To Mark, or Not to Mark?

Truth: if I can avoid marking, I do! But there are some occasions when marking saves more time than it takes to do it. Markings are guidelines that work in a variety of situations.

  1. The most obvious time to mark is when you want to replicate a specific motif. Bear in mind, though, that in the end you’ll remove the mark, so if you don’t exactly quilt on the line, you’ll probably still end up with a reasonable enough facsimile that no one else will notice.
  2. There are times when the direction of your stitching really matters. For instance, maybe you’re quilting a series of  parallel lines and you aren’t planning on doing ruler work. You don’t have to mark each line, and can in fact often use your presser foot as a guide to make sure you’re staying relatively straight. I find, however, that marking periodically in a space makes it easier to correct any less than parallel trend before it becomes really out of line. This can also be useful for any radial designs; it can be tricky to keep each element pointing in the right direction. In the quilt shown below I marked horizontal lines every few inches so that when I quilted the wavy lines in the blue areas they would end up reasonably parallel to each other.
    Detail Sunrise Serenade ©Diane Rusin Doran

    The sample below, from my May/June 2012 Filler Finesse column in MQU, was quilted before the main design elements were fused on top. I wanted the fill around the bird to radiate outwards, so marked some simple lines there as well as horizontal lines for the wavy and flower fills to follow.

    Indigo Bunting ©Diane Rusin Doran from MQU Filler Finesse Column May/June 2012
  3. Finally, if you’re quilting a wide open space, such as a large setting triangle or plain block, or in the negative space of a more modern quilt design, marks can be quite useful. It can be a challenge to fill large empty spaces gracefully. Try dividing the space with a few, or many, marks, then work to fill in each smaller area rather than tackling the larger space all at once. Be creative with how you divide this space; how you quilt each area can add quite a bit of interest to the overall look of your quilt. A simple example of this is shown in the sample below from the November/December 2013 Filler Finesse column.

    Sample ©Diane Rusin Doran November/December MQU 2013 Filler Finesse column

As always, remember to test whatever marking tool you’re using before you mark your entire quilt. Nearly every quilter I know has a tale of near disaster related to marking without testing first; learn from their mistakes!

Looking for more info on marking quilts? Check out this video that Kimmy Brunner made for us on marking options for machine quilters:

3 Responses to To Mark, or Not to Mark?

  1. Thank you for the video Kimmy. I have a hard time getting the blue pens to completely disappear when I spritz them. Its as if it bleeds into the batting then works its way back out. Any hints about that?

  2. Hi Anita, I don’t know that Kimmy is following this thread. You might try using a *very* light touch when using the blue pens. Also, I believe she would recommend soaking your whole quilt in very cool water once you’re finished quilting to completely remove those blue marks. I hope this helps!

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