How to Select Quilting Stitches to Enhance Your Artwork

"Quilt as desired." Those directions, often found at the end of a tutorial on making a quilt or a quilted project, can be freeing or frustrating. There are so many quilting techniques to choose from, how do you decide what works best?

echo quilting on quilt by maria elkins
The echo quilting in this portrait by Maria Elkins helps
define the planes of the girl's face while the undulating
stitching on the ice cream makes it look like it's really melting.

The best way to decide is to look at your quilt and ask yourself what you want to emphasize.

Do you want the stitching to enhance the motifs of the quilt? Free-motion swirls on a fanciful quilt or jagged lines on a quilt designed to emphasize tension can give your artwork the proper impact.

Would computerized sewing machine stitches enhance the imagery? These stitches can add just the right finishing touch to the border of a quilt, add whimsical detail, or become the star of the show.

To lend a handmade look to the quilt, use hand stitching, or combine hand stitching with machine stitching.

Do you want to emphasize a prominent shape? Echo quilting may be your best bet. This sewing technique consists of using machine quilting stitches to outline your focal shape, repeating them at uniform distances. It's a quilting technique Hawaiian quilters are known for, and it works well on portrait quilts, too.

For example, close, flowing quilting lines can add dimension and realism to long hair, and echo quilting around facial features can help create expression.

free motion quilting stitches on quilt by karen fricke
Karen Fricke used fanciful free-motion quilting stitches
to add fun to this self-portrait, featured in the book
Mixed-Media Self-Portraits: Inspiration & Techniques

Maria Elkins has mastered the use of sewing techniques for creating portrait quilts. In her video tutorial Making Faces: Beginning and Advanced Portraits, she walks you step-by-step through her process, from choosing a photo to selecting fabric to quilting techniques. For a limited time, you can get Maria's video plus three other expert resources for making portraits: How to Make Fabric Art Portraits Digital Collection.

With these resources, you will have a wide variety of quilting techniques and sewing machine stitches to choose from the next time you read the word, "Quilt as desired."

P.S. Does the phrase "quilt as desired" freeze you or free you? Leave your comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Free-Motion Quilting, Machine Stitching, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques

2 thoughts on “How to Select Quilting Stitches to Enhance Your Artwork

  1. I have begun to allow it to free me. It’s one of those things, where, the more I do, the more free I become! Wish I had come to art quilting many years ago….love it , and, all my artist friends! Thanks for great info, always. Marilyn Spencer

  2. Holding my breath and clenching my teeth. It positively freezes me. My mind goes blank. That said, I usually do manage to get decent results, on my regular sewing machine. I wish I could be more relaxed about it though, and maybe more creative thoughts would come.