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Using Hand Quilting Stencils: Tips and Ideas

Though the process can be long and tedious when compared to the machine alternative, quilting by hand gives you the opportunity to create some amazing thread designs. But, if you are new to the world of patchwork blankets and only know the basics of stitching the very thought of creating intricate stitches might seem like a daunting task.

The good news is that there is a way to create these designs with little to no stress for the quilter–through the use of stencils. Quilting stencils were created to make hand quilting easier for those still learning and practicing their quilting skills.

Why Hand Stitch a Quilt?

Sewing machines have made quilting a much easier hobby for many. Projects that once took weeks can now be completed within days. However, sewing machines aren’t as gentle as sewing by hand, so if you’re using delicate fabrics in your quilt, you may have to do some hand stitches whether you like it or not. Hand stitching also makes it easier to put the needle exactly where you want it to be so your final vision is yours and not the machine’s

Tip – Mark Your Quilt

When you layout your stencil, you shouldn’t try to hold it in place will stitching. Lay your top layer flat on the ground or a large table and place the pattern where you want to sew the layers together. Once you have the pattern where it belongs, trace it onto the blanket using a fabric marker or a pencil. By using one of these, you’ll be able to see where to sew without leaving any permanent marks on the blanket. Some fabric markers like the Clover® Water Soluble Marker Fine Point-Blue, can be removed with nothing but a damp wash cloth once the blanket is finished.

Idea – Combine Stencils to Make a Custom Design

An issue you might have with using stencils is that the design isn’t very unique. Stencils can be massed produced so your stencil of choice will also be the stencil of choice for thirty other quilters. So, the best way to create a unique design using stencils is to use two or more stencils. Although this might make the process a little more complicated for new quilters, it is still the best way to create a unique design with a mass produced product. Also, if you are artistic you should hesitate to make your own designs. All you would have to do is draw your idea onto a piece of paper, cut out the stencil pieces and use it the same way as one you found in the store.

Tip – How to Choose the Right Stencil for the Job

The size of the stencil you choose will rely on the size of the finished square. If you’re finished square or “block” is 12 inches then the stencil you buy should be 11 inches. Basically, the stencils you buy or make should be one-inch smaller than the area you’re buying the stencil for. If you blocks or blanket are an unusual shape, then you should take the design into your quilting store of choice and get a professionals opinion on how to proceed.

Idea – Get Creative

As stated earlier, using stencils also gives you the opportunity to design your own patterns. If you have the ability and don’t want to use generic stencils then you should design your own. With the right materials and a vision, then you can create any design you want for your quilt and create a true, one-of-a-kind work of art. Even if you can’t design your own stencils you don’t have to limit yourself to the stencils you find at the store. There are hundreds of stencils available on stores like Etsy that will help you create unique designs that match your artistic vision.


Hand quilting gives you the opportunity to get creative with your sewing. To help, professionals have created thousands of stencils to help in the design process so you can find the right one for your needs. Hand stitching allows you to take complete control over the final outcome of your quilt so you have something one of a kind to show off to your friends and family.

About Amy Patterson

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