Outline Quilting - Circle on the Left is Quilted Around the Perimeter and Circle on the Right is Not

Outline Quilting

All over quilting motifs can be the perfect way to finish a quilt, but when I do not select an all over motif, I outline quilt or foundation quilt around each quilting shape to help stabilize and define the quilt. The difference in how a quilt looks before and after the outline quilting can be quite dramatic, and I captured a few images of the Bubbly quilt to help showcase why I choose to outline quilt shapes in this manner.

Outline Quilting - Circle on the Left is Quilted Around the Perimeter and Circle on the Right is Not

Outline Quilting – Circle on the Left is Quilted Around the Perimeter and Circle on the Right is Not

In the photo above, the left hand circle has been quilted around the perimeter, but the circle on the right has not yet been outline quilted. I find the difference in definition in the shape to be very dramatic!

Outline Quilting - Both Circled Outline Quilted

Outline Quilting – Both Circled Outline Quilted

In the photo above, after both circles are outline quilted there is a clearer definition around the edge of the right hand circle. Below are a few more before and after photographs for side by side comparison (in all cases, the lightest colored circles are not outline quilted in the before photographs).

Outline Quilting - Before and After Comparisons

Outline Quilting – Before and After Comparisons

In general, I would typically strive to do the outline quilting first and then fill in the detail quilting after the fact. That isn’t always practical, though, so as long as it happens at all, I am always happier with the final quilted result.

Do you outline quilt when you do detail quilting work?

15 thoughts on “Outline Quilting

  1. Cindy Pieters says:

    I always stitch in the ditch, I prefer the definition it gives.

  2. I’m pretty new at quilting my own quilts, so this has been helpful. I tend to want to skip the outlining (it’s boring to me), but your examples showing the difference help me see why outlining is important. Thank you.

  3. Joanne H says:

    I typically do outline stitch because I like the way it looks. I’ve never really thought about WHY I do it, but your before and after pictures provide a clearer explanation. I love the before and after pictures and think that I’m going to start taking pictures like that. 🙂

  4. springleafstudios says:

    Very interesting and worthy of further consideration. Especially with solids and quilts where shape is a central feature of the design. Since the quilting isn’t something I enjoy, I tend to send them out for all over quilting. It’s the only way my quilts would actually get finished. A lot of my work uses a mix of big prints where the individual shapes play less of a role. I will need to keep this in mind for future quilts and how it might enhance the concept. Thanks for the examples.

  5. Liz says:

    To be honest … I don’t, unless the quilt path lends itself to it naturally. I agree it makes it look better, but to me it’s still not worth the effort since I just make these quilts for myself and not for show. If I was ever entering into a show … then definitely I will do it.

  6. Rochelle Summers says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful way you presented this especially with the before and after photos. I also use the outline stitch as a stabilizing element and sometimes even leave the centers unquilted if I want to have a puffier appearance and if the area isn’t too large. I do like bubbly and look forward to trying my hand at it someday soon.

  7. Hello Yvonne, I found this to be a great lesson in quilting! Sadly, I will admit that I do not put much thought into my quilting because straight line quilting with my walking foot is my first choice. Thank you for sharing your photos and thoughts, Yvonne! Have a great day!

  8. Thanks for the visual before and after examples! So useful!

  9. Yes I SID and outline. As you’ve shown it SURE makes a difference! Did you know Judi Madsen SID her entire quilt on the longarm rolling back and forth before doing her marvelous quilting? Speaking of marvellous, this IS!! LOVE!!!! Thanks for the photos which dramatically show why!

  10. I *want to* quilt the outline but I don’t do that always. If the block is too big and it cannot fit into my quilting area, I may need to roll back and forth many times to quilt an outline. I can get lazy and skip the outlining in such cases. I agree outlining makes a big difference – enhances the quilting around it.

  11. Suzanne says:

    It’s remarkable what a difference a single line of stitching can make!
    Generally, I don’t outline around shapes unless It’s an integral part of the design or if my design plan is simple stitch-in-the-ditch. I like to work outward toward the edges of the quilt to have a little “fudging” room. Hopefully, I’ll get better at my FMQ and eventually I won’t have to worry about this anymore. Well, maybe ; -)

  12. I usually do outline shapes as I’m going, outlining and then quilting either inside or outside the shape at the same time.

  13. That’s a great demonstration of the definition. I like outlining shapes, and will do it more now that I see the impact in such a dramatic way.

  14. Jasmine @ Quilt Kisses says:

    Outlining does make things so much more crisp. I have gone back after other quilting before to make it look better. It made a huge difference on a quilt I made with double batting.

  15. helen says:

    the outlining quilting does make such a difference when you look at your photos. It is all the sewing in of the ends that puts me off anything other than quilting from one end to the other

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)