How to transfer patterns to fabric for quilting: no-mark method

Quick quilting tip from Martingale

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There are many ways to mark designs on a quilt top in preparation for quilting. But have you ever tried not marking your quilt top? See how six-time Martingale author Mary M. Covey transfers her beautiful machine-quilting patterns to fabric without pencils, pens, or chalks ever touching her quilts.

Mary M. CoveyNo-Marking Method for Machine Quilting

from Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume Five: Authentic Civil War Designs and More by Mary M. Covey

For dark fabric (or any fabric), consider the no-marking method. Trace the quilting design onto tracing paper, pin the paper to a quilt top that’s been layered with batting and backing, and then stitch through the paper along the marked lines. The paper is easily removed when you’re finished stitching.

1. Choose a quilting design.
Choose a quilting design
2. Trace the design onto paper.
Trace the design onto paper
3. Pin the tracing to the quilt top.
Pin the tracing to the quilt top
4. Stitch on the lines; remove the paper.
Stitch and remove the paper

Several companies make papers designed specifically for the no-marking method. I recommend Golden Threads Quilting Paper, which comes on a roll and is available in different widths. If you prefer, the no-marking method can also be done using a water-soluble stabilizer.

Example from Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume 3Mary’s method is simple, straightforward, and safe for your quilts (especially if you have a free-motion quilting phobia). Browse all five volumes of Mary’s best-selling Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs series:

  • Get a variety of coordinating, continuous-line quilting motifs for blocks and borders
  • Use designs with home-sewing machines, long-arm machines, or hand quilting
  • Start using the full-size designs right away—pattern sheets make it easy
  • Learn Mary’s start-to-finish how-tos in the instruction booklet provided

Finally—a resource that gives you exactly what you need to “quilt as desired”!

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Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume 2 Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume 3 Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume 4 Follow the Line Quilting Designs Volume 5
Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs series

What percentage of your quilts do you quilt yourself? Tell us in the comments!

57 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I quilt all my own quilts on my Juki sewing machine & some on my babylock if they are not to big. I use free motion or look at a pattern and copy it.

    —Vivian Bernsen on December 4, 2014
  • I have always quilted everything myself, but I hate quilting the large bed size quilts so I have sent the last four out to be quilted and I was very happy with them and happy not to have to do them myself.

    —Barbara on December 4, 2014
  • I quilt all of them myself – even my very first quilts. I felt like I was cheating using my decorative stitches on my machine! I know many people "quilt by check" but I wanted to be able to do it myself from start to finish. Since that first quilt 6 years ago, I have graduated to a long arm. I plan to quilt for others in my retirement.

    —kraftykc on December 4, 2014
  • Hi everyone, I’m fairly new with quilting, but I do try to machine quilt most of my projects they are not perfect but I figure the more I practice the better I will get. Just finished a 28 X 28 Kim Diehl what not project looks pretty good I think. But I do have two quilts one is 52 X 52 and the other will finish out at 60 X 98 those will be going to my neighbor who owns her own quilt shop she is so good at quilting. I am just a little afraid of tackling something that big on my machine. I would say at least 75% of what I sew I quilt myself.

    —Sue on December 4, 2014
  • 1 %

    —Kay Deford on December 4, 2014
  • I make 100% of my quilts myself. Until recently there was not much quilting on them, but I’m now learning to FMQ and have become much more confident. I have a few quilts that I had put away until I could quilt them properly. It’s almost time to take them out! ps. your books have helped make this possible.

    Andrée on December 4, 2014
  • I quilt all of mine on my home-sewing machine…no longarm available around this area.
    Love doing free motion and would love to have Mary’s books!!!!

    —Linda on December 4, 2014
  • 100%. I’m one of those quilters who doesn’t feel like it is all mine unless I’ve sone all of the work.

    Recently I bought a longer machine so will be able to make some bed sized quilts.

    —YolandaD on December 4, 2014
  • I am trying to lean so I can say I did all of it. Don’t want to pay someone to finish my gift. Right now I’m still on small wall hangings and I love doing it.

    —Tammy on December 4, 2014
  • 100% Which means two original quilting 101 beginner class quilts, one queen size, one quilt wrap and one table top or lap quilt. It also means two twins pinned and hanging patiently over the balastrade rail and about eight tops lying in wait. Quilting patterns are most welcome!

    —Kathleen on December 4, 2014
  • There are three ways to quilt- by hand,by machine and by check. All my quilting is done by check. I’m a topper/piecer, but not actually a quilter

    —Deanna Sue Adams on December 4, 2014
  • One Hundred Percent

    —Elizabeth Perryman on December 4, 2014
  • I hand quilt most of my quilts. But do machine quilt also mainly baby quilts.

    Gretchen on December 4, 2014
  • All of them. I can’t afford to have someone else do it. So I bought a Baby Lock Tiara. Much easier now.

