7 Reasons to Quilt Printed Fabric Panels

seven reasons to Quilt printed panelsOur weekly update and a chat about why I am considering quilting more fabric panels….

But first….. what have you been working on this week? Something fun, I hope!

We’ve had a busy few days at Gardner-Stephen HQ, with it being submissions week for exhibits at the Royal Adelaide Show and also Book Week for the children. Book Week involves a school parade where each child dresses up as a favourite book character. The emphasis is on trying to be involved in making your own costume rather than just buying one. Lots of fun but a little labour intensive.

Crochet Christmas stocking
Crochet Christmas Stocking

This year, Miss 9 decided to have her first go at entering an exhibit in the Royal Show. (I think I can safely talk about this in public now, as judging will have already taken place.) Anyway, Miss 9 learned to crochet while we were living in Germany last year, and recently decided to design her own Christmas stocking to enter in the 8-10 year olds home economics class at The Show. She did a great job, don’t you think? She is anxiously waiting a verdict, asking me to check the online results every day! I have tried to encourage her to just be proud of entering. But she is very definitely hoping for a ribbon. Fingers crossed for her.

This week’s quilting adventures

So, as you can see, plenty of creativity going on around here this week. But not a lot of quilting. I have been working on stabilising two more charity quilts, ready for some free-motion quilting to make them a bit more special and unique.

Charity Quilt 1

The first one is a happy child’s quilt covered in big squares of bright colours. Some of the fabrics feature bugs, flowers or birds. Deciding what to quilt on this is easy for a change!!! I know, shock, horror!! Last year I did two quilts covered with flowers, suns, butterflies, dragonflies, leaves and snails. One of them was the quilt I did for my nephew featured in the Digging for Pineapples post last week. I will be dusting off those skills to quilt the same critters on this one.

charity quilt
Child’s quilt all stabilised and ready for FMQ
charity quilt
Aren’t the prints cute on this?!!
snail quilting design by Clever Chameleon
Here’s one of the little critter designs I’m going to be using. I’ll tell you more when it happens.

Charity Quilt 2

The second quilt is an adult quilt in red and brown. It is the same pattern as the quilt I quilted with the daisy FMQ motif.  It is less feminine than that quilt, but it is still not a bloke’s quilt. The prints include lace, roses and butterflies, and the back is a dusky pink. I am still thinking through what to quilt on this one. Another repeated block pattern…. perhaps something similar to one of the orange peel-derived patterns from ipatchandquilt? Or butterflies?

red and brown charity quilt
The latest adult charity quilt in my queue.
charity quilt
There is just enough blue-green in this colour combination to make it interesting. I quite like it, even though red isn’t close to the top of my favourite colours.

I am leaning towards a stylised flower design to match the geometric and graphic feel of the quilt. Something like this…..

stylised flower FMQ design
Stylised Flower FMQ design, similar to an ipatchandquilt motif.

What do you think? I am hoping it will tie together the large scale leaf print and the lacy print. And then I can fall back to the leaf vine in the sashing that I did last time, which is quick and easy. And simple piano keys for the border to echo the piecing design.

There you go! I had more quilt news than I thought. To tie up for the week, let’s finish off with those promised thoughts on using fabric panels for quilting practice.

An expansion on my thoughts around fabric panels

Last post, I wrote about a little baby quilt that I did some free-motion quilting on. It was made from one of those fabric panels that you see in the quilt store, that I had simply written off as “those things people buy if they need to make a quilt and have no real interest in making a quilt”.

teddy bears fabric panels

But it quilted up so nicely. And it gave me a good opportunity to challenge my thoughts about the value of fabric panels to mad-keen, more experienced quilters. I was definitely pleased enough with the experience to consider using them more often, and here’s why….


The one obvious thing in favour of using printed fabric panels is how fast you can put together a quilt. Need a baby or toddler quilt in a hurry? A pre-printed panel could be your answer.


With no cutting, no seams and no left-over fabrics there is very little wastage in a panel quilt. You only pay for the exact amount of fabric you need to cover the surface area of your quilt. Where I live, at least, the cost of printed fabric panels per metre the same as other fabrics, so panels will always work out cheaper than the equivalent patchwork. If you need a bigger quilt than the printed panel, it is a simple task to add a quick border or two.

FMQ beginner friendly

When you are starting out learning to free-motion quilt, one of the differences you will find between your practice pieces and a real quilt is when quilting over the seams. If your patchwork is especially fancy, there can be some pretty bulky seams lurking in your quilt sandwich! These can break your rhythm and make it hard to keep the quilt moving evenly and steadily. Panels have no seams, and therefore allow you to practice quilting on a real quilt and build your confidence before having to tackling quilting over any unpredictable thicknesses.

Another difference I find between my practice pieces and my real quilts is the “stress”. On my practice pieces I am not worried about messing up, so therefore I relax and quilt better. On a quilt that has taken weeks or months to piece, I find it hard to relax, even though it results in better quilting. I found that a fabric panel was more like a practice piece because it doesn’t represent a huge emotional, financial and time investment in its creation prior to quilting. So I relax more, enjoy the quilting and produce a better result.

