How to Make a Quilting Plan for Your Quilt

Since we are getting ready to quilt our quilts for the Color Weave Quilt Along, I thought it would be helpful to discuss how I make a quilting plan, using examples of some of my previous quilts. Then it will make more sense when I write about machine quilting for the next installment of Color Weave. For those of you NOT doing the quilt along, this info is still helpful for any quilt you make!

Machine Quilting Color Weave

Machine quilting my Color Weave quilt.

I’ve had fun sharing my methods in three machine quilting books I’ve written along with my online classes through Bluprint (formerly Craftsy). Each of these resources includes not only step-by-step patterns for piecing a quilt; each pattern also includes a complete quilting plan with instructions on how to finish your quilt!

Christa Quilts Machine Quilting Books

Today I’ll share a several quilting plans and explain how I break down the quilting process. Then hopefully, you’ll be able to incorporate some of my methods into your own work.  But first, before we even get to that part, you’ll need to get your quilt ready for quilting. Be sure to check out my earlier post from this week about preparing the backing and basting – which works for any quilt!

Hobbs Batting Cotton/Wool

Click here for my pieced backing and spray basting tutorial.

When I’m making a plan, the first question I always ask is, what’s the purpose of the quilt and how much time do I have to finish? For example, If it’s for a baby shower coming up this weekend, I’ll stick with fast and simple quilting, like an allover design. Here’s a simple block quilting plan showcasing one of my go-to modern quilting motifs: boxes. The plan is more of a guideline of how to work my way around the quilt rather than an exact replica of the stitching I’ll do.

Allover Free-Motion Quilting Plan

First, I will draw the design on paper to get a feel for how it will flow across the quilt. Then I’ll quilt it out on a practice block, or even a scrap of fabric and batting to check thread color and tension. Finally, I’ll apply the design to the actual quilt.

To quilt an allover quilting design, pick a favorite free-motion motif and quilt the design randomly from edge to edge, regardless of the pieced design. It’s fast, fun and easy to do, and by the time you reach the end, you’ll be an expert at that design! I quilted the free-motion design shown above, on my quilt “Stepping Stones“, below:

Stepping Stones by Christa Watson

Click here to get the Stepping Stones quilt patten for just $6.95 while supplies last.

To make a plan for an allover design, I always start quilting on the right side of my quilt and work my way towards the middle. When the quilt gets too bulky, I rotate it 180 degrees and then finishing quilting from the middle to the other edge of the quilt. It’s much, much easier to start quilting when there’s no bulk under the machine, and you work your way across the quilt a few inches at a time.

By the time you’ve reached the bulkiest part in the center, it’s time to rotate the quilt, and then it gets less bulky again as you work your way across the other way. As long as you’ve done a good job basting your quilt, there’s no need to start in the center and stress yourself out with all of that bulk to begin with!

Stepping Stones Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

Here’s what the quilting looks like on the actual finished quilt. Remember, I didn’t try to replicate the design exactly, I just meandered my way across the quilt in an organized manner, block by block. Like everything I design, my Stepping Stones quilt pattern includes instructions for both piecing AND quilting.

Allover Walking Foot Quilting Plan

You can also use the edge-to-edge quilting process with walking foot quilting, by using a process  I call “divide and conquer” – or breaking down the quilting design into smaller manageable chunks. I still start on the right-hand side of the quilt work my way across towards the center, rotate, and then continue from the center to the other side. In this example, I’m planning to quilt a wavy line design “near” the ditch rather than “in” the ditch because wavy lines are much faster AND easier to quilt than straight ones!

I’ll quilt my wavy lines in one direction for all of the vertical seam intersections, and the spacing will depend on how wide the blocks are. This first pass across the quilt is called “anchor” quilting and will secure the quilt for additional quilting later on. It also distributes the density of quilting evenly across the quilt.

First, I sketch out my plan on an image of the pieced quilt design. You can print off a digital image of the quilt if it’s something you designed in Electric Quilt (or other design software). You could also make a photocopy of a sketch or pattern cover and blow it up big enough for you to draw on. You could even take a picture of of the finished quilt top and then print it out in black and white on a regular size piece of paper, too.

