Quilting Intricate Quilts

October 1, 2022


Last week I shared a bunch of photos of intricate quilts seen at the AQS Quiltweek in Des Moines, IA. If you missed it, you can see it here. As an educator, the question I get the most is: How do you decide how to quilt something? Checking out the fabulous quilting on these intricate quilts got me to thinking about some intricate quilts that I have done in the past. Quilting intricate quilts, just like any other quilt top, has to be decided on a case by case basis. There is no hard-and-fast rule on how to choose designs for quilting. However, there are some considerations I think about when making choices.

I have 2 quilts that have some intricate piecing and lots of small pieces, that I’ll use as examples for this discussion. I quilted them very differently.



This is what I think about when making quilting decisions and what I take into consideration:

1. How will the quilt be used?

Will it be a wall hanging?

Will it be on a bed?

On a couch?

Used often?

Or only occasionally?

Will it ever be washed?

Intended for a show?

2. Who is the quilt for?

Self vs gift?

Adult vs child?

Male vs female or both?

A quilt connoisseur vs someone who doesn’t know much about quilts?


3. How much time am I willing to devote?

I am in love with some quilts (or the quilt recipient) and want to do spectacular quilting, no matter how long it takes.

Or, I have a deadline and need to be mindful of my time.


4. What is my skill level?

A hypothetical example: feathers would look great on this border. But I am still struggling with quilting feathers.

Solution: 1. Skip the feathers. And pick another design that I have mastered. Or, 2. Put this quilt top aside and practice feathers til I feel confident enough.

My two quilts

Bed quilt

I made this quilt at a retreat in the mountains. It was a mystery. I had no idea what it would look like before I started. We were given the cutting instructions a few weeks prior to the retreat. When I read the first instruction to cut 1478 1.5 inch neutral triangles, I knew I was in trouble!  But despite the work that went into it, I love this quilt!

Once the top was finished, (it took a year), I made the quilting decisions.

How will it be used?

I use it on our bed in the winter. Because I have so many quilts, I use different quilts for different seasons. It will be washed, but probably only once a year. And it will never be in a show.

Who is the quilt for?

Us! I make so many quilts for others, it is rare and exciting to make one just for us. We are adults, (most of the time). And we both know a thing or two about quilts. But, I don’t have many quilt connoisseurs visit my bedroom.

How much time am I willing to devote?

I did not really want to spend another year quilting this top. Even though it has some nice open areas with light neutral fabrics that called out for some custom quilting, I made the choice to not devote the time it would take for custom.

What is my skill level?

Well, not to brag, but whatever design I can dream up, I can quilt. I can do free motion, rulers and use Pro-Stitcher like a pro (because I am a pro). So I don’t really ask myself that question any more. But I did. For a long time, when I was learning.

My decision

I chose to quilt an edge-to-edge design, knowing the quilt would be used on my bed and washed. Even though I devoted lots of piecing time, it is not a family heirloom. It’s been a few years, so I cannot remember the name or source of the digital design. I picked it because it is curvy and flowing in contrast to the linear piecing.


The wall quilt

I made this quilt top in a class with Sally Collins on precision piecing. It is tiny. Twelve and a half inches square. I love this little quilt too! It was very hard work getting all those tiny pieces sewn together precisely.

How will it be used?

It is a wall hanging and will never be washed. It won’t be in a show.

Who is the quilt for?

Since it was a class, I had no intended purpose for the piece. Only to learn some precision skills. You just never know whether what you do in a class will be a keeper. Since it turned out nice, I decided to hang it in my studio.

I have quilters who appreciate intricate quilting visit my studio. They are the quilt connoisseurs, who will notice the quilting! This quilt definitely asks for custom quilting.

How much time am I willing to devote?

Custom quilting intricate quilts like this is not a big time commitment, since it is so small. Playing with small pieces feeds my desire to do intricate quilting without the time commitment. Win – win!

My decision

I decided to create extreme texture with 2 battings because the piecing and fabric colors would not show a lot of the quilting. I alternated dense quilting with un-quilted areas to achieve that texture.

Moral of the story

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to making quilting design decisions. Intricate quilts don’t always need intricate quilting. All those quilts we saw last week had fabulous quilting. They were show quilts! Destined to be seen and examined by all kinds of quilt connoisseurs. In the end, it’s your quilt. You get to do what works for your quilt and what you are comfortable doing. No rules! No quilt police. You are the queen of the quilt.

Quilt every day!


by Mary Beth Krapil









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October 1st, 2022

Last week I shared a bunch of photos of intricate quilts seen at the AQS Quiltweek in Des Moines, IA. If you missed it, you can see it here. As […]

One response to “Quilting Intricate Quilts”

  1. Great article. There is a lot to think about even when it will be your own. I like how you organized the thinking process, on how to finally decide or at least narrow it down to a final decision.

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