Elizabeth Dackson from Don’t Call Me Betsy recently joined us with her Free-Motion Quilting Feet Guide and Top 10 Tips for Beginning Free-Motion Quilters. Now she’s back with three easy ways to audition your quilting stitches before committing with your machine! Elizabeth is the author of Becoming a Confident Quilter and instructor for the Craftsy class Start Free-Motion Quilting. She’s an expert free motion quilter and is always eager to help others improve their confidence and skills. Have fun with your stitch auditions and practice!

3 Easy Ways to Audition Your Quilting Stitches

One of the questions I hear most from my free-motion quilting students is How do I choose what stitches to put where?! Honestly, most of the time, I wing it. Oftentimes, what I’m in the mood to stitch influences what quilting stitches I put where on a quilt. Other times I’m more picky about what stitches I want to use, and I’ll use one of these three methods to “audition” my stitches. What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s a way of getting a preview of what the stitches will look like on my quilt without a single stitch so if it’s not a good fit, there’s no unpicking to do. It’s a fairly painless way to try to get an idea of how a quilting stitch will look with your quilt top and it can be a lot of fun to do as well!

1. There’s an app for that! Well, not a specific “Audition Your Quilting Stitches” app, but there are boatloads of apps that you can use for that. Start by taking a photo of your quilt top. It should be a nice flat photo. You could hang your quilt top on a fence, a laundry clothesline, get your family to hold it up for you, or your husband could surprise you with a portrait photographer’s Backdrop Holder, which makes an awesome quilt holder for photographs! Load your quilt top photo onto your iPad or other device and use an app such as Penultimate ($0.99, available for iPad/iPhone and Android) or Skitch (free, available for iPad/iPhone and Android) to draw directly onto your photo. It is super easy to erase your doodle if you’re not a fan of what you’ve drawn, and you can also experiment with changing the color and thickness of your pen tool.

2. Go a little more low-tech. Take a picture of your quilt top. Load the picture on your computer, and print a copy (or several). Draw directly on the picture, using a fine tipped pen or marker. I’m a big fan of the fine-tipped Sharpies pictured below, which come in many colors. Go crazy and try out different styles of stitches, from loopy, curvy designs to harder, more angular designs. See what you like. And if you don’t like it, ball it up and toss it in the garbage can. No seam ripper required!

3. Use something clear, like a transparency or a piece of freezer paper or a sheet protector. Pair it with a dry erase marker to draw out your stitches. Then, bring the doodle over to your quilt top and place it on top. See what you think. Hate it? Start over! If you want to draw your stitches while your clear “paper” is on top of your quilt top, make sure to mark the edges of your clear “paper” with something like painter’s tape so you can see the edges and won’t accidentally draw on your quilt top!

Just a quick reminder: With all of these methods, don’t fret about how “good” your doodled stitches are. This process isn’t about that. This process is just about getting a feel for what different stitches could look like on your quilt top… How they interact with your piecing, your fabric, and so forth. Have fun with it, and remember that practice makes progress with your free-motioning! Happy stitching!

This post is sponsored by Jones & Vandermeer. The crafty explorers at Jones & Vandermeer scour the globe for exquisite fabrics, knitting yarns, buttons, ribbons and other wondrous supplies for makers. They carry a delicious selection of Liberty Tana Lawn, Yuwa Life Life Collection, Sevenberry, Nani Iro and more.