Once I’ve quilted the first pass across the quilt, I’ll quilt  more wavy lines in between until I’m happy with the final line spacing. When planning a quilt, I won’t necessarily draw in all of the lines, but I’ll sketch enough of them to remind myself of what I’m doing. You can follow the exact same plan above using straight lines, wavy lines, or even decorative stitches on your sewing machine.

Here’s me putting the quilting plan into practice, “scrunching and smooshing” the quilt under the machine as I go. Look closely near the bottom of the image to see how I’m filling in lines of quilting between each of the “anchor” lines.

The quilt shown is called “Modern Puzzle” showcasing jelly rolls of my fabric, but of course it would look fabulous in any fabrics. It’s the perfect pattern to practice your “divide-and-conquer skills!” The best thing about quilting several passes across the quilt is that you can decide to stop at any time, once you are happy with the spacing of your quilted lines.

Custom Quilting Plan

Now, If I want to spend more time quilting a special quilt, I’ll do custom quilting, combining both walking foot quilting and free motion motifs. To divide and conquer the process, I’ll break the quilt down visually into these elements: the ditch, the blocks, and the background. Then I’ll quilt something different in each section.

Here’s an example quilting plan for my free quilt pattern “Beaded Lanterns” – made from one strip roll of my Fandangle fabric line.

Step 1 – Stitch in the ditch between each row of blocks. Here, I’m treating each row of blocks as one unit so I’m basically outlining the shape of the blocks while stitching the vertical ditches. However, I’m NOT stitching the horizontal ditches so that I don’t have to stop and start as much.

Optional: Echo the ditch to further separate the elements of the quilt. This is also called outline quilting or channel quilting and will help provide more contrast between the blocks and the background, separating the quilting designs so they’ll stand out more.

Step 2 – Free-motion quilt “something” in the background. By this, I mean pick ANY free-motion motif you like and quilt it in all the background areas. I happen to really like quilting pebbles in defined areas so I use them a lot. Remember, this isn’t an exact replica of what each stitch motif will look like. It’s just a roadmap that will tell me which design goes where.

Step 3 – Free-motion quilt a different design in all of the blocks. The fun part is figuring out different combinations of designs you like, and there’s no right or wrong answer! Because my background had dense curved pebbles, I chose something more linear and slightly less dense in the blocks to create contrast between the two designs. Because the blocks are made from busy prints, the quilting won’t show up as much so it’s a great place to practice a fun design that doesn’t have to be perfect!

Remember, for each pass across the quilt (ditch, echo, background, blocks) I’m working from the right side of the quilt towards the middle, rotating the quilt, and then working from the middle to the other side of the quilt. I only concentrate on one section of the quilt at a time, and reposition my hands whenever I feel like I’m reaching. By breaking down each step of the quilting plan, the whole process seems much less overwhelming.

Simpler Custom Plan

I’ll share one final quilting plan that’s a bit simpler to execute, but still gives a custom look. This is the plan I created and included in my “Positive Direction” quilt pattern. It’s a combination of straight lines and pebbles which emphasize the subtle arrow design made by the color arrangement of the pieced plus blocks.

I quilted all of the straight lines with a walking foot first, and then filled them in with additional straight lines until I was happy with the spacing. Then, in the remaining areas, I filled in the rest with free-motion quilting.

And here’s what the finished quilt looks like below. The quilting adds yummy texture, but doesn’t overwhelm the pieced design. After all, the more quilting you add, the less you see the individual stitches.

Click here to get the Positive Direction quilt patten for just $6.95 while supplies last.

I hope this gets you excited to break down the process, and not be afraid to dive in and quilt your own quilts. If you’d like for me to cheer you on in your machine quilting journey, be sure to join my Quilt Along email list where I’ll share lots of tips and tricks for quilts we can make together! You can also catch me on instagram @christaquilts where I usually show what I’m working on in real time. Happy quilting!

