Personalizing Your Quilts with Decorative Lettering Function

Supplies and Tools:

  • Basic sewing machine with decorative lettering function – theBrother Innov-ís BQ3100 from the Quilt Club Series was used in this tutorial.
  • Scrap fabric
  • Prepared quilt back or top – for this particular tutorial, I will be using smaller section of what will become part of a scrappy quilt back
  • Fabric scissors
  • Fusible interfacing – for this project I used one-sided, non-woven and lightweight fusible interfacing. This is going to provide additional stability to the fabric and prevent the fabric from puckering or manipulating as the letters are sewn.
  • Iron and ironing board or wool pressing mat
  • Coordinating thread, 50wt cotton – for decorative lettering
  • Quilting ruler
  • Machine-washable fabric pen / pencil or hera marker
  • Seam ripper

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As a quilter, I don’t often go beyond the straight-line stitch function. The opportunity to use the decorative lettering function presented itself when I recently created a squishy swatch card quilt with over 100 solid colors. I needed to create a color key for quick and easy reference on while I designed at my desk. Whilst creating the color key, it got me thinking all the possibilities and opportunities to use the decorative lettering function on the sewing machine.

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Writing something on your quilt project is like an artist signing their piece of artwork. Messages or writing on a quilt project help capture a moment in time, and preserve its heritage. There are no rules in how you could make your mark, and there are many ways in which you could do this. For example, printing your messaging on fabric or twill tape, create custom woven labels, and many more.

The following tutorial provides tips and inspiration on how to label or write a message on your quilt project using the decorative lettering function on your sewing machine.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few ideas of what to write on the quilt:

  • Name of the recipient(s)
  • Name of the quilt maker(s)
  • Name of the quilt project
  • When the quilt was made (completion and/or start date), i.e., date, year
  • Where the quilt was made
  • Message, quote or poem, i.e., “Happy Anniversary”, “Welcome home”, “To have and to hold when you get cold”
  • Care instructions
  1. Step 1: Test First
  2. Before letters are sewn on the final surface, test it out on a piece of scrap fabric with fusible interfacing applied. Use this as an opportunity to test out fonts, lettering size and spacing, how much fabric is required to fit all the lettering, and get yourself comfortable with the decorative lettering function on the sewing machine. It is okay if you need to practice on more than one piece of fabric, or the same lettering more than once.

    Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind while sewing:

    • Check twice before you sew. One of the awesome features of the Brother Innov-ís BQ3100 machine is the LCD touchscreen display. It allows you to preview your lettering before you start sewing. Be sure to check the spelling of the text before sewing or you may find yourself with a seam ripper in your hand.
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    • strong>Mark sewing guidelines with a ruler and fabric marker / pencil or hera marker to assist with keeping lettering straight.
    • Do not stretch or pull the fabric as it runs through the sewing machine. Manipulating the fabric can cause puckering and the final project may not end up sitting flat, even with fusible interfacing applied.
    • Lettering is all about hand and foot coordination. Guiding the fabric too fast through the machine causes the letters to stretch, and guiding the fabric too slow causes the letters to bunch up. Take your time to find the sweet spot.

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  3. Step 2: Plan Ahead
  4. Once you are happy with the test, use a quilting ruler to measure the width and height of the final lettering. This is going to help determine how much fabric required and / or placement and the space the lettering will cover on your final surface.

    Take extra care when planning where the lettering goes on the quilt. Allow plenty of room from the edge of the quilt project, especially if the lettering is going on the back of the quilt. This is because the lettering may get lost or removed when the quilt is squared up and/or the binding is attached. To ensure this doesn’t happen, sew lettering at least 9 inches away from the quilt back edges, and at least 2½ inches away from the quilt top edges.

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    Alternatively, if you want your lettering to stand out from the other fabrics used on the quilt, apply fusible interfacing on the fabric of choice. Sew the lettering and trim to size, allowing ¼ to ½ inch overhang on each side to fold and hide the raw edges. Then edge sew the fabric with lettering on the quilt top (at least 2½ inches from the edges) or quilt back (at least 9 inches away from the edges).

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  5. Step 3: Baste, Quilt and Bind
  6. Once all the lettering is complete, baste, quilt and bind using your preferred method.

    If basting a project with lettering on the quilt back, make sure the lettering is underneath the quilt top and the lettering is sitting at least 4 inches away from the quilt top edge. This additional space leaves room for error if the quilt top and/or back shifts throughout while quilting.

    Hope this tutorial inspires you to make your mark on your quilt projects and use the decorative lettering function on your sewing machine.

About the Author:

Wendy Chow is an Aussie modern quilter and designer based in New York City. The founder of The Weekend Quilter and author of Urban Quilting, she aims to bring a timeless and fresh perspective to one of the oldest forms of needlework with her bold and distinct modern quilt designs.

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