Monday, October 19, 2015

To Mark or Not to Mark

There once were days when I worried so much about how to mark a quilt for quilting.  I wanted every line and every stitch marked on my quilt top.  I soon decided I would have to change my thinking because marking just doesn't always work.  The disappearing ink disappears.  Chalk rubs off.  Washable blue markers become permanent if you accidentally iron them.  Some markers don't show on dark fabric, others don't show on light fabric, and nothing shows on busy prints.  Tissue paper rips and freezer paper is too stiff.  Never fear it does work itself out with experience, but there is no right answer that covers all situations and personal preferences.

So then the problem becomes, "Do I really need to mark?"  As usual the answer is, "It depends!"  I wanted all the answers packed into neat compartments that would be tailored to every occasion.  Yeh, right!!!  However, I now recognize the situations where I need to mark and where I am comfortable doing truly free-form, free motion quilting.  You will too as you move along and gain experience, and each one of us has different needs and capabilities.

I am currently doing the pumpkin seed design in a 1/2 inch grid.  This is a nice size, but there is not much room for error if it is to look nice, so I am taking the time to mark every line with a disappearing ink pen, which has a relatively sharp tip.  I find it a lot easier in a tight space to have lines to follow.  My ink drawing is free-hand and not perfect, but I am more confident with a pen or pencil than with the needle in these small spaces.  My stitching isn't perfect either, but I like to think the imperfections are fewer and less noticeable when I mark in this situation.

Marking with air-disappearing pen

TIP:  Many experienced quilters say that your quilting does not have to be computer perfect.  In fact I have often read that it is better, more organic, more real if it is not so exact. There is nothing wrong in striving for perfection, but don't be too hard on yourself when you fall a little short.  You will improve with every quilt.  After all you are only human, and sometimes you might have to rip (shhhhh!) and that's OK too.

Here is the stitched result.  It gives such a pretty, almost architectural texture that will not distract from the main event, which will be the Phoenix bird.  The black lines of the grid are done with a black micron (permanent) pen and are part of the intended background "painting."

Pumpkin seed design quilted
I leave you to ponder your quilting while I spend my time doing an awful lot of pumpkin seeds.

Sew a happy seam this week.


  1. I mark some quilting patterns but not all. It depends how accurate I want my quilting to be. I use a frixion pen and then use a hairdryer to remove the markings

  2. The quilting looks great. I love the texture you created in these tiny squares.

  3. What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

  4. I love the quilting!! great job - the texture is wonderful!!