Once you’ve worked out how you’re finishing a sampler quilt, the next step is to quilt the thing… but where do you start on how to quilt a sampler quilt?! Sampler quilts are often a variety of colours, definitely a range of designs across the quilt top, all of which make for a quilt top that makes it hard to choose a thread colour to blend across the top and then where do you start choosing quilting designs?!
How to quilt a sampler quilt
The truth is, there’s so many ideas it’s hard to know where to start on providing some tips and ideas, ha! And Leah Day’s class on Craftsy about quilting sampler quilts is a great resource to add to your library. But let me try anyway, because I certainly tried out a lot of different options on my Aurora quilt.
The easiest place to start is with the background. Not only does it help stabilise your quilt for the rest of the quilting, but it also helps you get into the mood. No, seriously! Choosing a basic all-over design that you quickly find your groove in quilting will allow your brain to mull over the rest of the quilt while your hands do the moving.
Choosing a neutral thread colour helps the background quilting fade so that the quilt blocks pop more. If you choose a denser design for the background, and use less quilting in the blocks, that will also help the quilt block designs come to the fore. How much of the background fabric within the blocks themselves you choose to quilt with the all-over design is up to you and/or the block design! If they have a centre area like a star quilt block, you may prefer to leave the centre background fabric pieces to quilt with the quilt block. If it’s a less “centralised” block design, then it might seem more natural to quilt all the background pieces with the all-over design.
Blocks with a centre
If your blocks have a centre like a star block or similar, that’s the next place to start. Although what to start with is the big question! Here’s a few ideas to inspire you:
Make a quilting design the focus of the block. Keep it a simple circle, choose something more swirly, go geometric. Make it more of a focus by not quilting the print fabric pieces!
Take the quilting into the print. Extend the swirls and lines into the print fabric pieces to visually unite the block pieces together.
Above, the thread colour was chosen to match the print to add to that effect. Below, while two different quilting designs were used, they both originate from the centre to emphasise the pinwheel design.
Create a secondary design. You can use your quilting to create new shapes within your block.
Above, I used a neutral thread to create a square-in-a-square design, followed by the coloured thread to fill in the space. Below, I broke up the large print centre in a similar fashion with two different coloured threads and alternating the direction of the lines.
The shapes of the block
Whether your quilt block has a central area or not, all quilt blocks will have other shapes to quilt! Whether it’s half-rectangle triangles, squares, flying geese, or rectangles, how you quilt them will have impact on the overall visual effect of the quilt.
For each quadrant of the Aurora block, I colour-matched the thread and used the same quilting designs to keep the eye moving outwards from the centre of the block.
Alternatively, echo the block design like the diamond shapes quilted within the triangle in a square block below.
If you break down your block into the individual units of fabric, or blocks of colour within the design, you can focus on filling each of those areas with different designs as opposed to trying to cover the whole block at a time. You can use switchback lines (trailing back and forth across the fabric) or feather-type swirls to fill in points; use pebbles to fill the space or simply trace around inside each shape a 1/4″ or so from the seam.
Do you have any tips you’d recommend on how to quilt a sampler quilt? Be sure to share them in the comments to give us all even more inspiration!