All the products we feature on Gathered have been chosen independently by our editorial team. We may receive a small commission if you click through and buy products that you see on this page. Learn more.

How to use quilting stencils + machine quilting tips

Expand your quilting horizons! Quilt pro Karlee Porter shows you how to use stencils to create awesome effects with your machine quilting.

How to use quilting stencils

We’ve made this video tutorial to show you how to use quilting stencils to quilt different patterns on your quilt tops. Plus Karlee Porter shares her top tips for machine quilting.

Karlee has been working as a full-time professional in the quilting industry since 2015. With a best-selling book, Graffiti Quilting: A Simple Guide to Complex Designs under her belt, Karlee teaches the technique all over the world, both digitally and in person. Over 1,000 of her digital quilting designs can be found on her website (, ranging from the graffiti style that she’s become known for, to unique, quote-based patterns.

How to use your stencils

The main way to use a quilting stencil is fairly easy. You’ll need something to mark the fabric with as well. Simply place the stencil on your fabric in the position you would like the quilting design and then you can either use a chalk pencil, Frixion pen or even a pounce pad and trace over the lines.

Machine quilting tips

Use the lines as a guide while you sew, for perfect machine-quilted patterns on each and every quilt!

We made this quick video guide to using quilting stencils when we released our very first collaboration with Karlee back in issue 64 when we featured a set of her quilting stencils as our gift with the magazine. So if you’re new to using quilting stencils, take a look…

Where to buy quilting stencils

Top tips for machine quilting

1 Get to know your machine

Take it out to dinner first, so to speak. Make an effort to understand tension settings, needle sizes and thread weights. I truly believe that every quilting machine model can make extremely beautiful works of art, but they are only as good as their handler! When you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.

2 Enjoy the practice time

When people ask me how I get such perfect pebbles, I tell them that I have literally quilted over ten yards of just pebbles! Anything you want to get proficient at is going to take time.

A lot of times, people only see my finished works and fail to remember that over thousands of hours of practice went into a piece that I can now achieve in a little under an evening.

3 Make quilts for you!

I say this every time I have an audience: “Unless someone is paying you money to quilt for them, don’t take their advice on your quilts.” Make quilts that make you happy.

4 Keep cheap fabric on hand for practice sessions

In the beginning of my quilting journey there was nothing more intimidating to me than spending a ton of time piecing a quilt top, only to never actually quilt it out of fear that I would completely ruin it.

Buy the cheapest solid fabric you can find, cut it into fat quarters and make some quilt sandwiches to keep on hand. When you feel inspired to try out a new quilting technique, whether it’s a free motion motif, stencil or marking method, use one of those spare quilt sandwiches to try it out. It’ll save you a lot of heartache and unpicking time.