Friday, November 6, 2015

May I Interrupt Your Quilting Design?

Deborah Y. sent a question to AppliqueAddicts, a Yahoo group: “I feel like I'm stuck in a handquilting rut. Any suggestions other than cross hatching and echo quilting to complement applique?”

There’s nothing wrong with quilting a classic background grid or echo quilting. It’s relatively easy to mark and so relaxing to stitch; almost meditative. Your mind can ponder the world as your needle and thread gradually bring the surface of your quilt to life.

I shared a photo with the group of an antique (1848) quilt from my collection for inspiration. This quilt has floral quilting designs in the open spaces among the applique. (The applique and quilting designs were traced from that antique quilt for patterns and published in my book, Baltimore Garden Quilt.*)

Here is how the designs look on the antique quilt. Dense background quilting helps to emphasize the floral quilting designs; in this case very close straight lines, almost stippling. But that doesn’t mean that stippling is required, or even necessary, to make use of the floral designs.

Here is how the designs look when they fill an open space on my reproduction of that quilt. My friend, Marty Vint (Dogwood Quilting), skillfully quilted around the applique first. Then she used my tracings of the antique quilting designs and quilted those designs to fill the open spaces; thus background “fill” was not needed.
And here is the back of my reproduction quilt. Plenty of lovely quilting here! (Judges have awarded this quilt with several ribbons at national quilt shows.)

My friend, Carla is hand quilting her Baltimore Garden. She shares her progress on Facebook, and has kindly given me permission to re-share her photo here. Carla is quilting a background grid, and sprinkling just a few of the original motifs in the open areas between the applique.

On another antique 1850s applique quilt (shown below),  various feather motifs interrupt double rodded quilting lines. Antique quilts are my favorite inspiration!

Copy bits of your applique designs and echo them in your quilting. Add a single stemmed rose, a bird, a heart or heart-in-hand, or any motif special to you. I like to add a double heart. Tracing a child’s hand is another fun idea. Wind some leafy vines around your applique or between your blocks to simulate sashing.

Quilt your initials or your whole name into the quilt, and of course, a date within the quilting. Finally, be sure to plan a label for the back of the quilt, and document your quilt for those who will care for your quilt in years to come.

*From the CD included with the book Baltimore Garden Quilt, print selected patterns as needed. A complete full-size paper pattern set is also available as a separate package at my website .)

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2015 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.


  1. Wow! I love seeing these all together! I agree the possibilities are endless!

  2. Thank you for some quilting inspiration.

  3. Great article! Thank you for the quilting suggestions. It was a "lightbulb" moment for me!!

  4. How very inspiring - thanks for all the information and pictures. I must try more variation in hand quilting too !

  5. I am with you Barbara when it comes to antique quilts they are soooo inspiring!

  6. Beautiful! I love that you've documneted the quilt and the quilting. Very important work.

  7. This works for machine quilting also. While FMQ can fill the spaces, I like how coordinated a quilt can look with patterns from the applique quilting in. Thank you for this post, Barbara.

  8. Your work always inspires me.


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