Do You Hate to Mark your Quilts? Open Line Friday Q & A

Quilt Marking toolsIf you’re like me, once you finish a quilt top, you want to start quilting as soon as possible.  I hate sewing the back of a quilt.  I dislike basting a quilt, and I will do anything to avoid marking my quilts.  I use the seam lines from piecing as my “rails” whenever I can, and I often design free motion quilt patterns that fit within each block.  However, some marking is usually necessary.

Quilt Marking tools

I have a few tools that I regularly use.  I like stencils for drawing parallel lines.  I use SCL-461-00 and SCL-457-10 from the Stencil Company frequently and I use these vintage yardsticks regularly as well.  They are great for the long straight lines.

Quilt Marking toolsI also like this triangle engineering ruler I found at an office supply store.    It’s easy to grip while drawing around.

Quilt Marking toolsOn all of my quilts, I use a system I call Divide and Conquer.  You can read more about Divide and Conquer HERE.

Quilt Marking toolsI begin by drawing a square in the middle of the quilt–or a rectangle for rectangular quilts.  Then I divide the square into quarters, and then divide the square diagonally…see image below.  Next I add a few borders…

Quilt Marking toolsAnd then I pull out my rulers (I have many odd shapes I’ve collected over the years) and I continue to subdivide the space.  On a large quilt, I will draw a few borders around the edges and a few squares in the center of the quilt and then I begin quilting.  I divide the space more as I go along.

Quilt Marking tools

In a small quilt like  The Valentine Quilt (see HERE and HERE)  and the Shamrock Quilt HERE and HERE.  The Pumpkin Quilt –-see that quilt HERE--I drew a few round shapes around the square so that I can see that they are fairly evenly space and to make sure the composition appears balanced.  That’s it!  I look at my sketchbook or my samples and I begin quilting.  When I run out of ideas, I go back through my samples…

Quilt Marking tools

My goal is to keep the quilting balanced in each of the sections.

Quilt Marking tools

This minimal marking method works well for me.  What do you do?  How do YOU mark your quilts?  I’d love to hear!!

Thank you to all who participated in last week’s Open Line Friday discussion about marking pens and pencils.  I have placed an order for several new markers to try!

Happy quilting,


We have a lot more quilting in November!  We are going to work on a series of “Winter Leaves”  and next Friday we’ll be discussing needles!    Let me know if there is anything YOU would like to talk about on Open Line Friday–when it comes to quilting…I can talk all day!

32 thoughts on “Do You Hate to Mark your Quilts? Open Line Friday Q & A

  1. I’m still worried about what thread to use ( poly coated cotton, cotton, poly) and which needle to use with each weight of thread. I’ve scoured google and I guess it is just trial and error. I have a Janome Horizon 8900 that is still teaching me how to use her.

  2. Lori thank you for this, it’s going to help alot! Sometimes it takes me a couple days to built up the courage to start the quilting, especially on the larger bed quilts! Dividing it will give me more of a plan…so far I’ve just been winging it! 🙂 I have marked very little and the ones I did I used the frixon pens…was unsure what was best or what worked. Bought a couple stencils a while back, maybe I’ll go see if I can find them..:)
    Thanks for your wonderful lessons!!

    • Hi Ness,
      By subdividing the quilt-I think you will find quilting less intimidating. You only have to focus on a small square or triangle at a time. A huge quilt is just too much to take on at one time. The stencils can be a great way to help subdivide. Pick a stencil and find a place for it in the quilt. Also, some stencils are very complex-you can use use just elements of a stencil within your quilt. Definitely pull out your stencils!

      • Hi again Lori!! OMG I can’t believe how much better it feels to have a plan! Found the stencils, picked what I would use and added your sweet little leaves with my little flowers and Ta-Dah!!! Thanks for giving me a direction. I have two quilt tops ready to go…one baby and one twin…oh… have to make the back for that one, I’m with you..ugh on that part! but now can’t wait to get at them! Currently quilting a top that was made all by hand in the 1940’s by a friends great Grandmother! Wow! Talk about intimidating! 🙂
        Have a great day.!

  3. I rarely mark much of anything but I do a lot of freehand improv designs. I can see from reading along and trying a few of your tutorials that sometimes I’m just going to have to mark the darn things.

    I dislike marking (I use a lot of prints) and I mostly forget.

  4. I remember about 60 years ago my grandmother “sent out” her quilts to a lady in town that would mark them for her for a small fee. These were the days of cardboard patterns and no stencils. If I knew someone crazy enough to do this for me, I’d sure pay them:)

    • Please let us all know when you find that person! Until then–do try my Divide and Conquer method. I often start marking just enough so I can begin quilting–then I go back to marking only when I have to! I think I read that Diane Gaudynski can spend up to a full week marking her quilt before she begins quilting. I do not have the patience for that–it would take the joy out of quilting for me!