    I have to comment on the "tracing a quilting design on paper". Why not just copy as many copies on your printer/copier as you need. Saves tracing.

    —Linda on December 4, 2014
  • One hundred percent! I love the quilting process, whether it is hand quilting or machine quilting on a domestic machine.

    —Nancy on December 4, 2014
  • Hi I quilt all my own quilts-I did have a machine quilter baste one of my quilts. There is no way with all the piecing,applique quilts I make that I could possibly afford to have any of them quilted for me.

    —maggierose copple on December 4, 2014
  • Probably about a third go out for quilting. When it comes to bed sizes with complex quilting, I have found it cheaper to send a quilt out than to rent time on a long-arm machine. Plus they do a great job, and the quilt does not become yet another UFO.

    —Lynne on December 4, 2014

    —Regina on December 4, 2014
  • Thanks for the quilting tip. I have a very large quilt to quilt and I think this may be the way to tackle quilting it myself. Now I just have to find a design to use.
    I quilt nearly all of my quilts, maybe a couple each year go to my long arm quilter mainly because they are too large.

    Cynthia on December 4, 2014
  • i hand quilt 100% of my quilts.

    —viki on December 4, 2014
  • I quilt about 98% of the quilts I make with my home sewing machine. I only send out the ones that are too large for me to "wrestle" through the quilting process. (That would be quilts larger than 80 inches wide) Hmmm…maybe it’s time to start saving $$$ for a long arm!

    —Joanne L. on December 4, 2014
  • I quilt ALL my quilts. I can’t justify the cost of sending them elsewhere. And I also feel that it won’t be all my own work if someone else does them. I have just my little domestic Janome sewing machine that has sewn so many quilts. My hand quilting is not wonderful but it looks good on the top!!

    —Wilma on December 4, 2014
  • All of them 🙂

    —Cheryl on December 4, 2014
  • Approximately 90% goes out for quilting. I’m very new to the quilting process. Someday, I hope to have a long-arm and do it myself!

    Jan on December 4, 2014
  • 100% are my quilting. I love the continuous line quilting patterns!

    —Nancy W on December 4, 2014
  • i do all my own. From Queen size to cot size. The large ones are a struggle! At least it is all my own work that way. I have a Bernina with a BSR which I love!

    —Cherie Fletcher on December 4, 2014
  • I personally piece, quilt & bind almost all of my quilts. occassionally on a huge quilt I will have it long armed by someone.

    Caroline Rohrer on December 4, 2014
  • I have only had 1 quilt quilted by a professional, and was very disappointed with the work she did, so now I do all my own quilting on my domestic machine.

    ester nelson on December 4, 2014
  • I quilt all of my quilts, as well as any and all quilting items I sew myself. I have a domestic machine and I taught my self how to free motion quilt on my machine. I’m just one of those quilters that I have to design and quilt myself. So I can take pride in the fact that I did it from beginning to end. That’s my satisfaction when I present my quilts and other items as a gift. The largest quilt I have made to date is a queen size. I’m by far no pro, but I’ve been quilting many years, and I’m pleased with my work.

    —Rebecca Chambley on December 5, 2014
  • I HAND quilt all of my quilts.
    It is relaxing for me.


    —Paulette Doerhoff on December 5, 2014

    —PAULA on December 5, 2014
  • I do 100% of my quilting. I don’t FMG, just STD or outline quilt. I did a mystery quilt awhile back that I planned to practice FMQ on. When Christmas projects are done. I will try it. Plan to donate it to Project Linus. I have RA and have a difficult time with binding. My wonderful quilting daughter binds all my quilts–also prints and puts labels on for me.

    —Joanne on December 5, 2014
  • I quilt my own baby quilts, wall hangings and table runners and toppers. Anything larger goes to my favorite longarm quilters. I wish I could quilt my larger ones, and I am going to try it (again) soon on one that is just so-so. Then, I won’t feel too bad if I don’t like it.

    —Sue on December 5, 2014
  • Approximately half of my quilts are finished by me. To be able to complete all of them I tie many of the donated quilts I make. I enjoy both processes and really love making tops and trying new patterns.

    Gale on December 5, 2014
  • I quilt all my quilts myself. It is part of the process and a rewarding feeling. The quilting may not be perfect, but it’s MY work. I am pleased to see so many quilters responding that they do their own quilting.

    —Glenna on December 5, 2014
  • I do 100% of my own quilting on my domestic machine. Quilt #8 top is finished and waiting to be sandwiched and quilted. I told myself when I started quilting as a hobby that if I was going to do it, I was going to learn to do the entire process. It turns out that free motion quilting is my favorite part and I find it very relaxing. I just bought a new machine to get 11 inches of harp space and improve my technique. I’d love to add your book to my library of free motion quilting manuals. Pick me…pick me!!! 🙂

    —Ali on December 5, 2014
  • I quilt mostly by check. However, since I’ve learned my Janome 6600 does beautiful quilting, anything smaller than a queen or King size quilt I’ll be doing myself.

