How to Make Quilting Stencils

Quilting stencils have been used for centuries to create consistent patterns for hand quilting. They can also be used to transfer traditional patterns onto quilts that can then be machine quilted as well. Making your own quilting stencils is a good way to transfer your own patterns or duplicate traditional quilting patterns onto your own pieced quilts.

Things You'll Need

  • Thick posterboard
  • Pencil
  • Utility knife (X-Acto)
  • Cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil and paper
  • Compass

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How to Make Quilting Stencils

Sketch out the designs you want to make. Decide how large you want them. Choose the motifs you want to use. These motifs can include circles, hearts, wavy lines, leaf shapes, pineapples or other simple shapes that appeal to you.

Draw designs that will be repeatable throughout a quilt. Decide whether your created design is best for the border of a quilt, for placement within repeating squares or as an overall motif that travels throughout the body of the quilt, regardless of the composition and size of the blocks you piece together.

Lay your poster board on a table. Use your ruler to mark where you want your motifs placed. Lightly draw in your motifs, using a ruler and a compass to create consistency. Using your ruler will make sure the spacing of different motifs within your design is even.

Carefully sketch in your cutting lines. All cutting lines should measure 1/8-inch wide. Your lines, when cut, will form the shape of the motif. When you draw the lines of full shapes, such as circles and hearts, make sure your lines are not completely connected. You must leave at least 1 inch of space somewhere on the outline of each motif to ensure you don't cut out a circle, triangle or rectangle when you are cutting out your design.

Place your poster board with your marked cutting lines onto your cutting mat. Use a sharp utility knife to begin cutting the lines that form your stencil. Cut your larger outlines first. Mark an incision that outlines approximately 2 to 3 inches of your outline. Cut it out completely, then move on to the next 2 to 3 inches. Once you're done with the larger outlines, cut out your smaller outlines. Cut around the stencil so that there are 2 to 3 inches of space around the motif you have created.

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