  5. Hi Lori! Just found your blog via a Facebook post by my local quilt shop. I’ve already gotten some good ideas from your site. I, too, hate to make quilt backs, baste (double ugh!), and mark my quilts – shivers – I’m always afraid the markings will never come out. I just want to jump in and start quilting! I usually FMQ using the seams as boundaries and fill in the space with my standard meandering or paisleys or swirls. I also will lightly mark a curved line or circle as a guide for feathers. And occasionally I’ll draw out a pattern, sew over it with a large needle (no thread) to create holes, then place it over the area to be quilted and using a cheap foam brush and pounce powder, rub over the pattern. This usually gives me enough of a visible line to recreate the pattern in stitches. Love your idea on how to Divide and Conquer and love your tutorials. Happy quilting!

    • Hi Julia, I have the pounce powder, but haven’t experimented with it. Do you like it? Does it come out well? Does it come off too well–as in too soon?

      Also, can you tell me which quilt shop posted The Inbox Jaunt on Facebook?

  6. I would love to have you talk about ways to keep the quilting in a continuous line, i.e., with as few starts and stops as possible. I find that is one of my biggest problems right now. Thanks!

    • I agree with you, Barb–I hate stopping and starting. All of the designs in my tutorials are continuous line designs. If I find a motif that I like, I will doodle and doodle until I figure out a way to make it a continuous line. Otherwise, the joy of quilting is lost.

  7. Love this tutorial! This will certainly help me being less intimidated by the dimensions of large quilts! I learn so much from you!! You are a great teacher!!!

  8. I am ready to admit it. I am a quilter who hates to quilt. I have so many unquilted tops that I’ve lost count. I can machine quilt to some degree well, but I hate the twisting and rolling and folding of quilting on a standard machine. I’m fine with baby quilts, even won blue ribbons with miniature quilts, however, when it comes to “full size” quilts I find myself bored with repetition of motifs and unsatisfied with stitching in the ditch. Tell me what’s a quilter to do to fill all this space?

    • You’ve come to the right place! I love to change the quilting motifs often–that’s why there are so many tutorials here at The Inbox Jaunt! I change the patterns frequently. There is no way around the rolling, but I focus on one small area at a time–in that way I don’t get discouraged! A few things that can help: set up a table or an ironing board around your machine to help support the weight of the quilt. Also, start with your smallest quilt and work up to the king size. Lighter weight batting also helps. You can do this!

  9. HELLO, this was such a great Post!
    How do you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time!)>this is how to attack a Quilt for the quilting too-LOL! I mostly do charity baby quilts+do a great deal of trailing hearts,flowers and straight-line stitching, but even for these small quilts I like to do a section at a time.

  10. Oh, Lori — this business about quilt marking is so timely! I wish I had read the post about marking pencils before yesterday, when I made the mistake of spending over an hour marking carefully spaced 1/2″ grid lines with a ruler and a PURPLE pen that I thought was the water washout pen (which I now know is BLUE). Then I went racing off to supervise craft activities and other festivities at the fifth grade Halloweeen party, and when I got home several hours later ALL OF MY MARKINGS HAD ALREADY VANISHED!!

    I have always, ALWAYS struggled with marking and nothing I have used so far has worked well for me except when I used a thin white (Clover?) marker on black once. All of the chalk pencils rub off before I have finished quilting and then I’m back to wobbly winging it. I have learned from your excellent tutorials that marking simple guidelines can make a HUGE difference in how well I can quilt a design, but this is still an area that I struggle with every single time.

    • Rebecca–We can all sympathize! I am so so sorry! I love the purple pens for some things…

      If you are marking grids, I highly recommend the clover chalk wheel — it looks like a short pen, but it has a small wheel on it–and the grid stencils. They are so much easier and accurate!

      Also, I often do minimal marking at first and add marks as I progress through the quilt. Less chance for rub-off!

  11. I can’t believe how early you post this stuff-do you sleep? or do you go to bed at 7pm !!! I love the whole idea of “divide and conquer”-this will give me the push to try doing my bigger quilts myself. I REFUSE to piece backs-I hate how they look and find if I’m patient I can find a wide backing fabric that will work-Moda has great selections.

    • Hi Joann. I am not really an early riser. I can pre-schedule the posts. I love the look of pieced backs especially when I can use up the fabrics I’ve used on the top. However sometimes it takes way more time than it’s worth. Where do you find your wise Moda backings?

  12. Whenever possible I use blue painters tape as a guide line- I find it easy and effective and more reliably straight. If you happen to stitch over it it is easy to remove- and you can reuse the tape strips more then once before they aren’t sticky. It doesn’t work for everything of course, but when it does work it saves time and headache!

  13. I like the divide and conquer but have a question about the spacing between your stitching lines. Can you make a large quilt with too much FMQ? I can never decide about the FMQing sizing.

    • Hi Barb,
      Excellent question.
      The scale of the quilting can be tricky. I don’t think you can have too much quilting but if the scale is too small it won’t look right.
      Large patterns require the quilter to move more of the quilt and that can be a challenge with a king or queen sizes quilt.
      On a large quilt I do sample blocks and I draw potential quilt designs on transparent paper and overlay the blocks to make sure the scale of the quilt motif is appropriate.

  14. I wonder if those of you using a DSM to quilt, might find it easier to manage if you were to take it to a longarm quilter to baste the sandwich together. Just think no pinning at all and easy on your body. The charge should be quite reasonable, but of course, ask ahead of time.

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