Pre-order Geo Pop Fat Quarters and Kits

I’m super excited about my next fabric line which is coming  soon! Geo Pop is a bold, bright, collection of 25 geometric prints in gorgeous rainbow color.

Geo Pop by Christa Watson for Benartex

Click here to preorder Geo Pop Fat Quarters

I’m really excited to add black, white, and gray to my mix of modern prints and hope you’ll enjoy working with them as much as I had fun creating them. Best of all, they mix and match with all 3 of my previous collections: Modern MarksFandangle, and Abstract Garden.

I’m also excited to offer several kits shown below:

Bling Quilt Kit: Fat Quarters + Background

This quick and easy quilt calls for one fat quarter bundle + 4 yards of white or black. You can even use the leftovers to make a scrappy binding! Choose your fave background: Op Squares in White or Tiny Hex in Black.

Bling Quilts with Geo Pop

Once the fabric arrives, I’ll share more about the making of both quilts shown above. Think of it as a “mini” quilt along!

Optical Illusion KIT: Made From Only 3 Fabrics

This “trippy” quilt kit creates the optical illusion using only 3 fabrics. The bold geometric prints in Geo Pop add such movement to this design. Scroll the image up and down to see it wiggle!

Optical Illusion Quilt

I’ll share more of my step-by-step process for making Optical Illusion soon, so stay tuned!

Infrastructure Quilt Kit – QAL Coming Soon!

I’m really excited to make this one, and it will be my next full length quilt along coming this fall. Pick up a quilt kit now, and stay tuned for more details!

Infrastructure Quilt

Infrastructure was designed by Heather Black and we are both going to be making two different versions of this quilt – one in prints and one in solids. I can’t wait!

Click here to preorder the Infrastructure quilt kit
Click here to get the Infrastructure quilt pattern – paper version
Click here to get the Infrastructure quilt pattern – PDF version

Geo Pop Fat Quarters – Preorder Now

Geo Pop Fabric

To ensure that you get in on the first printing of this collection, claim your fat quarter bundle now. Based on the reaction I’ve received so far, I think this will be my best-selling collection yet!

Click here to preorder Geo Pop Fat Quarters

I can’t wait until Geo Pop arrives, and I especially can’t wait to see what you all make with it!

Come See Me at Dave’s BERNINA in Utah August 7-10!

I love teaching machine quilting, and it’s always extra special when I get to teach at BERNINA dealerships around the country. This August 7-10, 2019, I invite you to come see me at either location of Dave’s BERNINA, one of the top BERNINA dealerships in the entire country!

Christa Watson Quilts

I love my BERNINA!! But my students can be successful on any machine!

Teaching in Provo, UT

I’ll be making my first stop at Dave’s BERNINA in Provo where I’ll be presenting my popular lecture and trunk show, “How Do I Quilt It?” on Wednesday, August 7 at 6:30 PM. The following day on Thursday, August 8, I’ll be teaching a full day of machine quilting where students will learn how to improve their skills with Walking Foot Wonders and Free Motion Favorites.

Dave’s BERNINA is offering a terrific deal: a workshop & lecture combo for just $99. You can also sign up for the lecture only for just $25.

Click here to sign up for my quilting workshop & lecture in Provo.
Click here to sign up for the lecture/trunk show only in Provo.

You can also contact Dave’s BERNINA Provo to register by phone (801) 374-5520 or email: info@davesbernina.com.

Teaching in St. George, UT

On Friday, August 9th, I’ll travel to the St. George location and repeat the same series with the lecture on Friday evening followed by the full-day class on Saturday, August 10th.

Click here to sign up for my quilting workshop & lecture in St. George.
Click here to sign up for the lecture/trunk show only in St. George.

You can also contact Dave’s BERNINA St. George to register by phone (435) 656-1498 or email: info@davesbernina.com

Christa and Maudie at Market

It was fun to catch up with Maudie Borget at market who oversees the St. George location. 🙂

I’m very excited for my local friends and fans who’ve been begging me to teach closer to home (in Las Vegas). This is the closest I’ll get for a couple of years, so be sure to join me if you can!

