How to Use Quilting Stencils

When it comes to quilting, the possibilities and resources to use are various, which is one of the reasons for which there are so many into this particular hobby.

What are quilting stencils?

A quilting stencil is a template you use for tracing various designs onto the top of your quilt before you start quilting.

The templates come with cut grooves that give a particular pattern and design. The slots are going trace, resulting into lines on your fabrics. You use the tracks for knowing where to sew.

It’s common for the designs to be a bit more complicated, which is why using them helps you obtain beautifully designed quilts.

There are many ways to use quilting stencils. You may use them for filling in the negative space, for adding a centerpiece, cover a quilt with an edge to edge design, or even create a specific border.

After you trace them, you may stitch the patterns with the machine or by hand- it’s up to you.

How to use the quilt stencils- at a glance

If you’re looking for the shortest guide, here’s a useful overview:

  • Gather the supplies you need for the job: quilting stencil, finished quilt top, and various marking tools
  • Baste the batting, the top, and the backing together
  • Figure out where you’re going to learn your stenciling. Do you want an edge from one side to the other side? Is a medallion in the center something that you want? Or you’d like to have a centered border instead?
  • Put the stencil on the top of your quilt, making sure it’s square and straight.
  • Use a marking tool for tracing the stencil. You may have to repeat and reposition at times.

What’s the best way to use the quilt stencils?

You should use a water-soluble marking pen or any fabric marker for your quilting stencils. The stencils come in various sizes and shapes, and so do the marking tools.

Remember that there’s no shame in using all the tools you need for quilting easier. For instance, you can find a tape that helps you master the spacing of your stitches evenly, which counts so much for any beginner. You’re lining up the tape along the area you plan on stitching, guiding yourself with the markings on the tape so that your stitches stay in line. Nobody says that you shouldn’t use all the tools you need for getting better results.

Even most beautiful quilts aren’t perfect, and it’s vital that you try and spend an excellent time while working. Practice makes perfect, after all!

  • Use the right pencils/pens for marking

There are various types of pens and pencils for marking the stitching lines. Some go for the colored lead pens/pencils, whereas others work better with a chalk marker. It’s a matter of what works better for you. A fine-point permanent marking pen is easy to use, and it’s not difficult to wash it out. A blue water-soluble marking pen on light fabrics and a white pen for dark ones are great solutions to have around.

  • Stitch on the lines

No matter the stencil you’re using (how straightforward or complicated it may appear), it’s always better that you follow the instructions on the package.

Quilting stencils feature a small road map (it’s typically on the top left-hand corner), showing you where you’re going. It may not be apparent for you where you should start, continue, or finish up. To give you an example, when a stencil comes with “S” design, you’re supposed to make a continuous design line.

You may give it a try first to see if the hand quilting is for you or not. You don’t have to get the perfect results from the first trial- it’s going to get better in time. Use a nice quilting thread for the stitching.

For some, the stitches aren’t even that important. One may go for the childlike stitches for their work.

  • Pay attention to washing

When you’re using a washable marker, it’s essential that you don’t press nor put your quilt in the dryer until every marking has been washed out. It depends on the trademarks, but some may set with the heat and removing them is going to be quite a challenge. You can always stay on the safe side and use cold water for washing the markings.

Don’t rush out into it and wash the top of your quilt with a damp cloth until all the markings are gone. Let your quilt air dry and remove it once more when not all of the trademarks are gone.

One last suggestion

When you’re using a simple quilting design, it’s going to take you a couple of days or a week to finish a small quilt (it depends on your skills, determination, and time you have for quilting). You can always make your very own stencils on paper, tracing it to template plastic afterward. You can alter the size (smaller or larger) on a copier and printing it out before using it.

Keep in mind that your stitches don’t need to be perfect; small and straight stitches are ideal but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it always as planned. You don’t even have to densely quilt, as Xs and straight lines give excellent results just as well.

Don’t ever undermine the beauty of hand quilting as it gives a special feeling to any quilt. When your stitching isn’t perfect, stop worrying! Antique doll quilts’ beauty didn’t come from the excellent stitching. Quilting is also about the whole process, not only about perfect stitching!

Other resources

How to Use Stencils When Quilting | Learn To Quilt on Craftsy

A Sentimental Quilter: Quilting with Stencils

Quilting stencils for outlining quilting designs, UK