Don’t you just LOVE quilts that are quilted with stunningly elaborate, intricate patterns and details? Beautiful quilting can turn even the simplest piecing into a marvelous whole, but when you combine sophisticated piecing with careful, thoughtful quilting, you’ve turned your quilt into a work of art.
Yes, you can quilt free-hand, and many people happily do for a variety of wonderful effects, but for a very precise, very detail-oriented look, I really like to use a quilting stencil. I love using a quilting stencil to mark patterns that I’d never have dreamed of on my own, or, if I’m feeling very brave (or impatient), I like to quilt directly from the stencil and save myself the effort of marking out my pattern first.
It’s possible, although probably not advisable unless you’re as reckless as I am…
Although there are loads of quilting stencils ready-made and available to buy, collecting a different one for every quilt can get spendy, and store-bought quilting stencils are rarely made from sustainable materials. When you DIY your own quilting stencil, you can still make yourself a new one for every quilt, and you can also use the material of your choice to make it with. Perhaps you can upcycle some plastic, or experiment with cardboard, or carefully source just the right manufacturer.
Here are my favorite tutorials for DIYing quilting stencils, templates, and patterns. After mastering any of these methods, you’ll be able to utilize them to create any pattern you can dream of, so if you’re new to the process, check out a few different tutorials to see which methods appeal most to you.
Free-Motion Pattern Planning
Sometimes, you don’t need an entire stencil or template, but instead simply a plan for a free-motion design. This post takes you through several different quilting design possibilities for the grandmother’s flower garden quilt block, showing you how important it is to plan where you’ll begin and end the quilting on each block so that you can smoothly transition to the next one.
Plastic sheet And X-acto Knife
It might take a bit of trial and error to find just the right type of plastic–it has to be thick enough to maintain its shape, thin enough to be cut, and flexible enough to handle being cut without splitting–but with all of the plastic that most of us commonly have in our homes, this method is still very accessible.
Printable Quilting Stencils
You don’t have to create all of your own patterns from scratch–although you can! Here are several quilting stencils that are free to download and print.
Freezer Paper Stencils
Sure, you can source stencils just about anywhere, but transferring them to your quilt isn’t always that easy. Freezer paper is one of my favorite materials to play with, and this freezer paper technique is a great option for some of those transfers!
Pattern-Making Without Marking
I’m often in the mood to use as few tools as possible, so I’m loving this video tutorial showing how to create many quilting patterns without marking on the fabric at all–no water-soluble markers, no chalk, no stencils, no templates!
Drawing Patterns Utilizing a Grid
Sometimes, you want a quilting pattern that doesn’t look fussy, but also doesn’t look messy. It can be a surprisingly big challenge! This tutorial shows you how to use a gridded layout to design patterns that aren’t regimented but are still pleasingly organized.
Baptist Fan Quilt Template
If you love playing with a Spirograph, then you are going to SUPER love this DIY quilting stencil! There are a lot of things that I love about this Baptist fan tutorial, including the fact that you can make the stencil out of cardboard or plastic, and that since the stencil is so simple to construct, it’s totally fine to recycle it after every use and just spend two minutes remaking it the next time you want to use it.
Straight Line Diamond Quilting Pattern
You don’t have to follow a complicated pattern to achieve a complicated look. The diamond pattern in this tutorial requires nothing more than a ruler and a straight edge!
Feather Wreath Pattern Tutorial
Get out all of your rulers, because this tutorial teaches you how to measure and mark your own feather wreath pattern rather than relying on a quilting stencil. Normally, for something this complicated I WOULD use a stencil or template, but not if I wanted to make it an unusual size. I also noticed that the process of creating this pattern goes through stages that would also make interesting patterns–I’m totally going to make that spiky sun pattern into its own quilting template!
Vintage Hand Quilting Patterns
Print or trace these beautiful vintage patterns, and then use the plastic sheet and x-acto knife or freezer paper stencil tutorials, above, to transform them into working stencils.
It’s fun to see how many ways there are to quilt using just the tools and supplies that you’ve already got on-hand.
What is YOUR favorite way to quilt? Let me know in the comments below!