Click here for my current teaching schedule. I may be coming to an event near you!

Pattern Clearance: Grab 6 of My Paper Patterns for just $6.95 Each!

Thanks to everyone for your tremendous support of my pattern business. I’ve been focusing on creating fresh new patterns to showcase my fabrics and the response I’ve been receiving is simply wonderful! So I’ve decided to reduce the price of all previous paper patterns that were published before I started designing fabrics:

Modern X

Click here to purchase Modern X paper pattern for $6.95 + free US shipping

Modern X Received a 2nd Place ribbon in my local guild’s show back in 2014.

Plus, if you stock up on any of my other paper patterns and spend $50 or more, I’ll throw in a free bonus fat quarter (my choice so it will be a fun surprise)!

String of Pearls

Click here to purchase String of Pearls paper pattern for $6.95 + free US shipping

String of Pearls at Road to California

String of Pearls was my first national award winner! It received an honorable mention at MQX in 2013, but the thrill I felt was as if I had received best in show!

Patterns make great gifts for a quilty friend because you can provide them with great instruction and inspiration and you don’t even have to make them a quilt, LOL!! So stock up now and help me make some room for more great things coming your way!

Stepping Stones

Click here to purchase Stepping Stones paper pattern for $6.95 + free US shipping

Stepping Stones by Christa Watson

I learned how to do interesting outdoor photography when I made Stepping Stones in 2015.

I’ve learned a lot over the years about designing patterns and what makes for a fun and interesting quilt. Plus I share machine quilting suggestions for all of them so you can actually finish the quilt!

Charming Chevrons

Click here to purchase Charming Chevrons paper pattern for $6.95 + free US shipping

Colorful chevrons

The one that started it all – my first published pattern is made completely from charm packs.

Nothing thrills me more than seeing someone make a quilt from my patterns. It’s always fun to see the fabrics and colors they choose and how fabulous it ends up looking!

Modern Logs

Click here to purchase Modern Logs paper pattern for $6.95 + free US shipping

Modern Logs Quilt Pattern

Iconic wonky logs made from improv piecing – it’s so fun to make!!

Most of my quilts are either precut friendly or scrap friendly so you can really use up your stash. I especially love making “coordinated scrappy” quilts with lots of color, pattern and texture!

Positive Direction

Click here to purchase Positive Direction paper pattern for $6.95 + free US shipping

Positive Direction quilt pattern by Christa Quilts

Make this fun scrappy quilt just in time for 4th of July!

If any shop owners owners out there want to stock up on this deal, please send me an email to christa@christaquilts.com and I’ll give you distributor pricing on these 6 patterns only and then wholesale pricing on my entire line. 🙂

Click here to shop all ChristaQuilts paper patterns.

Results from my Entries into DQN Quilt Show 2019 – Quilt Las Vegas

Earlier this spring, my local quilt guild held their annual show which has been going on for nearly 30 years (I think). It’s always fun to participate in my guild, and even more thrilling when my entries get a ribbon. So I thought I’d share them with you – along with the judging feedback I received:

Bling – Honorable Mention, Modern Category

Bling Quilt by Christa WatsonBling quilt pattern is now available in Print (click here) or PDF (click here).

This is the original version of my Bling quilt, made using a Fandangle fat quarters plus white background fabric. (I recently remade 2 more versions of the quilt using Geo Pop fat quarters with white or black background.)

Judge’s Comments for this quilt:
  • Print choices and placement create a lively quilt.
  • The woven quilting design contributes movement and texture.
  • Very good binding technique.
  • Pieced binding frames quilt well and contributes to unity.

Modern Star Struck – 2nd Place Pieced, Single Maker

Modern Starstruck by Christa Watson

The pattern for Starstruck can be found in my book Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

This is one of my favorite quilts because it was made using every fabric in my very first fabric line Modern Marks. The pattern comes from my book Piece and Quilt with Precuts and I was happy to be able to get a good color contrast without using any background fabrics. It’s all in how you pair them up! (The original quilt from the book was made in black and white.)

free-motion quilting on starstruck

Click here to get a Modern Marks fat quarter bundle – while supplies last!

