The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Project for Outline Stitches

Last time we dove into embroidery we worked on various outline stitches. This time I bring you a project for those outline stitches.

1920s quilt, an embroidery project using outline stitches. The center features 15 blocks. Every other block shows the outline of an insect or animal: bird in hat, butterfly, bird with net, ladybug, frog, squirrel, fish, and flying insect.
Make this small quilt embroidered with outline stitches.

While this was designed as a small quilt, you can use these whimsical Twenties patterns for anything. Put them on an apron. Assemble a collection, mount them in embroidery hoops, and hang them on your wall. Embroider in a long strip and fashion into a wall hanging.

The original illustration shows this quilt made from white and pink sateen. Sateen is a cotton fabric with a satin-like weave. You can still buy it from places like One of the benefits of a fabric like sateen: it usually has a tight weave so it makes a nice background for embroidery. However, any medium to heavy weight cotton like a nice quilting cotton, or even a linen, would work for this project. (Keep in mind that if you actually plan to make a crib quilt, linen needs to be ironed after washing. Cotton would work better.)

Use whatever colors you like. You’ll need a light color like white, beige, yellow, light green, etc. for the embroidered blocks and a dark color of your choosing for the others.

You will need

The finished quilt measures 36.5 inches wide by 49.5 inches high. Sew all the pieces together with 1/4 inch seams.

For the entire quilt, you will need:

  • Light embroidered squares: 2.5 yard of 42″ wide fabric, or 2.5 yard of 36″ wide fabric. The blocks actually fit on 1 yard if you are very careful and you use pre-washed fabric, but it only leaves 1 inch of clearance. A few extra inches is safer. This includes making the entire back from one piece of 33 x 46 inches of light fabric.
  • Dark fabric: 1.5 yards of 42″ wide fabric, or 1.75 yards of 36″ wide fabric.
  • Flannel for inner lining: This project uses pre-washed flannel as an option for warmth instead of quilt batting. Optional: The original coverlet had no batting or inner lining.
  • The original was made from white and pink sateen. Sateen is a cotton fabric with a satin-like weave. You can still buy it from places like One of the benefits of a fabric like sateen is that it is tightly woven so it makes a nice background for embroidery. However, any medium to heavy weight cotton like a nice quilting cotton, or even a linen, would work for this project. (Keep in mind that if you actually plan to make a crib quilt, linen needs to be ironed after washing.)
  • Sewing thread to match your fabric
  • Embroidery floss
  • A method of transferring the pattern
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery needle
  • Sewing needle or sewing machine

Draw your blocks

Once you have your fabric, measure out the the blocks before you cut anything.

From the light fabric:

  • 8 small blocks measure 7 x 7 inches.
  • 2 medium blocks measure 7 x 20 inches.
  • 2 large blocks measure 7 x 33 inches.
  • Back piece measures 33 x 46 inches. You will cut this after everything else is together, but make sure you have enough fabric left in one piece once you trace everything else out.

From the dark fabric:

  • 2 long binding strips measure 5.25 x 52 inches.
  • 2 short binding strips measure 5.25 x 42 inches.
  • 11 blocks measure 7 x 7 inches.

Measure the largest pieces first, and then fit the small 7 x 7 squares around them. Draw the rectangles right onto your fabric with pencil (or a white fabric pencil, if you use really dark fabric).

Embroider all your 7 x 7 squares before cutting them out. This will make your life a lot easier. If you would like to cut the squares and strips before embroidering, you will need a small 5-inch embroidery hoop.

If you need some ideas on how to transfer the designs, you can find it in this article I wrote about how to Transfer Vintage Embroidery Patterns.

The designs

These nature-inspired designs are true Twenties illustrations. Embroider all of them with three strands of embroidery floss in a color that matches the dark color of your quilt.

The original instructions call for the animals to be done in basic outline/stem stitch. However, they would also look nice in snailtrail stitch with portions done in backstitch.