    Percentages wise: about 25%

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on December 5, 2014
  • I machine quilt ALL of my quilts on my DSM. I have always used the ‘no mark’ method, stitching through printed quilting designs. I create my own designs, or adapt others I have found, enlarging or reducing as needed to fit the blocks. Then I make as many copies as needed on my printer. I have used this method on queen and king sized quilts with great success.

    —Kathy R on December 5, 2014
  • I quilt all of my tops. Some by hand, some on my home machine and sometimes I rent time on a long-arm for the really big ones. I like for my quilts to be totally mine. I pick the fabrics too, no kits for me.

    —Irene on December 6, 2014
  • I quilt all of my own quilts. Can’t say they are prize winners, but they aren’t so bad that I have to hide them in the closet either. I do all my quilting on my PQ1500s Brother and I love this machine.

    Donna on December 6, 2014
  • 100%. I am slowly graduating from straight lines and stitch in the ditch to FMQ, but this sounds like a wonderful idea. I might try it small scale with freezer paper to start with.

    —Jessica on December 6, 2014
  • I have only be quilting for about 2 years and have decided from the beginning that I want to do the whole package myself. Must admit I haven’t been trying for hours to get it right but I just jump in and did it. Now I am also doing it for others and everyone is very satisfied.

    —Elna on December 6, 2014
  • I have quilted all my own quilts so far on my Juki (usually free motion on it) or my Janome 8900 (usually with a walking foot on it).

    Carol Kussart on December 7, 2014
  • I hand stitch and hand quilt all of my quilts, even the big ones.
    I just love the process and it’s like a meditation for me.

    —Glenda Tatti on December 11, 2014
  • I probably quilt 2/3s ie baby, lap quilts and tablerunners/toppers. The large quilts go to a longarmer. I would love to be able to quilt all myself but don’t have the talent. Love piecing; especially trying new blocks

    Sharon on March 11, 2015
  • I used to send my quilts out, but since being disappointed with the last two, I have quilted my own. It’s not easy, and it takes me some time to do it, but I am very proud when I complete a quilt all on my own. I’m always looking for quilting design ideas.

    —Roberta Johnson on March 11, 2015
  • I quilt all my own quilts on my home machine. I quilt art quilts to king size quilts. It isn’t easy because of the large size of some quilts but the sense of accomplishment and pride when I finish makes it worthwhile.

    Mona Serpe on March 11, 2015
  • I rent a long-arm at a local quilt shop and am learning to do it myself. Two done and half a dozen to go.

    —Marsha Nelson on March 12, 2015
  • I quilt my own quilts, but have a couple WIPs that I might have pay to have quilted as they will be large quilts.

    —Margaret Morgan on March 12, 2015
  • I quilt all my quilts myself on a Kenmore machine. I have only made 1 Double bed size so far and am looking at quilting 1/2 my newist creation then joining them to make the large quilt I can’t aford to send out. The 1st book I ever bought was Lap Quilting by Georgia Bonsteal.

    —ELIZAJANE on March 12, 2015
  • I quilt all of the small projects and baby quilts I make at home on my Janomi. I take quilts larger than a lap size to my favorite long arm quilter. Just can’t handle those large ones.

    —Sue on March 13, 2015
  • I do all quilts myself with straight line quilting. I am not great at it, but cannot afford to hire them done. I guess it makes my quilt all mine, regardless of how it looks. Took one half-day free motion class, but feel I need to practice more before doing it on one of my small quilts.

    —Nancy on March 15, 2015
  • I quilt a lot,in the dict and shadow. I am going to try quilting a pattern , by hand on a lap quilt. I will be useing the trace paper method. Wish me luck.

    —rosita bynoe on April 11, 2015
  • I’ve made somewhere around 30 quilts, and am now doing about 98% of my quilting myself. Every once in a while I get the urge to have one of my tops longarm quilted, but mostly, I like to do them myself. It is one more opportunity for expressing myself in the fabric.

    —laurie on May 15, 2015
  • ALL! I machine quilt on my domestic machine. (I gave up hand quilting after needing surgery on my worn-out thumbs. But that’s ok with me; machine quilting gets it done so much faster.) I use my Baby Lock Symphony.

    —Karen on November 18, 2015
  • Hard to put a percentage to what I have yet to entirely accomplish, but I really appreciate this article as I am just about to finish a couple of quilts from toppers I made on my Brother quilting machine, and have been rather chicken to free-motion finish them, finally (not wanting to mess them up). So, I am an official newbie at this, but I have been researching techniques in quilting for months now. So, thank you for the detailed information!

    —Audrey on October 10, 2016
  • I have quilted all my own quilts on several Pfaff machines, the 2034 and now the Expression 2.0 which has a 10″ bed. That helps but it is still hard doing a queen or king size quilt. I’m on a fixed income and it is too expensive to hire it done.

    —Nancy on November 3, 2017

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