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Letters in Quilts

on Jan 31, 2014 in Blog, quilting, SAMQG, tutorial | 5 comments

The San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild is having an “add letters to quilt blocks” hands-on meeting next week. It is a really neat concept because the member is going to lead demonstrations on the various ways to incorporate words/letters in quilting. We even started a pinterest board for it.

I decided to make up a sample that involves only one fabric, through the magic of trapunto.

trapunto quilt block

The uplifting, inspiring word I chose was Fly. The block is a 14″ square, so I had to make letters large to fill the space. I opted to go with “handwriting” rather than finding a great font on the computer.

Here’s how I made it.

Trapunto Lettering

Using my non-permanent Frixtion pen I marked off where the 14″ square block would lie within the fabric square and then drew out my word. I pinned the fabric to one layer of batting – with no backing.

Next, using water soluble thread, I stitched on my lines for the letters only. This is done to hold the batting layer in place.

Trapunto Cutting Lettering

Flip the on layer of fabric over and cut the excess fabric away from the back side of the piece. Work slowly and carefully or else you MIGHT just cut through the front layer of your project. D A N G I T.

trapunto lettering


But that will be ok. I believe the ladies say “That will quilt out.” So I pressed on forward.

trapunto lettering

Here’s what the back looks like after all the excess batting is removed. This additional layer is what gives the letters or shapes their “puff”. For added “puff” you could use wool or thicker batting or even two layers of the thinner stuff you have on hand.

trapunto lettering

Next, working from the front of the project, use REAL thread and sew exactly on the first water soluble stitch line. I then stitched 1/8″ past that line to make a thin “echo” of the letters. I was hopeful that this would make the letters stand out more against the dense free motion quilt fill I had planned.

free motion quilting


Using the free motion quilt foot or hopping foot, I started drawing little circles, called Pebbles, around the letters. Here’s how that fill turned out:

pebble free motion quilting


It is coming together, but the outside edges look awfully wavy. I needed a better plan. I decided to add in some diagonal lines.

free motion quilting

I like it, but it is kinda lackluster. Oh, but before I show you the next step – check out the back. D A N G I T.

quilting mistakes


I’m deciding that I can live with that. Odds are if this piece is used, it would be small enough to be a wall hanging – CODE: No one will ever see this on the back. =)

So back to the lackluster part. I needed a way to jazz up those letters so I opted for Inktense Pencils. I’ve seen this technique at quilt shows, where you make an entire piece with all the quilting and design work and only lay the color in at the end. I’ve never tried it… until now.

inktense lettering


I shaded within the quilted outlines of each of my letters. I then went in with a paint brush and water to wake up the inks a bit.

inktense fabric painting


That seemed to work out. My test piece went well enough. The ink worked amazing. Only a couple bumps in the road and overall, I have letters on a quilt. Hooray for that. I think I might try a more graceful font next time, though.

trapunto quilt block









  1. Jen, thanks for sharing the boo-boos with us as well as the sucesses! It’s nice when we can learn by someone else’s mistakes! I make plenty of my own… 😉

    Helen Thomas

    January 31, 2014

  2. Very pretty. One question: so there is no batting under the rest of the square? If there is, then why cut off the batting in the first place.


    February 21, 2015

  3. There are an extra couple layers of batting under the letter only. There is another complete, un-cut layer under the whole quilt. The extra layers, cut to size, give the letter that puff.

    Jen Eskridge

    February 23, 2015

  4. That is so cool!!! I love it! I’ve never heard of Inktense Pencils. Can you tell me where I can find them at? I love the color & I also like the way you drew the letters out. I don’t think you should choose another font. Thanks for sharing this technique it’s really interesting & I like learning new things. 🙂


    April 26, 2015

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