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!