Self-made Templates

Self-made Templates

The major difference between a template and a stencil is that you use the outer edges of template to transfer your pattern to fabric. Usually, a template is easier to make yourself than a stencil.

Potential sources for quilting pattern templates are virtually everywhere. You can also use everyday-objects as quilting pattern templates, the most obvious being cups, saucers, but also yarn spools or thimbles have been usurped for marking:

Harlekin juggling balls

The circles (juggling balls) in the border of the Harlekin quilt were made using a large thread spool, a glass stopper taken from an empty wine bottle, and a thimble.

You can also take patterns to use as templates from books, from quilting software such as EQ7 (from the motif library or you use the PatchDraw module to design quilting patterns entirely yourself.

This technique of creating quilting templates from paper or cardboard is probably one of the oldest methods to transfer quilting patterns to quilt tops.

Waterlily pattern

This is the template for the Waterlily quilting pattern which we used both in the Lady of the Lakes quilt and the Lady of the Lakes cushion.

Material needed:

  • Drawing or photocopy of design in appropriate size (possibly several copies depending on design!)
  • Optional: cardboard light enough to cut, but firm enough to withstand the marking process
  • optional: glue
  • a pair of sharp scissors for paper


Optional: Glue the design onto cardboard.

Decide on the shapes and the lines which need to be cut to make marking possible. Remember, you can always fold back part of your template to mark lines which are "shared" by two adjacent shapes.  

Waterlily pattern cut lines

Look closely at the picture and see how we cut into the Waterlily pattern template (the printed strips have been pushed underneath each "level" to illustrate the incisions). Here you can see the cut line highlighted in red:

Waterlily pattern cut lines

Attention: Make sure that the template doesn’t fall apart!

Place the template on the area of your quilt to be marked. Mark around the outside of the template, and if applicable, carefully lift parts of the template to mark "shared" lines between two shapes.

Don't worry, if your templates look like this when you have finished your project:

Waterlily pattern template after use

You can easily make a new template if you would like to use the same pattern again!


You have full control over the design and can adjust the pattern to any size required by the quilt.

There are millions of patterns out there – e. g. in quilting magazines, in quilting software such as EQ7, in pattern books, on antique and vintage quilts in museums…

Making templates yourself is less time-consuming than making stencils.


The risk of inaccuracy is higher with templates than with stencils.

Paper templates don’t survive very long and have to be replaced quickly.


Iron two sheets of freezer paper together (with the shining sides touching). This makes a sturdier template which will hold up better to wear and tear.

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