The prints in this quilt are pretty busy so it’s hard to see the quilting, but I really enjoyed quilting it densely with 2 different designs in each block – that’s a total of 48 different motifs in one quilt!

Judge’s Comments for this quilt:
  • Excellent variety of prints create visual texture.
  • Very good value contrast between stars and background in individual blocks.
  • Blocks are well pieced.
  • Outside quilt edges should be straight and corners should be 90 degrees.
  • Good binding technique.

Color Weave – 1st Place Modern

Color Weave Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to join the quilt along to make this quilt.
Color Weave was made from Abstract Garden precut strips + background.

It’s always hard to get a good pic of quilts hanging in a show, due to lighting and space constraints, but I love how the quilting shows up in this picture. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive comments I overhead about this quilt while walking the show. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a thing for bright, rainbow quilts!

Judge’s Comments for this quilt:
  • Beautiful color gradation.
  • Print choices lend wonderful visual texture.
  • Strong vertical lines are created through fabric placement.
  • Outside quilt corners should be 90 degrees.
  • Variegated thread unifies quilt top and provides visual accents on gray background fabrics.

Overall, I’m very pleased that the judge liked my bold bright colors and my busy fabric prints. The quilting wasn’t the star of the show in any of these quilts – and in fact, 2 of them utilized very simple walking foot quilting. I haven’t been entering as many quilt shows this year because I’ve been so busy designing fabrics and writing quilt patterns. But this was just the boost I needed to make it a priority once again!

Free Fat Quarter with $50 Purchase!

I was cleaning and organizing my sewing room and realized I have a TON of leftover fat quarters from quilts in progress, bolt ends, and fat quarter bundles from all four of my fabric lines: Modern Marks, Fandangle, Abstract Garden, and Geo Pop.

Christa Watson FQ's

Don’t they look like colorful candy?? This is just a small sampling of my freebies for you!!

Rather than trying to cram them in somewhere and let them collect dust, I’d rather give them to you!! So from now on, all orders of $50 or more from my little online store at shop.ChristaQuilts.com will get one of these beauties as a surprise in their package!

Modern Marks Fabric swatches

Click here to shop all remaining Modern Marks fabric.

Fandangle fabrics

Click here to shop all remaining Fandangle fabric.

Abstract Garden by Christa Watson for Benartex Contempo

Click here to shop all remaining Abstract Garden fabric.

Geo Pop by Christa Watson

Click here to preorder bundles of Geo Pop fabric.

I’m very much a minimalist, and although I’m keeping plenty of yardage of all my collections on hand for personal use, I have a hard time storing smaller pieces of fabric. So I’m excited to send them your way instead! 🙂

Click here to shop my fabrics, patterns, books, and thread at Shop.ChristaQuilts.com.

My Finished Terrace Dresses (and Matching Shoes)

I’m finally recovered from Quilt Market last week, so I can share with you how my dresses turned out using my new Geo Pop fabric line. “3-D” sewing is new to me, so this was a fun adventure! I began by pairing up my new fabric samples with some of my favorite Fluevogs

Geo Pop Fabric Fluevog Shoes

Which do you think came first – the fabric or the shoes??

Then I made a “muslin” – a practice version (using my Modern Marks fabric) without all the finishing touches so I could test for fit. I used Liesl & Co’s Terrace Dress pattern because it looked easy enough for beginners, and it really was!!

Making a dress from Modern Marks

I used Crossmarks in pink for my “practice” dress before making the real thing.

I don’t have many in-progress pics because I was a hot mess while sewing on a deadline. But I tried tissue fitting and making an FBA (full-bust adjustment) before I finally settled on making a version of the dress according to the size I thought I was on the pattern, without any adjustments. This actually seemed to give me the best result.

Black Yellow Terrace DresssCut pattern pieces all laid out on my design wall – it’s not just for quilts!!

