Thread Matters 2022: Quilting Plans for Negative Space

Greetings Aurifil family! As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator I’m thrilled to introduce fellow Aurifilosopher and Quilting Rockstar, HollyAnne Knight of String & Story.

HollyAnne uses the Stinking Corpse Lily collection (February 2022 Color Builder) and coordinating appliqué pattern to share her insight for designing quilting plans. ‘How to quilt it’ seems to be a very popular question for free motion quilters. You’ll love how HollyAnne breaks it down and tosses in a little extra inspiration for how to apply those luscious variegated threads.  

Interested in upping your free motion quilting game?  HollyAnne is passionate about guiding students to quilt with confidence.  Be sure to check out her website and her debut Aurifil thread collection, Quilting Rockstar.  Huge thank you to HollyAnne for sharing her quilting knowledge with us today!

Is your shop, group or guild looking for insightful, inspiring and educational information on thread? Consider booking a virtual or in-person program with one of our skilled Aurifilosophers. Learn more about Aurifilosophy and find your favorite Aurifilosopher here.  

Happy Stitching!
— Karen L. Miller

Quilting Plans for Negative Space

As a free motion quilting teacher, a lot of the questions I get asked are about tension, supplies, and what the heck to quilt where. That last question, though, always seems to gain a particular urgency when negative space is involved. 

“What am I supposed to do with all that SPACE??”

The shortest answer, of course, is “whatever you want!” 

But as that answer is wildly unhelpful, let’s take a peek at three ways you might fill in negative space on your quilts to let it, and some gorgeous Aurifil 50wt variegated thread, shine. 

Quilting Plan Ideas

A Single Fill Motif

We have all seen stunning quilts on social media where the negative space is almost, if not more, interesting than the piecing. But that doesn’t mean complex designs are the only “right” way to fill the background. If you want a lighter, airier feel to your quilt, a simple meander or even straight lines might be the perfect fill. For something a little denser, consider swirls or paisleys (or even big pebbles, like I did in the Sirius Quilt above). I recently used continuous curves in the background of one of my Color Builders 2021 blocks, and I loved the effect!

Riff Quilting

Personally, I’m nearly always down for some pretty dense quilting, and combining variegated thread with this playful technique is straight up brilliant. Riff Quilting is simply combining a whole bunch of quilting motifs more or less at random (Quilting Rockstars… Riff Quilting– I can’t resist a good theme!). Some of my favorites to combine include swirls, pebbles, paisleys, McTavishing, and filled swirls.

Create a picture

Finally, consider using your quilting to create a second “story” on your quilt. This could mean creating secondary “blocks”, or taking a more pictorial approach as I did with this month’s Color Builders 2022 block: The Corpse Lily. Here, I’ve used a mix of thread painting and FMQ to show the vines the Corpse Lily flower lives on as a parasite. It creates beautiful color and texture contrast as well as adding a little detail about the subject of our block.

The Corpse Lily

Whenever I’m creating a quilting plan, I go through and create variations of quilting ideas, much like you see drawn above. Once I have some ideas out, I take a step back and think about the quilt. In this case, I’m making a mini, so plenty of dense quilting makes sense. If this was part of a quilt that was for snuggling on the couch, however, I’d give some serious thought to a looser quilting plan. I also consider the design of the quilt, what part of the quilt needs to be emphasized (the flower, obviously, in this case), and, frankly, how much time I want to spend quilting it. 

From there, I finalize my plan, choose thread colors, and get to quilting. For solid threads, I unspool a bit and lay it across my quilt to get an idea of how much it will blend or contrast with the fabric. For variegated threads, I pay special attention to the lightest and darkest sections of the repeats, knowing that I can make the thread more luxurious with dense, overlapping quilting or more playful with looser quilting, letting the unexpected color shifts surprise the viewer. The trick with variegated thread is releasing the need for perfect predictability. Let the thread delight you with what it adds to your project!

Final Thoughts

There’s no right or wrong way to quilt your quilts– some folks prefer loose, all over designs every time, and some of us are rather obsessed with more is more. Regardless, taking the time to draft out your quilting plan on paper can make large areas of negative space feel less overwhelming. Once you get to the quilting, using variegated thread is an amazing way to add an extra layer of visual interest without having to change threads!

If you’d like to know more about quilting plans, especially for appliqué quilts, you can visit the String & Story blog here:

If you’re new to free motion quilting, be sure to download String & Story’s free FMQ Workbook to start quilting with confidence! 

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HollyAnne Knight is a passionate teacher and encourager who is dedicated to providing engaging, approachable workshops, tutorials, and patterns. She hopes these resources will help other quilters work with confidence and have fun rather than being afraid they will “mess up” their quilt.

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