|From the pages of Threads Magazine
Create a stitching path without marking your fabric
The idea is simple: Trace your quilting pattern onto a tear-away stabilizer paper; pin that stabilizer paper directly to your project; then machine-quilt right though it. This method works great with all types of continuous-line quilting patterns, whether or not they repeat; it's also appropriate for any kind of quilting project, including bed and wall quilts, window treatments, garments, pillows, and table runners. You can even use this technique with quilt embellishment designs on ready-to-wear garments.
Make a marking template
Once the pattern is sized to fit, trace it onto a stabilizer of your choice--almost any lightweight vellum-type tracing paper from an art- or office-supply store, or even wax paper from the grocery store will work, but my favorite is Quilt & Tear, a vellum sold in 12-in. by 60-ft. rolls ($7.50 per roll, available from Golden Threads, 25373 Seneca Drive, Wheaton, IL 60187, 630-510-2067; www.goldenthreads.com). Quilt & Tear is sheer enough to see through for exact design placement on the quilt, and its fibers are short, so it tears away easily from the stitches, leaving only insignificant remnants to clean up. Use a permanent pen to trace the design so there's no chance of the marks staining the needle as it passes through the stabilizer and, in turn, marring the fabric.
Stack stabilizers for multiple templates
Templates simplify pattern play
The no-mark method is the same for any application, but the positioning of the templates for quilts or garments may call for different approaches. In general, you can position the design before taking a stitch and without leaving a mark by moving the templates around on your project until you like their placement. Once you're satisfied with the design arrangement, mark on each template to help you remember its exact location. Then pin or tape one template at a time and stitch, working segment by segment in order to keep the paper from catching as you work.
For borders and corners on a quilt, trace a corner design, then stack and stitch four layers of stabilizer to create the template pattern. To fill in the border, trace a design section containing at least one repeat, and make enough templates to go around the quilt. Pin the corners in place and then fit the border by pinning from the corners toward the middle. If the patterns don't match up when they meet, either insert a motif to eliminate the misfit, or cut the border template and spread or overlap its sections to fill the required space and slightly modify the design.
You can also use a variation of my no-mark method to add quilted embellishment or stitching to ready-to-wear garments: Stitch designs from the garment's wrong side using the template reversed and heavy decorative threads in the bobbin. I find that just having the paper pinned in place on the garment is enough stabilizer to support the embellishment.
When you're ready to quilt...
With all your design decisions made, change the sewing machine needle to match the fabric and thread to suit your project. Peel off one tear-away template from your stack of multiples--or use your single template--and pin or tape it onto your project where you want the design to be.
If the project is a quilt, start quilting in the center and work out, block by block, to the border. If you're quilting a wholecloth design, simply break it down into segments and progress segment by segment, placing a template, then stitching. To start sewing, pull the bobbin thread to the top, hold the two threads away from the needle and take five or six stitches in place, and trim the threads closely. Keep the same presser foot you used to create the template, then free-motion stitch using the holes in the tear-away template as your pattern. To make the perforated holes easy to see, use an adjustable light clamped to your sewing table and position the light horizontally across the surface so each hole casts a pin-dot shadow. After sewing the design on the stabilizer and fabric, take five or six stitches in place, pull very gently on the needle thread to bring up the bobbin thread, and snip both closely. Since both the threads are cut, you can move directly to the next area without worrying about catching stray threads in your quilting stitches.
Tear away the templates as you finish each section, or you can wait until you've sewn several or all of them. You'll find it easy to remove perforated stabilizer, but if a few nubs of paper remain, the Quilt & Tear paper is brittle enough to be scratched away with a fingernail without damaging a thread. After finishing the quilting and tearing all of the paper off, just stand back and admire your work.