Thursday, April 12, 2012

FMQ Tutorial by Don Linn - stencil design

Thank you Don Linn for providing your expertise as April's teacher for Sew Cal Gal's 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge.

As I have been quilting for a long time, learning Don's stencil method had me feeling like an old dog learning a new trick.  Generally, I do not mark my quilt tops.  I very much prefer practicing the design on paper then drawing the design with thread directly on the quilt.  I've had limited success by tracing the design on to parchment paper then sewing through four layers of parchment paper with no thread in the machine to make a pattern.  The parchment paper design was then attached to the quilt top and quilted on.  This works well except I find removing the parchment paper bits messy and a pain you know where.

Here is my photo journal using tulle, permanent marker, Dritz purple fade away marker and an embroidery hoop. 
I don't own a wooden round embroidery hoop, so I used the large hoop from my Pfaff Creative 2 sewing machine.
I drew my own design in pencil then went over it with a purple permanent marker.
Good visibility, it was easy to trace the design onto the tulle.
I did set the black permanent marker with an iron before tracing it onto the fabric.
Purple fade away pen traced onto my sample quilt.
This was also easy to do.
I used variegated multi-coloured threads and started stitching in the centre.
Back view.
After I finished the block, I waited 24 hours and noticed that the fade away marker was not really fading away.
The package said the purple marker was water soluble.
Back view of finished block.
I wet the top side with water and applied a wet wash cloth to the fade away marker.  It took a fair amount of effort to remove the purple marker.
Next I tossed the quilt into the dryer to dry it.  Oh boo... it came out wrinkled!
In order to get a lot of contrast between the butterfly and flower, I restitched the butterfly lines.
As you can see, I need more practice retracing the same lines , the inside of the butterfly wings are a little sloppy.  Perhaps, I should rip it out and redo it.
My second attempt, using a plain unbleached cotton quilt sandwich.
The tulle method provides excellent visibility for tracing the design onto the fabric.
This time I used a soft pink Coats embroidery thread to stitch out the whole design.  The first photo is the back of the quilt.
Then orange, turquoise blue and dark brown thread on the butterfly.
It is easy to tell the front from the back because of the purple marker.  Again after waiting 24 hours the purple marker did not fade away.  I used water and a wet wash cloth to remove it.  Then dried the quilt sandwich in the dryer and ironed the wrinkles out.
I think the end result is quite pretty.  However, a lot more work than I'm willing to do on a regular basis.
 I'm still not completely sold on the concept of marking the quilt top.
 Below is a close-up the stitching on the backside.
Close-up of the stitches on the front side.
I enjoyed learning to make a tulle stencil.  I would love to hear from other quilters who use stencils and mark their quilt tops.  Is there a better marking tool than the fade away pen? 
Diane at Pine Point Designs used cardboard from a cereal box to make a permanent frame for her tulle stencil.   Her idea is brilliant and I definitely plan to try it out.

Happy quilting all.


  1. Hi Tammy, What a lot of work you've done on this. I think it takes a LOT of practice and an extremely steady hand and cooperative machine to travel over previously stitched lines successfully. I avoid it like the plague except for the little areas on feathers where it can't be helped. Call me crazy but I'd rather break thread, knot and hide the threads in the sandwich multiple times than have bad travel stitching. Just me.
    I've used the blue washout marker very successfully on a wide variety of fabric. they are called "Mark-B-Gone" and are made in Japan. You'll find a number of "brands" on the outer packaging, eg. Collins, Prym-creative, etc. but just look to be sure the pen itself says "Mark-B-Gone" - they are all the same product but the prices vary widely depending on the pkg. brand and where purchased. Best place I've found is Walmart though JoAnn's 50% coupon might make them less. There is also a white version for marking dark fabrics. Have one but haven't had the opportunity to use it yet. Hope this is helpful to you.
    I've got to get my sample stitched soon - all marked and ready to go but working on a queen size quilt that I hope to take to DD when we travel east in May. Not much time, so much to quilt :-)
    Pat in OR

  2. Thanks so much for showing this process....great job!

  3. I'm with you - I don't know if all that effort is worth it.
    I haven't even tried doing it this month.
    I find when I try to follow a marked line it is a lot wobblier and messy than if I do it freehand. I think I'll stick to my doodling instead.

  4. I must admit that I didn't use the tulle method of transfer. I used my usual method. I have a light box. Sometimes I transfer onto freezer paper and make a template with it. I just didn't feel the need to go through all those steps. I didn't understand why he cut some off. I also saw somewhere that you can make a template any size you want with this method. I have no idea how!! I just did it my own way! Yours is great! You made the design so much nicer! I think yours is harder than the original.

  5. I rely on the blue wash out pens too. They have always worked for me and they are easy to see. To get rid of the marks, I spray with water from a spray bottle and sometimes it takes several applications to get them to go away.

    I haven't even read through this month's tutorial, so I need to catch up. At least now I know what I'm in for! Beautiful work by the way!

  6. I like this technique for complicated designs. It works really well. I prefer to free motion without marking if possible. I have had issues with marking pens and such in the past. I prefer the air erasable pen and have had no trouble with them. The key is to be patient with them.

  7. I really like your butterfly design, it made for a really fun colourful block!

  8. I've had success with the blue wash-out, but I've never tried the purple before. I love your design. I am working on a baby quilt and am planning to put Pooh bear onto it using this method, but then free motion around the rest of the quilt. I'll be sure to post my results.

  9. Nice job! I used a blue washout marker, too. Like you, I don't usually mark my tops, but there are times when I don't want the organic look, and this will probably become my go to method, as it is easy to resize the design. A bit time consuming in the setup, but once done, I'll have the design forever, which is kind of cool. I must go check out that link to using cardboard to make a permanent frame.


Your comments give me quite a thrill. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and please have a super duper day! Unfortunately, anonymous comments are no longer allowed, there was just way too much spam.