When you print these, try printing them at 70%. Your goal is a square that measures about 6 inches. That will transfer nicely into a 6.5 inch finished square.

1920s outline design of a crow-like bird wearing a fedora.
This sassy bird begs to be embroidered.
Twenties illustration of butterfly for outline embroidery.
This butterfly shows off its delicate lines.
Twenties outline illustration of a bird holding a net. He's looking for a worm.
This bird is determined to catch the worm!
Twenties illustration of squirrel with nut for outline embroidery.
This little squirrel found a nut worth burying.
Twenties illustration of a catfish for outline embroidery.
A Twenties-style catfish. If the whiskers bother you, leave them off.
Twenties illustration of an insect for outline embroidery.
Everyone needs a nicely embroidered winged insect, right?
Twenties illustration of a frog for outline embroidery.
The artist caught this frog mid-jump.
Twenties illustration of a ladybug running on two feet, for outline embroidery.
A sweet ladybug to decorate someone’s room.

The borders

The quilt uses two different borders. These are also embroidered in one color, the same you used for the animal blocks. The instructions call for them to be embroidered in a close (small stitches) running stitch.

Two scroll work outline illustrations for a crib quilt. The top one is about 1/3 longer than the lower one, although they look very similar.
Border designs for the crib quilt.

Each of these borders should measure about 4 inches wide once they are printed. A tiny bit more or less won’t matter.

The long border will measure about 23.5 inches when completely drawn out. I’ve given you half the drawing so that you can print it out landscape and then reverse it.

Border for the sides of the quilt.

The short border will measure about 16.75 inches when completely drawn out. Since 16 inches is longer than the standard US 11.5 inch page, I halved this pattern as well.

This borders the top and bottom of the quilt.

Putting it together

Your blocks are measured, and you embroidered the light ones. Everything is ready for assembly.

If you haven’t already, cut the blocks apart on your penciled lines. The original instructions suggested that you might want to assemble the quilt with all the fabric lengthwise threads running the same direction. This is a good practice, but not necessary if this is a practice piece. Why do this at all? It’s so that if the piece shrinks, it will all shrink together in the same direction.

Should you want to do this, an easy way to keep track is to take some extra sewing thread and make a few basting stitches lengthwise along each block. This makes it easy to attach them in the same direction.

The center

Sew the center squares together in strips to match the completed illustration. Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Then press each seam allowance open.

Being careful to match the corners, sew the strips together to make a section composed of 3 blocks by 5 blocks. Open and press the seams as before.

Now sew on the two long side panels.

Attach the end panels and corners. It may be easiest to do this by assembling a top strip of dark/panel/dark and a bottom strip to match, and then attaching the strips to the top and bottom of the almost completed quilt top. Press all seams open.

The lining and edging

Cut the lining piece the same size as the patchwork. Place the two pieces together, back to back. Lay them out on a table or another flat surface and pin them together very carefully so they are perfectly smooth. Baste into place.

Sew one edge of the shorter bands along each end. Keep the seam on the wrong side of the band (it will be on the inside when you are finished.) Sew together the band, the patchwork, and the lining.

Sew one edge of the long side bands into place. Beginning in the middle of one of the long sides, fold a 1/4 inch hem and then fold the long strip along the middle. The seam that contains all the raw edges and that holds the quilt edging in place should be on the inside.

Pin the fold in place so it doesn’t move, and whip stitch it down. Miter the corners neatly.

To give the blanket a quilted appearance, use sewing thread and make a fine (small) running stitch close to each seam. They should be parallel with the seams. Only go through the top layer of the fabric, catching the seam allowances underneath. Repeat on the other side of each seam. This will keep the seams laying flat.

If you want to make the quilt warm, you can use a layer of pre-washed flannel in between the top and lining. Then when you place the running stitches parallel with the seams, go through all the layers of the fabric. You will quilt it at the same time that you catch the seam allowances.

Enjoy your beautiful embroidered quilt!