Simple Quilting with Outlines

pink and green placemat with title "Simple Quilting with Outlines".

Simple quilting with outlines means following long lines across a quilt top or outlining large shapes.

This type of quilting design works best with patterns like fence rail or log cabin that have large all-over patterns.

Things to consider

1. What will be outlined?

Sometimes people want to outline each individual shape. This is a nice quilting option, but it is better suited to free motion quilting or ruler quilting.

2. How big is the quilt?

The larger the quilt, the more difficult it will be to manoeuvre in the sewing machine. Think about your space before trying this on a large quilt.

Check out Getting Started with Simple Quilting for tips on preparing your quilt top.

Design options

The design options are led by the quilt top. If there are large shapes, they can be outlined. Also, look for patterns made by the blocks.


Steps is a common option. It naturally follows the blocks in their pattern layout.

quilt diagram with outline quilting lines.

You can see it in the quilt Pink and Blue Rail Fence.

Helpful tips

  • Use the piecing design as a guide. Stitch in the ditch or echo the seam around the quilt.
  • Don’t be too detailed. Look for long lines to follow.
  • Work from the centre out. This might take some thoughtful planning, but avoid stitching around something large and then filling in the middle.
  • Outline quilting is great to use in combination with other quilting designs.


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 – Echo Steps

This design has some matchstick lines at 1/4″ density and some at 1/8″ density.


No marking is required because the presser foot is aligned to the seam edge for reference.


Begin by stitching on a line that will go close to the middle of the quilt.

Using the seam as a guide, stitch down one square.

stitching on a quilt with the presser foot aligned to the seam.

When you are the right distance away, leave the needle down and lift the presser foot.

Turn the quilt and lower the presser foot. Stitch along the next side of the square.

close up of turning the corner on a quilt top.

If you have trouble remembering where to stop, mark the side of the presser foot with a dot of marker or nail polish for reference.

Continue stitching along the line, turning each corner in the same way.

check placemat with one line of outline quilting.

Repeat with the rest of the lines on one side of the quilt.

outline stitch quilting on half a project.

Rotate and finish the lines on the other side.

sample quilt with outline quilting.

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

green and pink placemat with outline quilting.

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


rail fence quilt in pink and blue.
Pink and Blue Rail Fence

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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