Adventures in Quilting Using Tracing Paper

On the blog from a couple of weeks ago, I read about a technique for quilting a complicated design onto a quilt top using tracing paper, so I thought I would try it on the Radiant Star quilt that’s on my longarm machine at the moment because the large background squares and triangles just cried out for something special. So I meticulously adjusted the pattern I wanted to use to fit the background areas and traced them onto a separate piece of tracing paper for each section. Here’s a photo of the first triangle section that I stitched. By the way, you’re supposed to just stitch right through the paper.
So I traced one square and one triangle, using an ink pen, stitched them, and went to trace the rest. But I thought perhaps it might be a better idea to use pencil so that ink didn’t bleed through onto the light background squares. I traced the rest of the pieces in pencil. That was a big mistake. I’m not sure how well one can see in these next two photographs, but the pencil lead transferred to the light thread I had so carefully picked out to match the background (it is variegated thread) and gave the thread a grayish tint.
The first photo is traced with ink and the second is traced with pencil.
002 010
Sadly, I didn’t notice this problem until I only had the last triangle to stitch, and I’m not going to spend the time it would take to tear out all that stitching to redo it, plus the star medallion in the middle is all finished, so that would mean I would have to reload the quilt. What a pain! So I guess I’m just going to have to live with grayish looking thread on most of the background area. It’s a good thing that my quilts will never be in a judged quilt show.

The other thing I learned using this technique is to make sure any of the tracing paper that is used only overlaps the minimum amount absolutely necessary because otherwise it’s a lot more work to tear off two layers in that doubled section. When tearing off the paper, I learned to just rip the part that was outside the stitching area off as aggressively as you can, then start at a spot where there is a loose edge, lifting gently with a fingernail all along the loose edge, then pick up that edge and tear towards and along the stitching. Continue this way till it’s done. It’s a lot faster in the long run and leaves fewer little bits that need to be picked out with tweezers. It took me three times as long to pull off the paper than it did to do the lining up and stitching. I don’t know if I’ll try this technique again because it seems easier for most things to just use the laser light I have on the back of my long-arm to follow along the pattern from the back of the machine. But for those of you using a domestic machine for quilting, this technique might be worth a try.


6 thoughts on “Adventures in Quilting Using Tracing Paper

  1. stitchinggrandma April 5, 2015 / 6:50 pm

    Ohhh my fault. You could make your design and copy it using your printer making multiple copies. ..I have used freezer paper and outlined. Bummer about the pencil. ….

    • oneblockwonderwoman April 6, 2015 / 3:53 pm

      The design was too large to do on the printer. I had to tape two pieces of paper together. The squares I was quilting in are 17 1/2 inches. Same with the triangles, since they were the same squares cut diagonally. Maybe it would be worth a try that way when doing a smaller block, though. It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have known. It doesn’t look too bad now that it’s off the machine. Just hoping the pencil doesn’t rub off onto any of the lighter fabric on the top.

      • stitchinggrandma April 7, 2015 / 5:30 am

        Oh my that pencil is a scary thought. I guess a good washing when it is finished is what is in order!

      • oneblockwonderwoman April 9, 2015 / 12:58 pm

        I’m kind of afraid to wash it. Wouldn’t the pencil run onto the light fabric? I laid it out on the bed yesterday to measure for binding, and it really does look fabulous. I took a piece of Kleenex and wiped at the quilting I was concerned about, and nothing came off…just don’t know what to do if anything. Maybe leave well enough alone.

  2. stitchinggrandma April 14, 2015 / 12:27 pm

    I talked to my technical expert yesterday at quilt guild. She said “Trace with a pencil is fine on the “master”; then take your stack of papers to the sewing machine; remove the thread; and needle punch them!!! GENIUS…..
    Thought I would share.

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