Having discovered machine quilting I felt there would be no stopping me. Except for one teeny-tiny thing . . . I can’t draw very well. Not only that but I don’t really ‘doodle’. I do sort-of doodle in that I fill in the loops of letters – the round bits of d and p and g and especially o. Sometimes if there are specks or little lines on a page I will join those up with some straight lines. Very occasionally I might attempt to doodle some sort of pattern, but it always seems to consist of straight lines, not the wonderful curves, curls and loops that everyone else seemed to doodle in the margins of their exercise books at school. I can only watch in awe as people doodle wonderful patterns – feathers and curlicues, stars and flowers – with their sewing machines.

Then I found that there were pattern books for machine quilters. These were different from the hand-quilting patterns and stencils I had found previously as they were drawn using continuous lines – very little starting and stopping involved. I could trace patterns off and draw them onto my quilts giving me lines to follow. At first I panicked because I wasn’t exactly on the lines, I found it almost impossible. But gradually I came to realise that it didn’t really matter, providing I was near enough that the pattern was still obvious a few wobbles and meanders didn’t really show.

My first book was Continuous Line Quilting Designs by Pat Cody published in 1984 by the Chilton Book Co. Most of the designs were shown as borders, although there were a few allover patterns at the end of the book. It was a long time before I twigged that the border designs could be manipulated to be allover designs as well. They were drawn on squared paper to make it easier to scale them to the size you wanted. It also helpfully had the lines in the designs drawn as solid, dashed or dotted so that if you had to make several passes to complete a design you knew which line to follow. This is still my ‘go-to’ book for borders and allover patterns.

I then bought Linda Macho’s Quilting Patterns published by Dover in 1984. This has full size designs printed on stiff thick paper (almost card) on one side only, so you can cut them out and use them as templates – not that I ever have. There are a few border patterns but it contains mostly motifs or designs for squares of various sizes – everything from feathers to cables to flowers, hearts and ribbons.

Maggie Malone’s Quilting – Techniques and Patterns for Machine Stitching (published by Sterling in 1985) has a similar set of designs. These are ordered, unlike the Macho book, and sorted into sizes and styles of design such as feathers, block designs, children’s designs, or butterflies. Some of them are quite useful as applique designs too.

At about the same time I bought Decorative Quilting Patterns by Anne Szalavary published in 1989 by Dover. This is also printed on only one side of each page but the pages are thin paper this time. They are mostly simple motifs, more suitable generally for children’s quilts, and turned into quilting designs by showing several lines of echo quilting around them. As a result I have used the designs for applique rather than quilting.

In 1994 Dover published 60 Machine Quilting Patterns by Pat Holly and Sue Nickels. This is such a useful book – full of clear diagrams and designs sorted into motifs for blocks and borders. Each design has a small diagram showing the ideal stitching sequence as well. This is another book I use a lot.

More recently I found myself teaching the basics of machine quilting to beginners. Not only that, but tastes in quilting have changed; when I started the quilting held the three layers together so was often just ‘stitch-in-the-ditch’ with a motif in any blank blocks and a simple design in the border although the quality of the wadding did mean that you had to quilt about every 4-5 inches. Gradually the wadding quality improved and you could get away with quilting every 10 inches. Now however the tendency is for really dense quilting – which to my mind often overpowers the patchwork rather than enhancing it. Faced with these two things – teaching and changes in taste – I bought some new books.

Amanda Murphy’s Free-Motion Quilting Idea Book, published by C&T in 2015, starts by showing some of those filler designs that I find almost impossible such as loops, pebbles, and flames before showing different patchwork units and how they could be quilted using those designs. It’s a ring-bound book so lies nice and flat next to the machine while you follow the instructions.

On the same shopping trip I bought 180 Doodle Quilting Designs complied by Karen M Burns for That Patchwork Place, published by Martingale in 2016. It starts off with a few simple shapes and then as you progress through the book these shapes are joined and combines to make more complicated designs – both for use as borders and as block designs as well as ‘fillers’. It too has helpful arrows and coloured dots to show the start and finish points and the best route to follow.

One of these days I will sit down with these books and use them properly instead of just dragging them off the shelf to take to class with me!

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