Machine Lettering


Today I will show you two more special Christmas presents I made, and also talk about writing on cloth. I made these two pillows for my brother and my sister. My dad died in 2011, and he loved Pendleton shirts, silk ties, and the Word of God, not necessarily in that order. So I had been thinking about some project including his shirts and ties for a while. When I took Pepper Cory‘s class on the folded log cabin, I knew I’d found the right technique. (The folded log cabin is stitched completely by hand. Its a nifty technique, and I recommend taking Pepper’s class if you ever have the opportunity. She taught it expertly in just three hours!)

I first saw words used as a “quilting motif” in a lecture by John Flynn. I was fascinated! I think I’ve always liked putting words in my needlework (I used to do a lot of counted cross stitch.) So looking back, I can see that putting words on my quilts was a natural evolution.

Writing is one of the things that is easiest to do when you first start free motion machine quilting. Think about it–its one of the things you are the most familiar with drawing–you’ve been doing it your whole life!

I usually start by printing out the verse on a piece of paper. I measure the area where I plan to place the words on the quilt, and divide to see how many lines I can put in that area. Then I count the words and see how many letters I need to put on each line. This is all approximate, because sometimes my writing comes out differently than I had planned. Then you can do just like they do in books–crowd the writing to make it all fit in.

Here you can see how I backstitch at the beginning and end of each word. Then I just lift the presser foot and move to the place where I want to start the next word. After I am done with a line, I take those little snips and cut the threads right next to the stitching.


Just a closer look:


Another view, where I started and stopped more frequently, so there are more dangling threads. I always start by bringing the bobbin thread up to the top. In this view, you can see the chalk like that I drew to keep the writing straight. I do this especially when the writing is larger.


And this is a picture of my favorite little chalk tool. It is a Clover device, and you can see the tiny little gear at the top that lets the chalk out in a very fine line. It draws on cloth so much easier and more accurately than a pencil. And it also erases easily when you are done with it. Sometimes I use the disappearing blue pen, but only when I plan to wash the quilt before I use/sell it.


(do you see how the writing is a little wavy in the picture above? That is because I forgot to lower the feed dogs, so there was more tension than usual as I stitched!)

And the finished writing with all the threads clipped.


I made the pillows using a very simple overlapping technique. For these 16 inch pillows, each back flap was 12 inches X 16 inches, so there was about 8 inches of overlap. Its a lazy way of making a pillow–no fasteners needed.


You might wonder about the verses I chose. I asked my brother and sister separately if they remembered what Dad’s favorite verse was. (Dad LOVED scripture. I knew he had a lot of favorites.) So each of these were verses that Dad loved, but that had special significance for my brother and sister as well. I loved the entire process of making these pillows.

6 thoughts on “Machine Lettering

  1. Oh I love all the sentiment that went into these gifts! What lovely, lovely pillows – I’m sure your brother and sister were very touched by them. You are such a sweetheart.

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