Pattern Selection

Tips for choosing an edge-to-edge design

Perhaps you've already got a clear picture in your head of how you want your finished quilt to look.  Maybe you imagined the finished quilt the whole time you were piecing your quilt top. Some quilters say that their quilt tops "speak" to them and tell them exactly what kind of quilting to choose. If you've been chatting with your quilt and you know exactly what you want, that's terrific!

But what if you still haven't decided? There are so many designs! How do you choose the right one for your quilt? Here are some Q&As that might help make your decision easier. But before you keep reading, a quick reminder:  There are no quilt police. It's your quilt. Make it your way.

Is the quilt a gift? Consider the recipient.

Quilts for young people tend to get a lot more "tough love" use. They get stretched, pulled, and twisted every which way. They get dragged around and stepped on. They do double duty as the walls of cubby houses, and triple duty as superhero capes. They go to picnics and concerts. They get dirty. They get washed. A lot.

  • For quilts for children and teens (and some young adults!), consider a design that is fairly dense, as the added stitching will give the quilt more stability and reduce the opportunities for the batting to bunch up or shift.

  • For quilts that will receive gentler use, you have a wider range of designs. Just remember to stay within the range of the recommended density for your batting. Even though all of the Quilters Dream batting used by That Expat Aussie can be quilted at least 8" apart, keep in mind that a gap between stitches the width of a piece of copy paper is quite wide. Your quilt will have better longevity with closer stitching.

Do you want the quilting to catch the eye or play a supporting role?

If you want your quilting to engage the viewer, choose a design that is more interesting and can give the viewer that little "a-ha" moment when their eye has traced through the whole motif. If you want your quilting to play a supporting role, choose a simpler design. Keep in mind the role that thread color plays in making the quilt pop into the foreground or recede into the background.

What relationship do you want between the piecing and the quilting?

Some quilt top designs are sharp and energetic; some are soft and graceful. If your piecing has a lot of points and angles, consider using a looping or swirling design for your quilting. It'll provide a calming counterpoint to your vibrant piecing. For a quilt top with curves or swoops, take a look at designs with lines, angles, and points. They'll add energy and excitement.

How do you want the quilt to feel? Do you like a flatter look or a more puffy appearance?

Dense quilting can make even a high loft batting look flatter; less dense quilting will allow the batting's loft to come through. Dense quilting will make the quilt feel a little stiffer, especially at first when the quilt is new and hasn't been washed much. All quilts will soften with use and laundering.

Do motifs matter?

Some quilts have a connection to a holiday or life event, and there are designs that connect with those--holly at Christmas, teddy bears for new babies, or snowflakes for a winter-themed quilt. But don't forget to consider personal connections as well. It's ok if the motif you choose only makes sense to you or to the recipient of your quilt. It's part of the quilt's story ... and yours.