: Be patient.  Some things just cannot be rushed.  This is a running theme in my life.  Raising children, training horses, making wine … all require patience.  So does quilting.