How to Make Quilting Stencils

Quilting stencils are nothing new for the quilting world as they’re an excellent tool for obtaining cute patterns when hand quilting. You may also use them for transferring regular patterns onto your quilts, using machine quilting later on.

If you want to transfer your patterns or to duplicate classic quilting patterns onto your custom quilts, designing personal quilting stencils is a great idea.

A dress maker’s tracking wheel, your printed design, and iron-off chalk are going to be enough for creating your quilting stencil. Some say that craft foam is the secret as foam ensures a soft cushion for the tracing wheel when penetrating the paper. Using foam is going to help the stencil lines to penetrate the holes. You may use this trick for large stencils and not the sewing through the edges with an unthreaded needle for obtaining the holes.

What to consider when making quilting stencils?


Planning and being meticulous counts a lot when quilting and you should have that in mind when making your quilting stencils as well.

Here are some common rules to keep in mind:

  • Plan your designs

Having a clear idea about the design you want to make is essential. You should select the motifs you’re planning on using. Hearts, circles, pineapples, wavy lines, and other shapes you find exciting are going to work. Give a thought on the size of the stencils you want to use.

  • Draw your designs

You may very well repeat the plan throughout your quilt. You should give a thought on the model you want to use for the border of your quilt, where you’re going to repeat the squares. Decide on which motif is going to travel throughout the entire body of the quilt, no matter the composition or the size of the blocks that you’re piecing together.

  • Make the markings

Place the poster board on a table, using the ruler for marking where the motifs are going to be placed. You need to draw in the themes lightly. A compass and a ruler are great for giving precision. Always use the ruler for checking that the spaces between the motifs are even.

  • Sketch in the cutting lines

Continue with sketching in the cutting edges nice and easy, making sure that the cutting lines are 1/8-in wide. Once they’re cut, the lines are going to give the shape of your motif.

Don’t forget that if you’re drawing lines for full shapes (hearts or circles), you shouldn’t connect the lines completely. It’s vital that you leave at least 1in of space on the outline of every motif. You shouldn’t cut out a triangle, a circle or a rectangle when cutting out the design.

  • Go to the cutting mat

Now it’s time to place the poster board with the marked cutting lines right onto the cutting mat. You should use a sharp utility knife when starting to cut the lines that your stencil includes. It’s best that you concentrate on the broader outlines in the beginning. Mark an incision that is 2 or even 3 inches farther than the shape. You should cut it out entirely, moving to the next 2 to 3 inches.

When you’ve completed the broader outlines, you can focus on the smaller shapes. Be careful to cut around your stencil, leaving 2 to 3 inches of space around your design.

What are the steps to follow when making a quilting stencil?

When you’re planning to mark linear designs for guiding you on the free-motion quilting, something spongy for the tracing wheel to punch into may be of great help. It’s a great way to make your quilting stencils, but also for the hand embroidery or guidelines.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • Dress maker’s tracing wheel
  • Craft foam sheets 1/8” thick
  • Pouce pad with Iron-off chalk
  • Paper&pen/ printed design
  • Fabric

You may use an image from the internet (make sure it’s copyright free), or you may very well draw a design on paper (it’s easy for the simple designs even if you don’t have the skills for it).

Here’s how to make the quilting stencil:

  • When you want to make deeper through the paper, a deep-pointy-teeth tracing wheel is a good idea
  • Place the paper on the craft foam with the print side up, tracing over the lines with your tracing wheel. The lines aren’t permanent, so it’s not a drama if you’re running over an edge or you go too fast past an intersection. Nobody is going to know.
  • You may feel like using a lot of foam, but don’t worry as the foam is rather affordable. It’s an excellent tool for this type of project, so it’s worth to buy it.
  • It’s time to transfer your stencil so you should flip the punctured design over for using it.
  • Put the stencil on the top of the fabric (it doesn’t matter if you’re still using the foam or not).
  • Pour a bit of chalk into the pounce brick, and shake the pounce pad. You want to load the chalk right into the soft surface.
  • Continue with rubbing the pad from right to left, over the backside of your stencil. You want to obtain full coverage, so you should be peeled back the stencil any now and then.

Some tricks for the road

Passionate quilters come with all sorts of ideas for making quilting stencils. One creative idea is to use tulle fabric in an embroidery hoop. You can mark your particular design on the tulle using a marker (it can even be a permanent marker on the tulle if you plan on using it again).

Trace your unique design through the tulle, right onto your quilting fabric. A washout marker is going to do it. You can use one for the tulle too; maybe you want to work with other designs also.

Crayola washable markers are a versatile option for marking the quilt, so add them to your shopping list. As for chalk, many quilters stay away from it as it does brush off easily, making the whole process a lot more time-consuming.

Other resources

How to Make Quilting Stencils | Our Pastimes

Shape Moth: How to make quilting stencils

Make Custom Quilting and Sewing Stencils by Jen Eskridge