Accuracy practice

Printed fabric panels are excellent for practising your quilting accuracy. The teddy bear quilt I quilted last week had motifs that I could quilt on or around without having to go to the trouble of marking anything. This is great practice for building muscle memory for free-motion quilting and also awareness of where your needle is. I don’t know about you, but when I first started learning FMQ, my ability to trace a design with the machine was appalling. I would never have been game to try to free-motion stitch in the ditch for example.

fabric panels for quiltingHere is a panel my mother gave me many many years ago, before I started quilting. I haven’t touched it because my mother died and I was scared of ruining it. But I know now that I can do an adequate job on it, and one day soon I will lay it out and quilt it. This sort of panel is a great example of one that would be perfect for tracing practice….. just quilt around all those printed pieces as if they were actually pieced and appliquéd!

If you have a printed fabric that is tricky to trace, you can also improve your skills by quilting near the design. Here is an example from early in my FMQ experience, where I just approximated the printed shapes on a bed sheet. Did my toddler analyse my FMQ skills? Absolutely not!!

quilt around printed shapes for practice
Quilt around printed shapes for steering practice

Good for practicing your FMQ design/decision skills

One skill that quilters often need to practice is the decision making process of what quilting to put where. It’s great to ask around and get opinions and ideas, but in the end, it’s you that has to make the final decision. Quilting fabric panels separates this decision process from any distractions that piecing can cause…. like whether the piecing is inaccurate and hard to quilt, or too perfect and is making you nervous to touch the jolly thing! Quilting a few different panels with different themes and motifs is a good way to expand your repertoire. Perhaps knock up a few for a local charity even??

A more useful product

If you want your quilts to be used (I generally do!), fabric panels are your best friend. Commercial printing and no/few seams results in a quilt that can be thrown in the wash and dryer without fear of bleeding and falling apart. Being more robust and “less precious” than an intricately pieced quilt means that a new mum can be more relaxed about using the quilt. Speaking as someone who has been there….. I was given secondhand baby panel quilt that I used for all sorts of things because it wasn’t deemed “precious”. When it was dirty it went in the wash with everything else. When we didn’t need it anymore I handed it to the next person, knowing that it was a great asset. In contrast, the baby quilt my mum made before she died is still in the cupboard….. it has a different kind of worth. 

Lesser risk of “Quilter’s Remorse”

Sadly, quilter’s remorse is a real thing. If you have been hanging around quilting groups for any length of time, you probably know at least one person who has gifted an amazing, expensive and laborious quilt to someone, only to be horrified and scarred at the lack of gratitude received. So give your pieced quilts wisely or let them go emotionally when you gift them.

Either way, don’t expect children or young mums to understand or be enthralled with your hours of labour. Many non-quilters simply do not understand the effort – they are not usually trying to be ungrateful. And children live in the now. They love quilts with their favourite characters/animal on. Be awesome and quilt what they like, not your own preferences.

Children also grow up fast and want bigger quilts with the latest character on. So unless you want your quilt to be passed down through the generations, perhaps a series of quick quilts that evolve with the child is better. They will get just as sentimentally attached to a well chosen fabric panel quilt as any other! And likely love them more intensely, even if for a shorter time. 

Use your creative time and budget wisely. For “that baby shower gift for a friend of a friend”, a fabric panel quilt is probably a good option!

One word of caution

I mentioned that there is one reason why I don’t like printed fabric panels. And it is this. They can be hard to square up. I found this out when I made baby books for my son, and again when I made a quilt for my mother-in-law. Printed panels often don’t give you a lot of leeway for trimming to square. So be aware of this from the beginning. Block your fabric to square BEFORE you add any piecing or layer up your sandwich, or you may be facing some very awkward decisions between having a wonky quilt and trimming off some of the design in a non-symmetrical manner. Neither will give you much satisfaction.

Clever Chameleon logo

I hope you have enjoyed our little discussion about fabric panels. Let us know your thoughts on using them…. do you use them? Why or why not? 

See you next for Colour Inspiration Tuesday!


P.S. Linking up this week with:
Confessions of a Fabric Addict
The Quilting Room with Mel.

2 Replies to “7 Reasons to Quilt Printed Fabric Panels”

  1. Wow, you’ve been busy! I have sooo many panels, left over from my little quilt shop, and I am planning on quilting them up on the Gammill one day… I used to think they were “cheating” too.. but like you said, they have their uses 🙂 Great post! xx

    1. Hi Joy, thanks for stopping by! Comments always make my day. Actually, my first two “quilts” were cheater panels, but I always forget they exist when I think about my quilting history. They were two identical advent calendar quilts with pockets for sweets. One for my family and one for my sister’s. My kids love their calendar. So there’s another good use for printed panels – seasonal decorations!

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