Friday, July 15, 2011

Quilting Stencils

My stash of quilting stencils is one of my most valuable tools for making a quilt. I have several hundred that I have collected for over 35 years of quilting. My rule now is if I see it, I buy it. Sooner or later it will be just the thing I need to finish off the quilt I am working on. Here are a few.Notice that the fan stencil at the top has been used so much it is permanently stained from the carbon in pencils. Some of these stencils are hand made by me. No matter how big my stash, it seems in almost every quilt I have an area that needs some special attention and no stencil quite fits it. In this case, it means I have to get creative. Recently I had such an area. It was a wide, short triangle space(or - in this photo sequence - tall and skinny) that just cried out for some special feathers. I drew the triangle onto paper and after much erasing, got a feather design I liked to fill the space.(after an hour and a half..... I can't get these photos to rotate!!??. I can change them in my photo file and in Flickr - but when I upload they go back. Help! Please forgive all these pictures on their sides)

Now to transfer this feather design onto the quilt means I have to make a stencil for it. I make 2 stencils to transfer a feather design. First an outline of the entire shape, and then a stencil of half of the feathers (the bottom half) and the spine.
I then take these stencils and, pretending I'm drawing on fabric instead of paper, I make my feather design. First I mark the outline.
Next I mark the spine using the bottom stencil.
The next step is to mark the center plumes of the feather. Using the curve in the outline, I just continue these down to the spine.
Now using the outside curves as a guide, I fill in all the above plumes.....Finally I fill in the bottom plumes. Feathers are very forgiving. You think that each needs to be perfect, but they don't. Feathers just look good, no matter how much you try to screw them up. With very little practice you can make great feathers.Making 2 feather stencils (outline shape and half with spine shape) gets me away from the tedious technique of cutting slots into my template plastic to replicate the factory made templates. You've only had to cut one of those kind of templates, to try to figure out a better way.

If you think hand quilting is going to be a part of your life I strongly urge you to get a few reference books on the subject. I have 4 that I go back to again and again. I love these books. Sadly, they are now all out of print - but thanks to Amazon, Ebay and Alibris - you can own used copies for a fraction of the original price.They are clockwise.... Quilting With Style by Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham; Quilting by Diana Lodge; Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting by Phyllis D. Miller; and Infinite Feathers by Anita Shackleford.

Oh, and if anyone knows why my Iphone pictures revert back to the original lay-out - no matter how much I edit them in my photo file and Flickr - then please email me here. This never happened with my Fuji camera or my Blackberry. Sigh.



Pat said...

Thank you for showing how your design evolves. Wish I could help figure out why the rotation doesn't work...but your photos are just fine as is!
Most of our local quilt shops offer very little in the way of stencils - there just isn't much hand quilting going on anymore.

Sharon said...

Stencils are getting harder to find, I think that people just don't know what to do with them. I have a big stack and like you, pick them up whenever I see them.

pdudgeon said...

just finished counting--i have 42 stencils in my collection so far. i hang my stencils up on the bottom rung of my metal closit shelving, using old fashioned metal shower curtain hangers. that way they stay straight and i can easily sort thru them to find what i want.

Rosa said...

Thanks for shanring your stancils.

I`m a hand quilter,(five years quilting), though my stack is poor,only five,lol!!.

Spice said...

Thanks for the great tutorial. I ran over to Alibris and got a copy of the Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting. My stencil stash is getting bigger and bigger.....

Janet said...

Thanks for this interesting post. I love to quilt feathers too - I'll be trying this! Your pictures look just fine to me.

WoolenSails said...

I use free motion mostly, but I like to hand quilt my small quilts. I bought some mylar to make my own, but it is a pain to cut, guess I need a stencil burner someday.


Phebe and Jane said...

Thanks for showing us how you do this. Very enlightning. I can't help you wiht your photo problems. Sorry.
In the Netherlands most quilters quilt by hand. Not many people have their own quilting machine and to let someone else do it is very expensive. Also the general feeling is that hand quilting is better looking in the final quilt.

Jocelyn said...

I have about a dozen stencils that I have collected over the years. How do you mark your quilts? I'm very leary of marking my quilts, so I'd be interested to know how you mark yours.

Jan said...

Wonderful post on a neglected topic. Thanks for the book references. My quilt book collection is somewhat thin in this area!

The Farmer's Attic said...

I love hand quilting!!! Don't have nearly as many stencils as you do and they sure are getting harder and harder to find :(

Your pictures - Have you rotated them in your photo viewer and then "saved" them. I had the same problem as you - I was seeing them the way they should be but once I uploaded them they were rotated back again. I thought hmmmm let me try saving them again in the right direction and low and behold that was what was needed! Hope this works for you.


Teresa said...

Thanks so much for posting on stencils and hand quilting. Information on marking and what motivates you to put in the extra work of hand quilting would be awesome. I'm going to keep a look out for stencils.

Hotquilts said...

Nice bowl of strawberries!
Good explanation of design of your feathered stencil. I like the split spine approach to fill in spaces. Thanks for the info

Jana said...

I have just discovered your fabric lines, blog and website. I just love your colors and designs (strips, polka dots, flowers). I have ordered some of your fabrics along with the patterns, but I have one question - do you prewash your fabric before you use it? I have some bundles of your fabrics now and don´t know if I can start to sew right away and maybe use some Color catcher after I make new quilt with my first washing?
Btw, I have read all your blog posts, lots of great informations!
Have a great summer,
Jana in Prague, Czech Republic

Miriam said...

Thank you for the great stencil tip and the hand quilting references.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't happen to remember where you purchased that feather stencil in the second picture would you? I'm from Canada and there aren't many places up here to buy quilting stencils from. Thanks for your help and if all else fails I may just have to use your handy tutorial and make my own!

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