Quilting Through Paper- how to enjoy quilting on dark color or difficult fabrics
Is there a fabric that you avoid using in your quilts? I know I avoid dark color fabrics in these situations:
- I want to quilt a fancy design on it
- The fabric is the background for an applique design
Why? Because when you have to transfer the design from paper to fabric, it’s hard to see it through fabric (even if you use a light box or the window). Not to mention that you need a good marker to make your design visible and durable.
But sometimes you just want that black fabric so here is a way that keeps quilting easy and fun- QUILTING through paper!
What paper to use?
You need to use a different paper than the one you use for your regular printing; you need a paper that tears away easily once the quilting is done. I find such paper in the supermarket- mine it is labeled “writing paper”, it’s not bright white and it is thinner (60 g/m2, it could be 70 g/m2 too ) than the regular paper we use for printing (which is 80 g/m2).
It works great with my inkjet printer; I heard this paper may jam when used with laser printers.
If you can’t find this regular paper, here are two brands designed specifically for quilters, for paper piecing:
Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper
Electric Quilt Quilters Newsprint
Edited to add:
A reader recommended me this paper from Amazon, it has good reviews from quilters.
Do not use freezer paper or vellum paper.
Here is how quilting through paper works:
1. Print (or transfer manually) the pattern on paper.
Make the quilt sandwich, keeping all the layers perfectly stretched on a hard surface (table, floor). Use for this clamps or tape.
Baste them with an adhesive spray (optional, but helpful).
Then lay the paper pattern on top of the quilt sandwich and pin through all the layers, using straight pins.
My design here is only 7”, if your design is bigger, don’t be afraid to pin directly through design.
Stitching the design
Then start quilting.
If you can reach the center without wrinkling the paper, start quilting in the center.
Use a thread in the desired color; for easier stitching, use a color that contrasts with the black ink.
Make sure your stitching is well balanced (a loose stitching is not desired here).
Also, quilt with small stitches, the paper tears away with more ease and it doesn’t distort the stitching.
Tearing the paper away
When the quilting is done, tear the paper away; gently tear along the stitching, making sure you don’t pull out your stitches.
For removing the tiny paper pieces stuck into the stitches, use the tip of a thread snips (this is the BEST tool) or tweezers.
Also, use a lint roller for a final cleaning.
Beautiful and PERFECT quilting- following the clear lines on paper is not as hard as you may imagine!
What if you have a BIG design?
If quilting from the center toward the outside seems difficult, start quilting from the outside toward the center; as you sew, remove the paper already stitched to easily reach the inside areas.
This is a 50” design printed on many papers that were taped together.
It’s safe, as long as you keep all the layers smooth and stretched. I do this for my shadow trapunto technique and it works perfectly every single time.
You see here a layer of batting and on top there is a sheer organza.
The paper was pinned on top of the two layers and then stitched.
And here is the result after the cutting the batting away was done.
That MUST fit PERFECTLY over this applique design.
And it fitted indeed!
Yes, I was amazed too by the perfection achieved using this technique.
When could you also use this technique?
Even if you work with light color fabric, there are instances when you just don’t want to transfer the design to fabric ( maybe because it is too complicated and takes a lot of time).
If you use this technique, you still need to tear the paper away and that takes time too – it’s up to you which task seems to be more manageable.
Working with difficult fabrics
Let’s say the background of a pretty applique design is a difficult fabric, like velvet, or fleece, or other difficult fabric; transferring the design to it would be a big hassle.
Here is how to transfer the design to the fabric without touching a marker.
Lay the paper design on the fabric (right side up) and pin; stitch 1/8” inside the applique designs– in this way, you don’t need to remove the stitching, it will be covered by the applique pieces.
The color of the thread depends on the color of each applique piece. Because the stitching will remain there, it has to be invisible under the applique piece. If the applique fabric is white (and sheer), maybe it’s not a good idea to stitch with red thread.
If you plan to wash the piece, you could use water soluble thread (this thread is white, it won’t work on light color fabric, though).
I hope you will give this technique a try! If you need a few simple designs to test it, download the designs below.
Your work is beautiful!!
Your work always amazes me. Thank you for sharing this technique!
Karen M says
There is still hope for me yet, thank you
Stacey In Stitchea says
This is incredible, you should teach this on Craftsy so everyone can learn! Especially the applique layering and finishing. Gorgeous!!
Kathryn Romans says
Amazing and beautiful. Thanks for the inspiration and the tips!
Thank you, Geta. I have used this process today using your swirls on my current project. It worked really well! Pictures on my blog here:
shoshana vogel says
wow, this example is just one of the most beautiful things i’ve seen, is there a pattern, or two if thats what it takes. it might take me a while, but this is something i just need to make!!!
Gladys Goncalves says
I had a bad time quilting a black top with black threader. I marked it with a White chalk and it wasn’t clear to follow. Now I see I could have used a paper to do it. Thanks for this lesson! It was important to me
Why do you advise not using freezer paper?