How to Make Picture Quilts: Getting Started

berns-pretty-yellow-coneflo
“Pretty Yellow Coneflower II” by Wendy Butler Berns

Even after years of crafting, stitching, and with an art degree under my belt, I still don’t feel confident in my drawing skills. Because of that I’m in awe of pictorial quilts and the artists who make them, but am too timid to try making my own.

Once I read the first couple of sentences of Wendy Butler Berns’ article about how to make picture quilts in the June/July 2016 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, I knew I had to give her technique a try.

Like me, Wendy was “stymied by limited drawing skills” real or imagined. She found that she was less intimidated by picture quilts when she could transfer photo to fabric by making templates directly from her photographic inspiration. Once she has her image chosen, she uses a combination of freezer paper, glue stick basting, and machine appliqué to make her quilt.

Here is how Wendy prepares her master image and the templates for her picture quilts:

berns-master-map
Add registration marks and label each piece.

Create the Master Image Map

1. Place tracing paper on the photo and trace the more critical lines. Keep the design simple. With a photocopier, enlarge the tracing to the size of the finished quilt. This is your master image map for assembling the template pieces. Do not cut it apart.

2. Choose letters to represent the elements in the design and number each template.

3. Add registration marks along the lines in the master image map. These help line up the pieces when you are sewing the quilt together.

Prepare the Templates

1. With an ultra-fine permanent marker, trace the master image map onto the paper side of freezer paper. Transfer everything to the freezer paper including the registration marks and the lettering system. Set the master image map aside for future reference.

berns-fabric-template
Don’t forget ot cut ¼” of fabric around your paper templates

2. Cut the freezer paper templates apart precisely on the lines, leaving 1″ around the outside edges of the whole design.

3. With a hot iron and steam, press the plastic side of the freezer paper templates to the right side of the appropriate fabrics. Press for about 10–12 seconds. Cut the fabric around each template; including an approximate ¼ ” seam allowance.

4. On each pattern piece, carefully clip the curves every ½ “–1” for easier turning.

Now that you’ve got your pattern pieces ready, you can assemble the appliqué according to your master image map. For the full picture quilt tutorial along with Wendy’s helpful hints download or order your copy of Quilting Arts Magazine June/July 2016, or, better yet, subscribe to Quilting Arts so you never miss an issue.

Or if you are interested in exploring other simple ways to print your favorite photos on fabric, hop on over to our exclusive free guide to making photo quilts.

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