Free-Motion Quilting Inspired by the Masters

We’ve all walked through museums to soak up inspiration as we stop to inspect the work of our favorite artists. There is something about the excitement and wonderment that accompanies this sacred march through galleries filled with works of art.

This quilt, “Starry Night II” by Ana Buzzalino was first quilted, and then painted with fabric paints.

I was reminded of that feeling as I looked through the pages of the eighth annual International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene magazine. I stopped in my tracks when I recognized a quilted rendition of Van Gogh’s Starry Night interpreted by Ana Buzzalino. I was so excited about her artwork inspired, free-motion stitched, and fabric painted designs I couldn’t resist sharing part of her tutorial.

Here’s an excerpt from Ana’s directions for free-motion and fabric painted “Quilted Masterpieces.” Today, our focus is transferring our artwork inspiration onto our fabric and using that as a template for free-motion quilting.

Transfer the Design to the Fabric

1. Cut the prepared-for-dyeing base fabric 2″-3″ larger than the desired size of the finished piece.

2. Print the design to size. Using a light box or a window, tape the base fabric on top of the printed coloring page/design to keep it from shifting. Trace all of the lines onto the fabric with a fine point mechanical pencil and a light touch. The lines should be just dark enough to see them when you are quilting. At this point, you can join lines to make the free-motion quilting easier.

Create depth and interest by stitching over some lines more than once.

Stitch Your ‘Quilted Masterpiece’

1. Using basting spray or pins, layer the backing, batting, and marked base fabric into a quilt sandwich. Attach a free-motion quilting foot to your sewing machine and lower the feed dogs.

2. Look at your design and decide where to start quilting. I try to start and stop as little as possible. For that, I join lines where I can. Exceptions would be with designs that are “floating,” such as circles, stars, etc., unless they are adjacent to other designs and can be joined together.

3. Pull the bobbin thread to the top and hold it together with the top thread. Lower the needle into the fabric right where the bobbin thread comes through and start quilting, following the design.

4. Stitch over the drawn lines. If you don’t quilt on the line the first time around, try again. Your piece will be more interesting for it. Remember that you are building on a skill that requires practice . . . lots of practice.

5. Create depth and interest by stitching over some of the lines more than once. Look at the coloring pages for inspiration: some of the lines are darker and thicker than others. Try to duplicate the look with your sewing machine by double- or even triple-stitching in some areas.

“The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum” by Ana Buzzalino

Add Color and Stitch

Coloring is in vogue right now. Wouldn’t it be fun to color on a quilt instead of on paper? There are several products you can use to color–with fabric paint, ink pencils, and embroidery stitches–to add interest to your “quilted masterpiece.”

In the full tutorial available in the 2016/2017 issue of International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene magazine, Ana shares step-by-step instructions for painting on fabric and for using Inktense pencils to color your art quilt. Plus, she includes information about how to find artworks in the public domain so you don’t accidentally break any copyright laws. Download your copy to explore galleries of quilt inspiration along with 11 quilt patterns so you can make a Festival favorite at home.

Happy quilting!

Brenna's Signature

P.S. Check out Ana’s tips for using Inktense pencils before you start.


Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Free-Motion Quilting, Quilting Daily Blog