Commercial Stencils

Commercial Stencils

Commercial quilting stencils come in many patterns, motifs and sizes. They are mostly made from thin plastic sheets (light pink, light turquoise or white) from which the lines of the motifs have been cut out as a “interrupted” path, i. e. a dashed line. This allows you to mark the outline of the pattern without the stencil falling apart.

We have used a lot of commercial stencils in our hand quilting sampler “Seagreen”. Seagreen celebrates feather designs which occupy a top position in our list of favourite quilting patterns of all times. It is great fun to make a hand quilting sampler – it’s like browsing through a box of assorted sweets! Because as soon as quilting one design threatens to become boring, you get to continue with another design…

Seagreen Quilt

The Seagreen quilt


Commercial quilting stencils are easy to handle and they are ready to use. They are comparatively inexpensive and very durable.

Many patterns are available, although fewer and fewer quilt shops carry a wide selection. In the USA, the most comprehensive selection of quilting stencils can be found in Amish areas and, of course, at the big shows where you are bound to find one or two booths entirely dedicated to quilting stencils. As for the rest of the world, well, there is always mail-order… You might also form a “quilting stencil club” with the members lending quilting stencils to each other.

Stencils can be used to mark your quilt sandwich “as you go”, i.e. it is not necessary to mark the entire top before sandwiching.


Patterns cannot be changed in size to accommodate a specific quilt design. Many designs are available in different sizes, but still you might find yourself with the perfect motif which is just 1” too large.


When looking for a border motif, look for a pattern which has the appropriate width for your project. Unless you have planned your quilt already with the quilting motif(s) for your border(s) in mind, you might have some headaches about pattern repeats.


We suggest that you mark the corners of your border first.

Then position the stencil, but only make a small mark wherever the stencil ends. Re-position the stencil to the next length, make a small mark and continue until you have reached the next corner. You will now see how big your pattern repeat problem is. The smaller the repeat of the motif, and the longer the border, the smaller the problem. In most cases, these problems can be solved by “fudging” a little while marking – either compress the pattern or expand it slightly the entire length of the border in question.

Changing the pattern

Is there any possibility to adapt it so the repeat problem doesn’t become evident? E. g. create a centre motif to be placed in the centre of the border? In this case, look at the corner motif. It might give you some hints how a centre motif might look like.

Expanding the pattern

It is always a good idea to think outside the box. Is there another motif you like and which fits with the border motif which you could overlay, thus hiding the repeat problem?

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