Some hints on beginning a landscape quilt – Part 3




A few months ago, I put together a little how-to worksheet on approaching landscape quilting. Most of it is based on my own personal process of developing and implementing an idea. A lot of it is my memories of what I wish I’d known when starting out. I still use it (or something more refined, yet similar) when I have an idea that needs more oomph or a glimmer of inspiration that requires more systematic thinking through. Thought I’d post it here, in case anyone else found it helpful. Parts one and two are previous posts.

Drawing is not a four-letter word:

Using a sheet of paper, sketch out a very rough outline of where things are going to go in your piece. This is like your map. It need not be good, it need not be pretty, but it should be informative to you. You need never show it to another living soul. This is your artistic view of the scene you will be doing. Include notes on perspective, colour, details to remember, etc.). Scribble notes everywhere, if it will help.
Laying the groundwork:

A wide array of techniques are available to the student for attaching fabric to the landscape, including, but not limited to fusible appliqué, machine appliqué, hand appliqué, raw-edge appliqué, and appliquilting. Which appeal to you? Which would be useful in your work and where?

1. Decide on your background carefully. Skies tend to set the mood for the rest of the piece. Oceans and ponds need to match skies to look believable (although they don’t have to be precisely the same, they do need to “look right” together). Trust your eye. Remeber that skies are usually lighter than water. Does the fabric selected necessitate a change in your plan?

2. Select other fabrics with reference to all the decisions that you made earlier about colour, perspective, etc.
3. Roughly lay the fabrics out together in a pseudo-design way– audition them! Pin them to a piece of cardboard or your design wall and step back from them. Do they look their parts?

Remember to think from far to near. Plan your piece from the furthest point away (the horizon, usually) and layer the fabrics moving progressively closer to you. Remember the section on colour and value – work from light to dark and cool to warm.

Plan each layer separately, beginning with your foundation layer of background fabric. Use the back of this worksheet to identify and plan each progressively closer layer. Plan fabric selection, techniques used and details achieved through quilting and embellishment.

Assembly: Get to it!

Assemble your bottom layer, the one furthest away in your picture. This may mean simply laying down a piece of fabric or sewing an ocean to a sky.

Working forward, use scraps of paper to cut out rough outlines of the shapes in your next layer. When you have pieces to your likeing, cut them out of fabric. Arrange them on the background.

ferryland detail 2
Cut out the next layer of shapes and so forth. Some people like to alternate between cutting out pattern pieces and assembling, completing each layer before moving forward. Some people prefer to have the whole pattern laid out first. Whatever the case, make sure you label your pattern pieces so that you know where they go! If you intend to use fusibles, fuse the stuff to your fabric before cutting out the final pieces. Trust me on this one.

ferryland 3
Keep notes on changes to your plan, problems encountered, etc.

When you reach the point of despair and decide that it’s not working, you have reached a turning point in your piece. Push through this stage. Almost every piece has this point.

Try to visualise how the stitching will enhance the look of the piece and what details can be embroidered or sewn after the top is assembled. It really helps to constantly be thinking ot the next step in a piece, as you can anticipate potential construction difficulties that might be created in an earlier stage and avoid them entirely!

Part 1 & Part 2, for those jumping in at the end…


22 Comments Add yours

  1. Micki says:

    Vicky, Thank you for posting this information. It is so wonderful to learn how other people approach their work and the techniques they use.

  2. Annie says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    Thank you for sharing …

    I don’t have the money right now to purchase books unfortunately, and I had just about given up on finding anything as wonderful as your site .. and there you were!!

    Thank you again for a wonderful selection of information, how-to’s and direction.

    My very best wishes to you,

  3. vickyth says:

    Hi Annie,
    Glad you dropped by! If you need any help or gratuitous advice (which may or may not be worth exactly what you pay for, depending on you perspective!) or even some feedback on something you’re working on, feel free to email me at

  4. Mary says:

    Thanks so much for freely sharing your wealth of information! I have never made a landscape quilt before but am ready to try something new. Your postings will make it easier.

  5. Jeanne Theodore says:

    A wonderful guideline. I plunged into landscape quilting – not knowing anything about quilting and actually hating to sew. I have really become addicted – maybe because I love nature and feel best when I am hiking. Have lots of outdoor magazines so ideas abound. My learning has been entirely trial and error and from books. So yearn to have a landscape quilting group but it seems there are so few pursuing this.
    Thank you, Vicky!

