How to Make a Quilting Plan (Modern Quilt Edition)

A key step in quilting with confidence is taking the time to make a plan before you start quilting. If you know exactly what to stitch where, you can relax and enjoy the process!

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How to Make a Quilting Plan with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Good morning, quilty friends!

And welcome back to the #PieceAndQuiltHopAlong!

Two weeks ago we looked at how to make a quilting plan for a very traditional quilt, En Provence by Bonnie Hunter. Today, let's look at how to shape a quilting plan for much more modern quilt, Christa Watson's Spools quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Spools Quilt Top, made with Christa's Modern Marks Fabric

Spools Quilt Top, made with Christa's Modern Marks Fabric

The foundational steps of quilting any quilt are the same:


1) Piece: Finish your quilt top and CELEBRATE how gorgeous it looks

2) Style: Decide on a style of quilting (continuous curve, all over design, walking foot quilting, other free motion quilting, etc). 

3) Make a Plan: Draw part of your quilt top on graph paper and use a pen or pencil to try out your chosen quilting design. Repeat Step 3 until you a) have a quilting design you love and b) feel confident drawing your plan

4) Self Talk: Remind yourself that a finished quilt is the goal, even if quilting the top feels like a big task. Remind yourself that practice makes progress and that it's time to practice. Even if the quilting on this top doesn't fulfill all your wildest dreams, you will make progress and you will have a  finished quilt in the end. Those are huge accomplishments. 

5) Quilt! You can do it! 

We're focusing on Step 3 of How to Quilt a Quilt-- making a quilting plan. I always recommend drawing your ideas before you start stitching. Above, I've drawn 4 possible semi-custom/custom quilting plans. Spools would also look wonderful quilted with walking foot straight or wavy lines or an all-over free motion design like a meander or swirls. It all depends on the final purpose of the quilt and your quilting skill. If you are trying to improve your free motion quilting, I recommend making a quilting plan that feels just beyond your abilities (maybe you're familiar with the switchbacks in the third drawing, but you've never done square spiral chains). Practice makes progress! 

Okay, let's break this down:

Plan 1 (upper left): This is the simplest design, using walking foot straight lines in the negative space and free motion loopy meanders in the spools. This design is perfect for a quilt that is going to be used a lot and/or if you have very little free motion quilting experience. Loopy meanders are very "user friendly" and a lot of fun!

Plan 2 (upper right): This plan is still quite simple-- using one walking foot design (funky echo or just straight lines) and one free motion design (swirls- click for demo video). Swirls are a little trickier, but still a wonderful, foundational design to practice early in your free motion journey. 

Plan 3 (lower left): If you've had some free motion practice, this design, or one similar to it, might be your plan of choice. It contains two free motion quilting motifs, one simpler (switchbacks) and one more complex (square spiral chains). This is a good point to mention that I like to use different kinds of contrast when making my quilting plans:

Creating Contrast in Quilting Motifs:

  1. Geometric Designs Vs. Curvy Designs
  2. Density of Quilting (choosing designs with more "breathing room" or even leaving small areas entirely unquilted if you want an area to rise to the surface)
  3. Complexity of quilting (meandering vs pebbles)

You don't necessarily need to use all of these at once, but they're guidelines to keep in mind to create visual distinctions between different areas of the quilt. 

Plan 4 (lower right): This is, of course, the most complex design. It includes a wood grain design for the spool, strategically placed switchbacks for thread, and, my personal favorite, the graffiti quilting background (Click for demo video). Since I'm rather ambitious and because my quilt is heading to Quilt Market next month (YAY), this is my plan. I am so excited to baste this quilt and share the journey with y'all in photos and videos over the next few weeks! 

Thank you for reading! I hope this helps you think more about quilting plans and how to create and use them to succeed in quilting your quilts! Next week, we'll take a look and implementing my quilting plan for Spools. In the meanwhile, if you'd like to see how I made a plan for En Provence, just click here!

My goal is to help you quilt with confidence, so I have created a FREE online course just for you called Intro to Free Motion Quilting! Get started with 4 foundational motifs and more quilting plan practice. Did I mention it's free??

Modern Marks Fabric by Christa Watson for Benartex

Modern Marks Fabric by Christa Watson for Benartex

I'll be posting updates as I baste Spools and start quilting this week. Join me on Instagram to watch me tackle the challenge in real time! And be sure to check out what my fellow Hoppers, Vicki at My Creative Corner 3 and Kristin at Simple. Handmade. Everyday. are up to as well!

Happy Quilting!


How to Make a Quilting Plan with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story