Making a Celtic Quilt – Fine-Tuning the Design & Preparing the Background

This is the second of a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

One of the first things you need to do is finalize your design choice and fine-tune it, if necessary. If you are using an original design or using a design from a source other than my book, you need to be sure it will be easily adaptable for sewing.

Here are the elements common to historic Celtic knotwork and interlace – rules that I follow when developing my own original Celtic-style patterns as well as when adapting ancient designs.

  • All lines are continuous, having neither beginning nor end.
  • All lines cross each other in an alternating under-over-under pattern.
  • No more than two lines cross at any given point.

When it comes to creating or adapting Celtic-style design for appliqué, I add a few more considerations:

  • The lines creating the designs measure no more than 1/4″ wide.
  • The lines are spaced sufficiently far apart that when covered with 3/8″ wide bias-cut tubes, the design still looks clean.
  • Curves are gentle enough that they can be sewn without having the fabric bunch or buckle.
  • Points are not so sharp or skinny that the fabric becomes too bulky.

If you are using a design such as the True Lover’s Knot from my book Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs, all these considerations have already been met.

How do you get the pattern from the book or sketchbook to the background fabric? Continue Reading…

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Making a Celtic Quilt – Selecting Fabrics

True Lovers' Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams

True Lovers’ Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams

This is the first of a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

We’ll be creating the True Lover’s Knot, one of the beginner-friendly patterns from my book, Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs (pp. 36-29).

Along the way, we’ll explore how to make a 16″  x 16″ machine appliquéd and quilted wall-hanging (start to finish), a quilted pillow, or a quilt block that can be incorporated into a larger quilt.

What will you need?

Understandably, I highly recommend my own book, since it contains complete instructions as well as patterns; but if you have a Celtic design from another source, you may still find my methods helpful.


  • Good quality, colorfast, 100% cotton fabric will be the easiest to work with, particularly since adheres well with various fusibles and adhesives, and holds its shape when pressed.
  • For the knotwork design, I recommend choosing fabrics that have a some visual texture, rather than choosing solid color fabrics. Not only is a subtle print more interesting than a solid fabric, the print will tend to help hide any machine stitching that is supposed to be “invisible”.
  • Quilting-weight cottons are more forgiving when it comes to camouflaging your stitches. Batik cottons are less forgiving, since they are more tightly woven and the stitches don’t sink down into the fabric as easily. The tighter weave also makes it a little more challenging to go around tight curves without creating tiny pleats in the fabric, but I still use batiks if the colors are right.
  • For the background, I recommend something that contrasts significantly with the knotwork fabric. I usually select a either very light fabric or a very dark fabric for this.

Below are some close-ups of a some of the projects from my book. You can see that I don’t shy away from prints – although I do generally look for prints with low internal contrast. Continue Reading…

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Celtic Quilts – True Lover’s Knot

True Lovers' Knot by Beth Ann Williams, (C) 2000

True Lovers’ Knot by Beth Ann Williams, (C) 2000

Starting in with my next post, I’m planning a series of “Sew-Along” and “Quilt-Along” posts for creating the Celtic True Lover’s Knot design from my book, Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs.

This block can be finished as a 16″ x 16″ wall-hanging, made into a decorator pillow, or joined with additional blocks to make a larger quilt.

Continue Reading…

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Infinity Scarves – Sewn with a Serger or a Sewing Machine


Infinity Scarf – looped 3 times

Infinity scarves are one of my favorite sewn gifts to give or to receive – easy to make and easy to wear! The continuous loop means no worrying about the scarf sliding out of position or the scarf ends being blown right off your body in a passing breeze.

There are many Infinity Scarf tutorials online and the majority get the job done just fine, but most of them end with a very wide opening that straddles the intersection where the ends of the scarf are joined. This can be a bit of a pain to hand stitch. I think this method, which I learned from Nancy Zieman, is a little easier and leaves a smaller, easier-to-sew invisibly, opening.

Since I’m working here with Telio Reflection knit fabric, I’m going to use the serger, but it could also be sewn on a regular sewing machine. As we go along, I’ll include photos showing how the stitching would look on a sewing machine. Continue Reading…

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Fun with Fabric Paints

Section of a silk scarf from Dharma Trading Co., painted with Jacquard Dye-na-Flow fabric paints.

Section of a silk scarf from Dharma Trading Co., painted with Jacquard Dye-na-Flow fabric paints by Beth Ann Williams.

Getting started:

It’s important to think about how you expect to use your fabric.  If you intend to create “art cloth” to mat and frame like a painting, or to serve as the main focal point of a quilt or wall hanging, your needs may be quite different than they would be if you intend to create yardage to be used in more supporting or background roles.

In some cases, you may wish to use your paints toward the end of the construction process, rather than at the beginning. Fabric can be painted, stamped, or otherwise embellished after it has been appliquéd onto, or sewn into, a quilt, quilt top, wall hanging, garment, accessory or other fabric project.

My preferred fabric paints are unique in that they do not require the addition of textile medium, and they generally cause little to no change in the hand of the fabric. Continue Reading…

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Quick Tips for Making Color Theory Work for You

Do you ever struggle with something you are creating, just knowing that something is off or missing, but not sure what it is? Both from personal experience and from that as a long-time instructor, I find that quite often this has to do with color and value choices.

Color theory to the rescue! But sometimes color theory on its own isn’t enough help…

Color Theory Infographic from - a great overview!

Color Theory Infographic from – a great overview!

Continue Reading…

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Free-Motion Quilting – the fun stuff!

Free-motion quilting sample

Free-Motion quilting is one of my favorite – and occasionally dreaded – parts of quiltmaking. Favorite, because it allows me to play with color, line and texture; occasionally dreaded, because I sometimes (fortunately not nearly as often I used to) start to over-think everything and become stressed out.

But one of the good things about having 20+ years of experience with machine quilting is that I’ve survived all the most common mistakes (and some relatively uncommon ones, too!) and have learned lots of tricks and helpful techniques for both getting into a more productive headspace and then executing my ideas.
But let’s back up a minute… Continue Reading…

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Machine Quilting FAQ & Top Tips

machine quilting detail

Here’s another post dealing with FAQ – this time specifically related to using a sewing machine for quilting. For the time being, I’m avoiding the topic of which threads I recommend; we’ll save that for another day!

Do you work by hand or by machine?

The short answer is both. I almost always use a sewing machine to piece and/or appliqué my quilt tops, both for speed and for durability.
When adding the quilting, (the stitching that holds the quilt top, batting, and backing layers of a quilt together), I most often use a technique that might be compared to “hand quilting with an electric needle.” I drop the feed dogs, decrease the pressure on the presser foot, and set the stitch length and width to 0. This means that all the sewing machine does is make the needle go up and down. Stitch length and direction are controlled entirely by the way that I physically move the quilt with my hands. I rarely mark my quilting patterns, they are developed “free-hand,” or made up as I go along.

I usually machine sew the binding to the front of the quilt and then wrap it around and hand sew it to the back.

Do you have any tips for quilting by machine?

Sure do! I’ve been teaching machine quilting classes since the 1990s. Of course, I try to always remind people that there is no one way that is best; if something other than what I recommend works better for you, then by all means ignore me! Continue Reading…

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