This week we are so lucky to have a guest post from And I Quilt personality Sarah McNary. Sarah is a pilot, a camper, and she quilts! You can learn more about Sarah and get inspired by watching her And I Quilt video. Here, Sarah is sharing her sources of inspiration when it comes to quilting the quilt and takes the fear out of the words “quilt as desired” Take it away Sarah…..

Sarah McNary And I Quilt

Why Not Take a Chance? Try Something New?: Tips and Lessons Learned from a Wall-Hanging


The words “Quilt as desired” may inspire some to let their creativity run free like wild horses; but my creative horses seem more inclined to trot back to the barn for an early dinner and bed. Somehow I always feel that the generous instructor who so thoughtfully detailed each and every step of my quilt pattern has suddenly abandoned me with those ominous words. Then I’m left with the quilter’s equivalent of “writer’s block.”


This is when the voices start…my lazy voice argues that, “Edge to edge is good enough.” When I hesitate, she reminds me, “There are no quilt police!”


My clever voice advises copying the quilting from the pattern picture. She says, “After all, you liked it well enough to buy it in the first place…maybe that’s why.”


But there’s another small voice in amongst the louder ones, and it’s her I’ve come to listen to more and more. She’s the one who whispers, “Why not take a chance? Try something new?”


“That’s all fine and well,” I tell her, “but I’m stumped.” And so she begins her sage advice:

Tip #1: Look to the Pattern of the Quilt Itself

In this case, my quilt top is a Marti Mitchell “Hexi Puzzler” pattern, pieced from her templates. I see a nice geometric 6 pointed star that would make a nice ghost pattern of the main motif.

Marti Michell ahexie Puzzler pattern

Tip #2: Look to the Pattern of the Fabrics

In this case, most of my fabrics are from a hand-dyed class I took years ago so don’t have much of a pattern. The background white fabric has white on white dots. They remind me of bubbles which is a fill pattern I’m working on improving. A wall quilt is the perfect place to practice.  It’s not so large that it’s overwhelming but enough space to improve (hopefully).

Tip #3: Look to Contrast Shapes for Visual Balance

Since there are so many straight lines and geometric shapes in this quilt top, it has a more “yang” or masculine feel. Introducing a few curves with more organic, feminine  or “yin” lines may help balance things and what is more suited than a free-motion feather?


Tip #4: Choose Color Contrast Based on Your Confidence Level

For this wall-hanging, I know I’ll be stitching scaled stars in the white hexagons (imprecise at best) and the tiny feathers I have planned for the star points present their own challenges in the irregular shape so I’m going with matching thread. White for the white areas and I’m going to commit to all six color changes in every star (all those stops and starts…gulp) to disguise any goofs. I did get lazy and stick with a white bobbin the whole way – full disclosure.


Tip #5: Always Ask for Help from Friends

Sometimes, I can’t see the forest for the trees and so I called a fellow quilter to help me decide between two border options. I’d used a sharpie on my preview plastic to help her see what my options looked like full scale on the actual quilt. It didn’t take her more than a minute to decide what I’d been deliberating over for hours.


Lessons Learned:


I’m not a professional quilter. I quilt for love, for family, for friends and charity on occasion. I’ve won a few ribbons and even had one of my quilts on exhibit in that National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY, but can best be classified as an enthusiastic hobbyist. I do teach classes at a local quilt shop so I like to share what I learn from each quilt I complete.


Lesson #1: Always Stitch a Test Pattern when Changing Thread.


Check out the lovely green test pattern here – looks pretty good doesn’t it? Now check out the back!!! My green thread was a heavier weight than my white and I didn’t get it fully “flossed” through my tension discs. So glad I caught that before I stitched on my quilt.

Lesson #2: Always Check that Your Method of Marking Comes Out Easily


I used my favorite blue, water-erase marker to mark up all my ghost star shapes. It worked great right up until I spritzed water on to check how it was going to look in white on white. The marker disappeared instantly but so did my crisp white background as the nearby green, hand-dyed fabric started to bleed.

marking quilt


Side note: it was a great fabric dying class but I am not a natural dyer. Even after multiple rinses and Retayne, my fabrics continue to bleed when wet making them only suitable for wall-hangings which won’t get washed…which I forgot in this case.


Luckily, my sister suggested a small paintbrush and a careful hand and although it took far longer and I felt like an amatuer restoration artist, it worked!


Lesson #3: Audition Your Thread Choices with Unwound Piles of Thread or Actual Stitching Rather than Whole Spools


My favorite blue turned out to be way too dark. Then my next choice was way too light. Feeling a little like Goldilocks I settled on my third choice in order to find the best fit.

thread choices

Lesson #4: It’s Never Too Late to Go Back to Your Longarm


After I had squared and trimmed the quilt (I’d even threaded my domestic machine with matching thread to attach the binding), I discovered an un-quilted section of the wall-hanging that hadn’t seemed like much of an issue previously but puffed out haughtily now (I used a double batting on this quilt – Warm and Natural on the bottom, wool batting on top to enhance the definition of my quilting). So I loaded it back on the frame using my Easy Grasp Clamps and quilted the poufs down.

easy grasp clamps

Finally done and ready for our local quilt show!

finished quilt


Thanks Sarah! Hopefully we won’t fear those 3 little words at the end of the quilt pattern anymore!

Be sure to catch Sarah’s And I Quilt video and take advantage of the 20% off on all feet during Sarah’s campaign.

AIQ Sarah McNary