Selecting Quilting Designs

Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Aurifil Artisan Cheryl Brickey of Meadow Mist Designs to Auribuzz to talk about picking quilting designs and deciding between an allover versus custom quilting pattern. Thanks so much Cheryl!

As a quilt maker, sometimes one of the most difficult decisions is after you finish the quilt top and have to decide how to quilt it.  The phase “quilt as desired” found in many quilt patterns strikes fear in many quilters.

An allover design, also referred to as edge-to-edge quilting, is a single design that covers the entire quilt top.  A custom quilting design uses separate designs for different parts of the quilt top.

I consider four factors to narrow down my quilting options between an allover and custom quilting design.  You can use these considerations to decide on a quilting design whether you or a professional quilter does the quilting.

1. End Use

The first factor in deciding whether to use an allover or custom quilting design is what the quilt will be used for.  Is this a quilt to be entered into a quilt show, special anniversary present, quilt for your son’s dorm room, baby quilt?  The purpose of the finished quilt is one of the first and most important considerations in picking out a quilting design.

Picture 1 Arrow Point Path
Arrow Point Path with an allover stipple quilting pattern.  I made this lap sized quilt as a gift for my son’s Cub Scout leader.

2. Time and Money

There is no question that custom quilting takes more time (if you are quilting yourself) and/or money (if you are hiring the quilting out).  At times, the quilting decision is decided by what is affordable in both a financial and time sense.

You may have a deadline looming of a new baby being born and an allover design will be the quickest finish or you may have a stack of quilt tops to be sent out to your quilting professional and can’t afford to custom quilt each quilt.  On the other hand, if the quilt is going to be a family heirloom or a very special gift, then a custom quilting design may be a good choice.

Picture 2 Diamonds in the Sky
Diamonds in the Sky with custom quilting.  I made this lap sized quilt for a magazine publication.

3. Texture versus Highlighting

There are some quilts that the goal with the quilting is to simply add texture to the quilt top.  Using an allover design creates a background texture for your fabrics and does not compete with the quilt top piecing design.  If using an allover design for texture, I would suggest using a thread color that matches or blends the best with all of the fabrics across the quilt top.

Picture 3 Ruby Roads
Ruby Roads with an allover swirl quilting pattern.  I made this baby sized quilt for my cousin’s new baby.

On other quilts, the goal might be to highlight a particular part or parts of the quilt top.  Using different quilting designs or different densities of quilting, your eye can be pulled towards certain blocks or areas of the quilt.

Picture 4 State of Being
State of Being with custom quilting to highlight the orange star block.   I made this lap sized quilt to be hung in a quilt show.

4. Fabrics

Quilting designs show up best on solid (or mostly solid) colored fabrics and be less noticeable on busier prints.  If I am going to take the time (or money) for custom quilting, I want it to show so I will usually spend my time more focused on quilting the solid fabric regions.  If I have a very scrappy quilt with lots of different prints, I will usually tend towards an allover design as the quilting will not been seen as much.

Picture 5 Flutter
Flutter with custom quilting to highlight the drunkard’s path blocks and make them look like butterfly wings.   I made this lap sized quilt for a magazine publication.
Picture 6 Midnight Mystery
Midnight Mystery with allover straight line quilting.   I made this lap sized quilt as part of a mystery quilt along and it lives on our couch now.

If you still cannot decide between an allover and custom quilting design, there is another option, semi-custom quilting.  In this quilting method, you can use custom quilting in just a few areas of the quilt and use an allover design for the rest of the quilt top.  This does not take much more time than an allover design and can allow you to highlight a few favorite areas of the quilt.

ABOUT Cheryl

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Cheryl currently lives in South Carolina, spending her days writing patent applications for a chemical and textile company and nights quilting after her two children are in bed.   She is the author of the Modern Plus Sign Quilts book and has had her work published in major quilt magazines and shown in international quilt shows.  Cheryl enjoys all aspects of quilting, especially designing quilt patterns and quilt math.  Cheryl is very active in both her local modern quilt guild (Greenville Modern Quilt Guild) and online through her blog Meadow Mist Designs.


  1. I really appreciate your insight and practical advice, Cheryl! Having a method to help narrow down decisions can really help go from feeling overwhelmed to being excited about quilting. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing Cheryl. I agree sometimes it can be confusing which option is best when it comes to quilting and you’ve given important information to consider before making the final decision.

  3. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us. I’m just learning free motion quilting, so every little bit of information I’m reading and learning.

  4. It’s not so long since I decided to leave the walking foot behind and quilt all my own quilts, this is great advice for me, thank you.

  5. Excellent overview for considering options with the perfect pics to illustrate your points. Thanks for taking the time to share!

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