Anita LaHay of Daydreams of Quilts has been quilting for 18 years, and sewing and crafting since she was a little girl. This year Anita started to design quilting, sewing and embroidery patterns which can be found in her three online pattern shops: Daydreams of Quilts @ Payhip, Etsy and Craftsy. Anita recently started vlogging too, sharing video tutorials via YouTube.

Learn more about Anita in her introduction, and take a look at the Hand-Embroidered Valentine Heart tutorial at Sew Mama Sew. This time around Anita shows you her technique for Ghost Quilting, adding depth and interest to your quilting with subtle shapes and forms. She also has instructions for the Falling Leaves Wall Hanging and Falling Feather Mini Quilts templates for you to try out, and you can head to Daydreams of Quilts for yet another (literal!) interpretation of the ghost quilting technique. Learn how easy it is to add these extra elements to the negative space in your next quilt!

Do you ever look at the negative space in your quilt and feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought of adding the quilting? Consider quilting ghost shapes of the pieced or appliquéd shapes in your quilt. It adds depth and interest to your project and emphasizes the elements of your quilt design that are already in place. For the projects here I wanted to convey that the appliquéd objects are falling through the air; the ghost quilting shows where the objects were moments before in the fall. The following examples show how easy this is to do.

There are a few ways to transfer your ghost shape onto your quilt top for quilting. For the mini quilts with the feathers I put my feather template up on a window. I put my fusible web over the template and traced the feather for my appliqué. After I had my feather appliqué fused onto the mini quilt top I then taped my background fabric over it and traced the feather with a water soluble fabric marking pen to mark the feather shapes for quilting. Remove your taped fabric from the window and move it around over the template for each shape you wish to trace. This is a great way to try out different quilting layouts on a small project because you can see through the fabric to the template behind and see how the next shape will look in relation to the other elements on the quilt top. Keep moving your mini quilt top around until you like the look and then trace the shape.

My fabric marking pen is blue so it wasn’t going to show up very well on the blue sky background of my falling leaves wall hanging. To solve this problem I used a water soluble stabilizer product called Super Solvy by Sulky. It feels a bit like a plastic bag. I placed it over the leaf templates and traced with a fine Micron Pigma pen. I chose that type of pen to avoid smudges. Then I rough cut my leaf shapes out, pinned the Super Solvy to my quilt top and quilted over my pen marks. This method works well for a larger project such as a full sized quilt that is too big to tape to a window. When you are finished quilting, carefully tear away as much Super Solvy as you can and the rinse your quilt under water or put it through the washing machine to dissolve the rest.

Layout of the appliqué leaves + Super Solvy leaves prior to quilting.

Another option is to trace your shape onto template plastic and cut it out. Then place the template where you would like your ghost shapes on your quilt and trace around it with a water soluble pen to mark your quilt top for quilting. If you are using a simple shape such as a triangle you can easily measure your shape and then draw as many as you like on your quilt top using a ruler and water soluble pen.

Your thread choice will make a difference to your design as well. For the falling leaves I chose a thicker thread (Aurifil 28 weight) that was a very close color to the background fabric. This way the quilting shows up but doesn’t jump out at you.

For the mini with the black feather I chose a variegated viscose thread because I felt a small bit of color was needed with the black and white. For the colored feather I chose 28 weight thread but in a color very close to the background color because I wanted the focus on the feather. Filling in the rest of the space with another type of quilting will really make your ghost shapes show up even more.

To make a pieced feather to appliqué, sew together strips of 1″ and 1 1/2″ fabric. For my feather I put a 1″ strip on either side of a 1 1/2″ strip. The strips will finish at 1/2″ and 1″ when sewn.

Lay your sewn strips on your cutting mat and line up the 45 degree line on your ruler along the bottom edge.

Cut your strip set and then slide your ruler about two inches cut again making the section you cut from your strip set wide enough that it will cover half your feather template.

Repeat with a second strip set but put the ruler with the 45 degree line along the bottom going the opposite direction.

Sew your two strips together.

Place your feather template in a window and trace your shape onto fusible web. Fuse the fusible web to the back of your piecing making sure the chevrons on the arrow point downwards towards the quill.

Cut out your feather and fuse in place on your quilt top.

You can now appliqué stitch around your feather or wait until you have layered and basted your quilt to stitch around the feather thus appliquéing and quilting at the same time. This option will leave you with a raw edge. If the quilt will be washed, use a short stitch length to prevent fraying past your stitch line. The fusible web will also help prevent fraying. Before layering your quilt top with batting and backing, trace your ghost feathers where you would like them on your quilt top to give the feeling of the feather falling through the air. Then quilt your ghost feathers by stitching on your marked lines. Trim and bind your quilt using your preferred binding method.