Adventures with Quilt Stencils

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Prym ‘Curls’ Stencil

I thought stencils were for people who weren’t creative, that stencils gave you a template to use if you couldn’t draw, or were useful for those times that you needed dozens of repeat images to be the same each time. I could see myself using a stencil on a wall but not on a quilt.

The first quilt I made was a tied quilt but then I wanted to learn how join the layers with tiny quilting stitches. The next few quilts I made reached the quilt sandwich stage, with all the layers carefully basted together, but then they began to collect in a cupboard. How was I to quilt the borders, let alone the great yawning centres? Was there a pattern that suited a particular design of quilt? It all seemed so daunting.

The answer, to begin with, was Big Stitch Quilting. I was introduced to this via an online Utube quilting tutorial (Hand quilting techniques for beginners (on perle cotton) by the Australian quilt designer, Sarah Fielke, and it was a revelation. I still have to master the tiny quilting stitches that have been traditionally used for quilting but I’m taking my time over those. In the meantime I was happy outlining borders and images in bold running stitches, using variegated embroidery threads, and couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it after months of being afraid to try anything.

I wanted to do more. I wanted patterns, repeated images, tiny motifs, more variety! So, I began to consider stencils. I decided that although I could draw, the set pattern in the stencil would allow me build my sewing confidence until I was ready to draw freehand onto the quilt surface.

I had no idea where to begin. It didn’t occur to me that there would be different sizes of stencil for borders and all over patterns for centres. I just found an interesting pattern that didn’t cost too much and gave it a try. The first one I bought was a Prym ‘Curls’ stencil and I quickly realised it was much too big for the narrow borders I was making. Not to worry, I thought, I’ll just combine the two, big stitch quilting in narrow borders and stencils in larger areas and I’ll use the same Perle 8 embroidery thread for both. It seems to work.

About the same time as I was beginning to explore stencils, I discovered a pen that I now practically worship. It is a blue EZ quilting water soluble pen.You draw on the quilt top, inside your stencil, making thin, turquoise blue lines. Then you remove the stencil and stitch along your drawn lines. When you have finished, you give them a spritz with water and all the blue lines under your stitching, disappear. Well, blow me over with a feather! How’s that for magic?

Hot on the heels of those two revelations came another: A single stencil pattern could be used to suggest more than one thing. The Curl Stencil could be used for ANYTHING with a slight curl in the pattern such as smoke, or waves, or a paisley pattern AND by altering the pattern, using just a part of the pattern, or leaving out some of the inside or outside lines, the stencil could be used in more creative ways than you’d ever imagine.

In the quilt below, ‘House in the Country’, the smoke coming out of the house chimney has been made from the Curl stencil:

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In ‘Coastal Cottage’, below, the same quilt stencil has been used to suggest waves:

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The next two stencils I bought were flower designs, one a tulip and one rather like a row of petals. The petal design was used to create the pattern in the ‘garden’ of ‘House in the Country’, above, and also in the two golden borders in the mini wall quilt, below.img_8752

I also used it on the mini nine-patch blocks in my ‘Roses and Tulips’ double-nine-patch quilt. In the close up, below, you can see the design has been altered to suggest an ‘Orange Peel’ quilting design over the centre block, where each petal meets in the middle. On the block either side I’ve used the tulip stencil but, similarly, a single side of the tulip could be used elsewhere to suggest leaves, raindrops, faces in pointy hats, or whatever else your imagination creates for you.

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I’ve recently bought a whole series of stencils in different sizes from The Stencil Company at  http://quiltingstencils.com/ in the States and they arrived in the UK yesterday. My daughter is  collecting them from the post office for me and bringing them here on Christmas day. I can’t wait to try them out.

Stencils can also be found in the UK at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/, https://www.cottonpatch.co.uk/ http://www.paulinespatchwork.co.uk and  www.threadsandpatches.co.uk. They are inexpensive as they are just thin plastic though of course there is postage to pay as well. There are dozens of patterns and images available and sizes range from 3/4″ border patterns up to large images of 5-8 inches.

I hope this post might find its way to someone who is feeling daunted about making a start with quilting stitches and/or using stencils. It’s all enormous fun. Just jump in! If you have any questions I am happy to help if I can.

So… it’s only a week to Christmas. Yikes. It’s getting a little colder but it’s mainly grey, wet and mushy along our Scottish country lanes.

Till next time…..

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