Whole Cloth Quilting Tips: Designing the Quilt

Whole Cloth Quilting Tips series by textile artist Roxane Lessa.


Last year I dye-painted a piece of silk charmeuse in my favorite colors. Then it sat in my closet for a long, long time. You see, I knew I wanted to create a whole cloth art quilt with it (since I couldn’t bear to cut it up!). I was paralyzed by the fear of wrecking this beautiful piece of silk I had made. Eventually I got it out of my closet and pinned it to my design wall.

Wholecloth Artquilt Series Part I

Preview Quilting Stitches

I know, I thought, I’ll do what I tell my students to do! I’ll get my clear plastic sheet and my washable markers out, and lay it on the top of my fabric. That way I can try out some quilting designs by drawing them out first. I just needed one good idea to get me started.

Wholecloth Artquilt Series Part I - washable markers

Divide the Whole into Sections

It can help to break the whole quilt surface into sections, and think about each of the sections one at a time. I decided that emphasizing the movement of the painting was going to be the most important feature of the quilting. But where to begin? I began pulling threads in different colors and weights by puddling them on top of the quilt.  I always want some that will blend in and some that will show.

Wholecloth Artquilt Series Part I - choosing the thread

Wholecloth Artquilt Series Part I - thread choices

I had a 12 weight hand dyed cotton thread in deep blues that I thought would be great. It would make a nice heavy line and really stand out. Then I had a light bulb moment! Why don’t I use that thread to divide up the spaces of the quilt? With all that space to quilt, it was much easier to divide it into manageable sections. So I got out my trusty chalk pencil and started roughly marking out some curved sections.

Wholecloth Artquilt Series Part I - divide quilt into manageable sections

Wholecloth Artquilt Series Part I - quilting with the BERNINA Sitch Regulator

Areas of Emphasis

Like all art work, a whole cloth quilt needs areas of emphasis, otherwise it will all blend together in a boring mass. Deciding ahead of time which areas you will emphasize will definitely save lots of ripping out stitches later. In this case, I had painted in two areas of yellow which stood out the most. Since yellow is the most advancing color and value, I figured these areas will be noticed first.

Wholecloth Artquilt Series Part I

So I began my quilting there with my BERNINA 770 QE including the BERNINA Stitch Regulator and let the rest of the quilting develop from there. At last I had the beginnings of a plan! In the next part of the series I will show you how I prepped the quilt for quilting, and how I went on to fill in some of the other areas.

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