Simple Quilting with Decorative Stitches

peach and green placemat with decorative stitch quilting.

If you only quilt, you probably have a bunch of fancy stitches on your sewing machine that you never use. Why not use them in quilting? It’s fun to do and looks great.

Things to consider

1. Will this detract from the piecing?

Decorative stitches attract attention, so they work best with simple piecing designs. If you have an intricately pieced top, decorative stitches might not be a good choice.

2. How heavy can the stitching be?

Some decorative stitches are quite dense. These can be used as long as you don’t have a high loft batting.

3. What type of thread do I want?

Since the stitching will already stand out, this is a fun time to use contrasting thread. Play with different thread weights and even variegated colours.

4. How much time will it take?

Some stitches take a long time to stitch up. Do a sample before you commit.

Design options

You can use decorative stitches with any straight line design. Options are unlimited, but these will get you started.

One direction

This classic quilting design is made more playful with decorative stitches.

diagram of quilt with lines in one direction.

You can see it in the quilt Scrappy Strips.

Two directions

Sometimes having decorative lines cross each other is too much, but it depends on your stitch and thread choices.

diagram of quilt with lines centred in the blocks and sashing.

Helpful tips

  • Do a stitch sample first. Sometimes they look different from the diagram.
  • If you use specialty thread, you might have to adjust the tension. Use a regular thread in the bobbin.
  • Even if you don’t have any decorative stitches on your machine, you can still use any utitlity stitches – even zig zag. You don’t need a high end machine with 100 options.


This sample is a small placemat, but the procedure would be the same for a quilt of any size.

Make your own quilting practice placemats with this Simple Placemat tutorial.

Design Option – Straight vertical lines with different stitches

This design is a way to play with many different stitches and see what they look like.


Mark the stitching line with a ruler and hera marker. The lines are in the middle of the squares.

simple placemat with quilting lines marked.


Stitch along the marked line, centring the line with the sewing machine foot.

close up of stitching on a sewing machine.

Stitch the lines on one side of the quilt.

quilt with decorative quilting lines on one side.

Rotate and add the lines on the other side.

quilt sample with decorative stitched straight lines.

Add the lines in the other direction.

placemat with decorative stitch lines in two directions.

This stitching is pretty busy (especially with variegated thread). I don’t know if I would choose this on a large quilt. That’s why it’s good to do samples.

close up of decorative stitching on quilt top.

Once the quilting is done, just trim and add binding to finish it off.

simple placemat quilted with decorative stitches.

Be sure to share a picture #simplequilting to inspire others.

Want more Simple Quilting?

Get the Simple Quilting ebook.

Finish your quilts quickly and easily on your domestic machine with ten simple quilting designs and hundreds of variations.

simple quilting book cover


fall nine patch sampler quilt.
blue and white scrappy strips baby quilt with title.

Elizabeth DeCroos - Epida Studio.

Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos is the designer and teacher at Epida Studio. She loves to work in quilting, pojagi and embroidery and teach these techniques to others.
Learn more and get her to speak to your group.

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