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Sketch to Quilt

Quilt designer Yvonne Porcella shares her technique for sketching an applique design.

Materials and Tools:

drawing paper 8-1/2" x 11"
tracing paper 25 or 50 sheet pack 11" x 14"
white paper or 1" grid paper on a roll 34" x 45"
pencil and eraser, drawing ruler
medium nib Sharpie Pen, black and green
paper and fabric scissors
Artograph projector to enlarge drawing
optional: light box or lightracer to trace final drawing
Scotch tape to tape tracing paper together for pattern pieces
masking tape if needed to tape large white paper on the roll together,
also use to clean small threads from fabric cartoon under
light-colored applique shapes
straight pins, color-coordinated sewing threads
- one piece of lightweight white or cream colored 100-percent cotton, size to be determined by size of the quilt
- assorted fat quarters of fabric to fit the design - 40 fabrics were used in the sample quilt

"Lily Loves Her Callas" quilt fabrics

Figure A

3 background different purple prints 18" x 22" each
1 turquoise polka dot print 1/8 yd.
1 blue with lime dots background 12" x 12"
6 different leaf green prints, one 1/3 yd, 5 green 18" x 22"
1 white/beige for calla flowers 1/2 yd.
2 yellow/green print background, one 16" x 12", one 6" x 13"
2 pink prints face each 18" x 22"
2 dark reds lips, one 5" x 8", one 10" x 4"
2 yellows prints hair, one 4" x 7" one 7" x 6"
3 orange prints ears each 9" x 5"
1 red with green polka dots 5" x 10"
2 geometric prints eyebrows, one 9: x 7", one 8" x 4"
2 purple eye shadow, one 7" x 5", one 6" x 8"
1 lime with pink dots right eye 5" x 7"
3 circles for eye center, 1 light blue, 2 dark green
1 lime print rectangle for right eye 2" x 3"
2 blue with red stripe earrings 20" x 5"
2 orange hearts 5" x 5" each
1 lime heart 4" x 4"
1 red heart 3" x 3"
2 yellow hearts each 4" x 4"

Calla stamens: cheddar fabric or use three shades of fabric marking pens in yellow in cheddar colors to draw in stamens.


1. Begin with drawing paper and tracing paper, pencil and eraser. Rule off a square or rectangle on the drawing paper to define the area for the design. When doing the drawing, think of dividing the area inside the square or rectangle into areas that will be used for your central design theme and then make other lines to define background color areas. All lines should connect to make a complete shape. The lines will make the pattern piece and become stitching lines.

If the first drawing fails, layer tracing paper over the drawing, transfer the elements you like to the tracing paper. Use a window pane or a light box to transfer elements of the drawing onto another piece of drawing paper. Complete your drawing in this way until you get the design you want.

Making the full-sized cartoon
1. The cartoon will be the same size as the finished quilt. Lily Loves Her Callas measures 33" x 40". Enlarge the drawing at a copy center; or use one-inch grid paper; or use a projector to enlarge the drawing.

2. To use a projector to enlarge the drawing to the same size as the finished quilt, reduce the drawing to less than six inches square so it fits the copy area of the projector. Put the drawing on the copy area of the projector. Pin or tape a large piece of white paper the same size as the finished quilt onto the wall. Be sure the paper is thick enough so that the pen marks will not transfer to the wall

(Tip: Have the room dark for the best projected image). Move the projector and the focus knob until the image is clear and the size you want. Use a medium nib black Sharpie pen to transfer the drawing lines onto the paper. Be sure all the lines meet. You can change some of the lines as the enlarged drawing is what will be used to make the pattern pieces.

3. When the cartoon is finished, remove it from the wall, lay it flat and use a pencil to number the pattern pieces and label with possible colors.

4. Layer the white fabric over the paper cartoon. Use a pencil to transfer the Sharpie outline drawing lines on the paper cartoon to the fabric. Don't make the lines too heavy or they might show through a light colored fabric. Put the fabric cartoon aside. Use the tracing paper to trace pattern pieces from the paper cartoon. Tape tracing paper together to have a piece large enough for the shapes. Use a black Sharpie pen to trace the pattern piece. On the tracing paper, copy the number of the pattern piece and any other information that will help identify the shape. Cut out the pattern pieces.

5. Use the tracing paper pattern to cut out the fabrics. Add seam allowance to each pattern piece while you are cutting out the shape. Use 1/2-inch seam allowance. This can be trimmed during the appliqué process.

6. Pin or tape the paper cartoon on the wall to use as a reference. Put the fabric cartoon on the table and select an area to begin coloring in the cartoon with fabric. Lay the first fabric down over the drawn shape, continue with the next shape then pin under the seam allowance on one edge. Hand- or machine-stitch.

7. Directions of the seam allowance will depend on if you begin at the top, bottom or center of the cartoon. You may have to be flexible when joining many shapes and directing more than one seam allowance. Continue in this manner, adding another shape, match it up with the drawing on the cartoon underneath, pin along the joining seam, and stitch until the whole fabric cartoon is covered.

8. Occasionally you may not want to cut out a tracing paper pattern piece such as for the head. Use the green Sharpie pen to retrace a particular pattern piece such as the lips onto another piece of tracing paper. This way you will know what was the original pattern piece, drawn in black and the secondary pattern drawn in green.

Option: trim the fabric cartoon from the back side if desired. Some of the stitches will go through the fabric cartoon. You may leave the fabric cartoon behind the quilt top and use a thinner batting.

Layer the quilt top over batting and backing. Quilt as desired. Trim and bind the raw edges.

Quilt designer Yvonne Porcella shares her technique for sketching an applique design using her "Lily Loves Her Callas" quilt.

Guest note - There isn't a pattern available for the "Lily Loves Her Callas" sample quilt.

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