Thursday, January 9, 2014

Part #1: Learning How to Make the Baptist Fan Pattern for Hand Quilting

Someone asked about a tutorial for making the Baptist Fan Pattern for hand quilting. It seems pretty complicated until you break it down, then you might wonder why you haven't been stitching this pattern all along! For the formal (very structured and tidy) style of Baptist Fans, you start with a basic template. I use template plastic, but cardboard is good too--just make sure it's stiff enough to withstand repeated use.

Cut your template plastic (or cardboard) in a long rectangle shape at about 1 1/4" wide and 9 or so inches long. Then, starting from the bottom, mark the distance you want between the arcs of your fans, making sure that the distance from the very bottom of the template to the first mark is enough that it won't rip out. For this template I marked 1" increments, but you can customize your template however you choose. You'll want to make a mark for every single arc you want in your fans plus 1 extra.  As you can see, this will be a 3 arc fan. I usually cut the end of the template off but I suppose you could make this your one to-go template with numerous amounts of holes for future usage.
Making a Baptist Fan quilting template
Next, you need to cut the holes in your template. I use my very primitive, antique tool called an ice-pick! I know, it looks terribly dangerous and you'll want to be careful not to stab through your finger. Whatever you decide to use, just make sure the tip of your pencil, marking pen etc. will easily fit through the hole when you start to mark your quilt.
Punching the holes in the template
For the purposes of this tutorial I'll use paper to demonstrate how to mark the Baptist Fan arcs onto your quilt. It's good to have a quick practice round before you start the real thing anyway! Baptist Fans are essentially a quarter circle so it's best to start in a corner. If I'm stitching Baptist Fans across the entire quilt, then I'll start in the bottom far right corner of my quilt. If not, I'll start at the right hand corner of my border or wherever else I'm filling Baptist Fans in.

First off (see the picture below), you need to line your template up placing the bottom hole directly over the corner of your quilt (paper). If you're doing this on your actual quilt, you can hold the template firmly in place with a thumbtack or a sturdy pin in that bottom hole. For the purposes of this demo I used a toothpick, but that won't hold the template steady on fabric.

While holding the bottom of the template firmly in place with that thumbtack etc. you will then place your pen/pencil in the next closest hole and then slowly move the template across the corner of your quilt until you have a nice smooth arc. It works like a compass, making nice rounded arcs for your Baptist Fans. Keep doing this until you have all your arcs perfectly formed.
Where to start marking the fans
After the first set of arcs is completed, then you move to the left or right depending on which corner you started your fans in. Because I'm right handed, I always start in the right corner. Place the bottom hole of the template directly at the bottom of the largest arc from the previous fan, holding it steady with a thumbtack etc. as before. This will be your new 'corner'. Slowly make your arcs for the 2nd fan as before.
How to start marking the second set of fans
Keep going to the left until you run out of quilt. Be sure and mark your templates in an even, smooth arc, not letting the template pick up any slack. As you can see from where my arrow points in the picture below, letting slack in the template causes a shallow arc that isn't as nice or smooth looking.
Making smooth arcs
When you run out of quilt on the left, just mark each arc as usual, stopping when you reach the side of the quilt. As you can see in the picture below, these will be shorter (incomplete) arcs, but this only adds to the charm of Baptist Fans. The idea is to fill up the entire area of the quilt with fans.  You can mark the entire quilt before you make your first stitch or mark as you go, it's totally up to you and your personal preferences.
How to end your arcs on the fans
*Because I normally stitch in a hand held hoop, I always mark the arcs up to the edge of the left hand side of my hoop and then move up to the next row instead of going clear to the left hand edge of the quilt. When I'm stitching this way, I try to end on a full set of arcs, not a partial set. It's not fun to try and properly match up the lengths of each arc. After I have marked and stitched until my hoop is full, then I move the entire hoop to the left and start over.

