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How to Use Stencils for Quilting

When the average person thinks of stencils, the word probably brings to mind early American style-painted floor cloths, or stenciled walls. Stencils enjoyed a great resurgence in style in the 1980's as everyone went mad for the country look. However, when a quilter thinks of stencils, a very different use comes to mind. The crafter unfamiliar with the use of stencils in quilting may be quite perplexed as to how they are used. After all, when you look at a quilt, there's no evidence that anything to do with stenciling in the traditional sense has occurred! However, stencils are actually very useful in the art of quilting and advances in technology are quickly making them a must-have tool. Quilting stencils are very similar to stencils for paint, and often look about the same.

They are most often made from a sturdy plastic, with holes punched in it for the design. However, while painting stencils are used to create decorative elements, quilting stencils are used to lay down a pattern to follow when stitching. The use of quilting stencils allows quilters to reproduce elaborate patterns on their quilt tops. With quilting stencils, you have an easy way to transfer and then follow a stitching design. You don't need to worry if you feel you can't draw.

With quilting stencils, the drawing has all been done and all you have to do is follow someone else's design. Many companies offer quilting stencils and the supplies you'll need to go with them. You'll find designs ranging from traditional florals and fans to very contemporary styles. Take a look around some of the quilting sites on the internet or visit your local quilting store to get an idea of how many stencils await you. Quilting stencils are easy to use. To transfer the design you can use chalk or stitching or water-soluble pens. (It is very important that you test the water soluble pen with your fabric before using it with a stencil-you don't want it to ruin your beautiful pieced quilt top!) All you have to do is lay the quilting stencil atop your fabric and trace the pattern. Voila! You now have a stitching pattern to follow without a lot of muss and fuss. After all, most quilters prefer to spend their time designing, piecing a quilt top, or doing the actual quilting, not messing around with pattern transfers. A simple rule of thumb is to choose a design about a half an inch to an inch smaller than your block, so that the resulting pattern doesn't look crowded.

You can also take one of the smaller stencils and repeat the design by laying it down in a pattern on your fabric. Quilting stencils are one of the most useful advances in notions for the home crafter. The average quilter of yesteryear would be amazed to view all the notions and supplies that are now available for the home crafter. Why not take advantage of these advances yourself? Quilting stencils are a great time-saver.


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