I made a total of 4 of this dress using each color of the “Mosaic Dots” print from my new Geo Pop fabric line from Benartex (shipping in August). I put pockets in the first version which was awesome! But they took a lot of extra time, so I skipped that step in the other 3 versions since I was in a hurry. I also changed up the hem length a couple of times, just to see which I liked better (slightly longer for sure!) I missed getting a good pic of me in the yellow version, but here are the other 3 versions below.

A purple dress with matching purple shoes!!

Terrace Dress in Geo Pop Fabric

I admit it – sometimes my fabric color palette is influenced by my shoe collection!!

Geo Pop Terrace Dress

You can’t go wrong with classic black and white!!
It was fun to try out different sash/belt configurations.

I really enjoyed making these dresses, and am excited to make more clothing. I got a great tip from a seamstress I met when I wondered why the top had a few small wrinkles between the bust dart and shoulder area. She said  I should look for patterns with set in sleeves rather than a cap sleeve – that it would fit my shape better. I’ll be sure to look for that next time!!

If I’ve piqued your curiosity about my new booth and fabrics, don’t worry. I’ll share more about the items in my booth at the of the week, so stay tuned!!

Quick Update on Aurifil Thread Kits – Get them for just $99

Good news for those wanting to purchase my Aurifil Thread collections: I have them in stock at shop.ChristaQuilts.com for just $99 plus shipping. This includes my new Variegated Collection as well as my Piece and Quilt Collections in Colors and Neutrals. Here’s what’s included in each:

The Variegated Collection

Variegated collection by Christa Watson

Variegated collection by Christa Watson

PIECE AND QUILT NEUTRALS INCLUDE:

3660 Bubblegum
3770 Stone Washed Denim
3817 Marrakesh
3840 French Lilac
3852 Liberty
3910 Lemon Ice
4150 Crème Brule
4250 Flamingo
4650 Leaves
4652 Licorice Twist
4654 Turquoise Foam
4667 Nutty Nougat

Piece and Quilt Collection Colors

PIECE AND QUILT COLORS INCLUDE:

2425 Bright Pink
2250 Red
4020 Fuchsia
2520 Violet
2130 Medium Butter
1133 Bright Orange
2920 Light Brass
2884 Green Yellow
2886 Light Avocado
1148 Light Jade
2725 Light Wedgewood
2783 Medium Delft Blue

Piece and Quilt Collection Neutrals

PIECE AND QUILT NEUTRALS INCLUDE:

2311 Muslin
5021 Bamboo
1246 Dark Grey
5007 Light Grey Blue
2326 Sand
2372 Dark Antique Gold (Brown)
2315 Pale Flesh
2405 Oyster
2024 White
2615 Aluminium
2605 Grey
4241 Very Dark Grey

Each collection includes 12 spools of 100% cotton, 50 weight, 2 ply threads with 1422 yards each They work perfectly for everything I do: piecing, quilting, machine, applique and binding.

Click here to purchase any of my thread collections while supplies last.

Finished Quilt – Geese in the Garden made from Abstract Garden Fabric

I hope you enjoyed reading about the making of my Geese in the Garden Quilt:
Click here for part 1 of Geese in the Garden
Click here for part 2 of Geese in the Garden

Geese in the Garden with Abstract Garden fabric

Click here to purchase Geese in the Garden quilt pattern – print version.
Click here to purchase Geese in the Garden quilt pattern – PDF version on Etsy.
Click here to purchase the Geese in the Garden Quilt Kit

About Geese in the GArden

  • Size: 32″ x 40″ (Baby)
  • Pattern comes in 4 sizes
  • Completed: October, 2018
  • Machine used: BERNINA 770QE
  • Fabric used: Abstract Garden by Christa Watson for Benartex Contempo Studio
  • Batting used: Hobbs Tuscany Cotton/Wool
  • Thread used: Aurifil 50 weight cotton from The Variegated Collection by Christa Watson
  • Quilting Motifs: straight lines (cool), wavy lines (warm)

Geese in the Garden by Christa Watson

Geese in the Garden by Christa Watson