Next, you move up a row and start much as before. As you draw these arcs, make sure and mark clear down until they touch the arcs below. You want total continuity and all the area filled up with markings which will of course, eventually be your stitching. As you can see from where the arrow is pointing in the picture below, there will always be a new 'corner' to place your thumbtack in and stabilize your template for marking.
Marking the second row of Baptist Fans
In the picture below, I also placed some arrows to showplace the direction that I personally would be stitching the arcs. If you stitch downwards on the last and longest arc of your fans, then it is a simple matter to move your thread over to where you'll need to start the next set of arcs--all without having to cut your thread.
Direction of stitching for Baptist Fan arcs
I tried to get a picture of some formal Baptist Fan stitching, but it is really hard to get a decent picture of the details. If you click on the picture below, you can see (although this is actually the back of one of my quilts) how marking formal looking fans with a template like this makes for very uniform looking arcs.
Formal Baptist Fan stitching
Making this template customized for your particular needs is very simple to do. You can make 3 arcs or 8, make them 1/2" apart or 2", and even make a template that varies the widths with increments that change from say 1" to maybe a 1/4" repeating arc and then another 1" arc afterward. It's all up to you, so have a bit of fun with it!

*For marking my quilts, I generally use a blue wash-out marker. If I'm working with darker fabrics, I'll use a white Verithin pencil from the art supply store.

Next up I'll explain how to stitch freehand Baptist Fans for those interested in a more casual look.


  1. Baptist Fans are my all-time favourite hand quilting pattern. Great tute!

  2. You make it look so easy! I really do need to try this, maybe I'll just start with a small quilt and see how it goes. Thanks for the great tutorial.

  3. This is a wonderful tutorial - thank you! I just started tracing some random arcs with my quilt hoop and it kind of looks like Baptist fans, more like clams! Take care, Byrd

  4. Thank you Audrey, this helps tremendously. One I saw recommended using your elbow and thumb....I tried, but it clearly was way over my head. I see Baptist Fans in my future.
    blessings, jill

  5. It's a great quiltpattern, thanks for the clear tutorial!

  6. It's a timeless pattern, thanks for sharing an easy way to mark it.

  7. Nice tutorial! I have not tried this method for marking fans, will have to give it a whirl.

  8. I'm more of a free hand quilting kindve gal and so have never thought about marking neat baptist fans so thanks for taking the time to post a tutorial!

  9. Thanks Audrey! I've always been a bit wary of trying Baptist Fan, even tho I love it. Now I'll definitely give it a go. Great tutorial!

  10. Very helpful ! I would never have thought to do it in this way ...great tips!

  11. Thanks for the tips! Baptist fans are my plan for the next quilt in line.

  12. The ladies of the church will help me hand stitch my quilt and they want it pre-marked so this tutorial is perfect for me to get ready for the big day. We will refer to it as the Methodist fan, however. Thank you so much for your tutorial!

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  14. Wow this looks so simple, I have to try it,

  15. Hello - I was searching for a Baptist Fan template to buy but came across this post - it's the perfect solution! Thank you.

  16. My great-grandmother used to do fan quilting by tying a bit of string to the end of a pencil, then knotting the string every couple of inches. She'd hold each knot against the quilt & draw arcs outward from center point. The overall impression was somewhere between formal & casual/freehand, and is therefore my favourite way to quilt!

  17. Could I use this on a table runner border just a smaller scale?

    1. You can make these fans however large or small you like!

  18. Thank you. Just exactly what I wanted to know!

  19. Well you just changed my world! I love baptist fans but didn't have a clue how to draw them. Thank you!!

  20. Thanks, great instructions. I have that exact ice pick, it's my go-to tool in my kitchen tool drawer!

  21. Thank you Audrey; I've been wondering how to transfer the lines onto the quilt, and almost bought a template! I found this post just in time to save me from unnecessary expense. You're an angel!

  22. The step-by-step instructions and detailed explanations make it so much easier for beginners like me to understand and try out this beautiful quilting technique!
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