Embellishing Quilts

I had a great day sewing yesterday. I finished a quilt top and got a good start on the pieced back but the quilt is for an upcoming issue so I can’t show you what I’m doing. It will be worth the wait though, I promise. I am really loving it so far.

Since I can’t show you my current project, I thought I’d talk about embellishing. Sometimes I like to make simple blocks (like nine patch, four patch, and log cabin), thinking they’ll show off the fabric nicely. And sometimes it works but sometimes the resulting quilt top is just plain blah. Rather than leave it at that uninteresting place and forever being unhappy with what I’ve created, I decide how I can add something to make it better. I want to show you what I do to get past boring.

One of my favorite techniques is to add applique. If at First is a perfect example. I told the whole story in the October/November 2013 issue of Quilters Newsletter. You can still get the digital edition here. In a nutshell, the problem was that there was not enough contrast in the fabric in the blocks so it was just “flat.” Associate editor Gigi Khalsa drew the rose and I appliqued it and the boring quilt was rescued. In fact, it’s more than rescued. It’s one of my favorites.

FIASCO Embellishing Quilts

If at First

Another easy fix is to add lace, ribbon or yarn. When I added the ribbon to Celebrating Mom, I added it after I’d finished the quilting so the stitching goes through all the layers. I decided to do that so if I ever need to wash the quilt, I can easily remove the ribbons before I launder and reattach them afterward.

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Celebrating Mom

Buttons are another easy way to add some pizzazz. I like the look of an assortment of buttons. And if you attach them after the quilt layers are assembled, since the stitching goes through all three layers of the quilt, the buttons can take the place of quilting.

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Buttons on the serger quilt

Stars Got in My Eyes is a fun example of something unexpected. I wanted this little wall quilt to have stars everywhere. All the blocks are stars, either pieced or appliqued. When I was telling my son Zac about my idea, he offered to cut stars from sheet metal. We got sheets of brass and copper, he cut the stars in assorted sizes and we glued them to the quilt. It’s another of my favorite quilts because of Zac’s part in making it.

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Stars Got in My Eyes

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Stars Got in My Eyes – detail

Crystals or pearls are available as glue-on embellishments and I’ve had great success with them. They are advertised as washable, dryable and dry-cleanable and I believe it. I’ve put them on clothes that get laundered regularly and they stay on nicely. Here’s one of my quilts with crystals.  Bejeweled was made to show off the embroidery designs so the blocks are just squares of white silk dupioni and the sashing is peach silk dupioni. The crystals give it just the right touch of extra bling.

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One other idea I want to share is prairie points. Most of the time we think of them as a finish for the edge of the quilt but they can go anywhere. Here they are in the center of a quilt. I used a 12” or so square of a pretty floral print as the center and added fancy prairie points around it. You’ll want to decide on this add-on embellishment while your quilt is in the design wall stage so you don’t have to unsew to add the prairie points.

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Prairie Points

If you want to see the entire quilts, you can see most of them on the walls of my apartment in this blog post I wrote right after we moved.

Remember to consider whether the embellishments are colorfast or will damage the quilt. Consider what effect they will have on whether the quilt is washable or not. And think about whether the embellishments will diminish the usefulness of the quilt. For example, the metal stars Zac and I added to Stars Got in My Eyes would never work for anything but a wall quilt because the edges of the stars are very sharp. In fact, I’m cautious when I take it anywhere; I don’t want to damage my quilt and I don’t want anyone handling it to get poked by the star points.

Now until next week, don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and our website for the latest information and for inspiration for your next project.

About Lori Baker

Lori is the creative editor at Quilters Newsletter.
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4 Responses to Embellishing Quilts

  1. Kathryn Fudge says:


  2. Linda Boudreaux says:

    I loved seeing the different ways to embellish or make a quilt look even better. They are great ideas and I loved them all. But I think I like the prairie points best.

    I finished a quilt this winter and stitched on a wide ric-rac to outline the nine center squares of the quilt because I had used a slightly different fabric in those. Then I embroidered a simple row of cross stitching in a contrasting color around the back of the quilt about one inch in from the edge.

  3. Lori Baker says:

    Linda, I like your ideas. I have not done anything yet with the wide rickrack but I’ve seen it and it’s a fun look.

  4. Elijah Baker says:

    That’s pretty informative, Mom… Perhaps you could throw down some hints on hard-to-find pockets? <3

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