  6. Thanks, Vicki for the info on landscape quilting. I’ve done some very small pieces and am looking forward to your class at Quilt Canada ’08.

  7. eve says:

    Thank you so much for this information. It was very helpful. Your generosity is appreciated.

  8. Sarah says:

    This was great!! Im a new quilter, and I’ve done a few, and was pretty interested in this type of quilting! I can’t wait to get started!!!!!

  9. Marla Swallow says:

    I have been scouring the Internet for some help with trying a pictorial landscape quilt. I was beginning to lose hope of ever finding anyone to describe how to start such a project. I am an avid quilter and now I think I can begin this type of quilt. I have a lot of ideas on paper already, but didn’t know how to get the ideas from paper to fabric. Thank you so much for putting this on the Internet.

  10. Estela Brucker says:

    I am a beginner in quilting and would like to landscape. I have seen how it is done. My question is do you quilt all of these pieces with the batting and backing fabric? It seems to me that there will be all kinds of different colors of threads on the back and does not look neat. How do you do it? Thanks for the info Estela

    1. VickyTH says:

      Hi Estela! Sometimes I make the top and then quilt and sometimes I “appliquilt” certain pieces in place, basically quilting them as I attach them. When I work with just the top, without batting and backing, I tend to use in the bobbin whatever thread works best the achieve good tension. Sometimes I find that metallic threads on the top of the piece work better with a lingerie thread on the bottom, for instance. When I am attaching a piece to the layered top (top, batting and backing) and am stitching through to the finished back, I use the same backing thread consistently. You’re right, if I kept switching threads it would be a real hodge-podge. Lately I’ve found that I enjoy using a variegated thread in the bobbin when quilting, so that the back has an all-over variegated effect. I also tend to use a backing fabric that blends with that thread. No sense in making any small glitches obvious!

  11. Judy Jackson says:

    I love your 3 part article. I am teaching a2 landscape 1- hour workshops at a local quilt show. Instead of trying to write things to hand out, I have the perfect place they can go to get tips.
    thanks for the information.

  12. Marge Welter says:

    ARe you doing raw edge applique in your landscape quilting? Or do you turn the edges of your fabrics?

    1. VickyTH says:

      I do a bit of both depending on which technique is called for on a particular piece in a particular spot. I’ve found that raw-edge appliqué, because it is usually fused and/or quilted down is typically “flatter” looking to the viewer’s eye than is needle-turned appliqué. When I want a piece of the landscape to stand out, I often use needle-turned and then quilt around the edges on the background, which makes it physically “pop” closer to the eye.

  13. Marge Welter says:

    thank you for sharing your techniques. when you talk about needle-turned applique, I am in the dark. Are there any books that describe that method?

    1. VickyTH says:

      Hey Marge,

      You can try either of these links:
      Start Quilting – Applique
      Appliqué Basics

      Basically, it’s appliqué in which you tuck the edges under and stitch as you go. I find it easier to do it this way for landscape work because I have a little wiggle room in case edges need to be wider or pieces need to overlap more. I sometimes use the freezer paper for patterns, but often I simply go by eye. When starting out, using a freezer paper pattern template would give more certainty and control!

      How is your piece coming along?

  14. Marge Welter says:

    Thank you for your helpful tips and the links. I looked at the links and now I understand. I shall try some samples of needle-turn applique before I tackle my landscape idea. the landscape is just a sketch right now, and I have bought some fabrics for it. I tried a small raw edge applique piece and it turned out nice, but I thought I would like finished edges on my next piece.

  15. Bonnie says:

    This has given me the inspiration that I needed to start a project that I was afraid to start.
    Thank You..

  16. Julia says:

    Thanks for the information on landscape. I am about to enback on my first one and needed to know the techniques.

  17. Bobbie Zipperian says:

    Dear Vicki,
    Thank you so much for sharing your information; you should publish! I live in New Mexico and recently visited the South Carolina seashore. I couldn’t find a kit to do what I envision, and am excited to use your ideas to bring my vision to life. Do you do workshops or teach across the country?

  18. lenore says:

    thanks for you great info. was struggling with a landscape idea for wall hanging of my husbands favorite fishing spot out west. This may help be get started.

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