Graffiti Quilting by Karlee Porter

Graffiti Quilting is a modern quilting technique developed by me, Karlee Porter, and today I want to tell you all about it! It combines all your favorite quilting motifs and absolutely none of the planning that you’re used to. Okay, maybe a little planning, but not much. Graffiti Quilting is a great opportunity for you to give yourself permission to let go of your free motion quilting inhibitions. So kiss the quilt police goodbye, and say hello to living free and letting your creative juices flow! If you really love this article, you can check out more of Karlee's work at

Now, let’s talk technical. Graffiti Quilting is the act of taking many different elements and motifs and combining them together into one quilt. Each element builds off the last, and is whimsically thrown in without pre-meditation. As you practice it in your quilting, it is equally important to practice in your sketchbook.

First, let’s talk about some of the popular designs and motifs found in Graffiti Quilting. As we go through them, I’m sure that you’ll recognize a few.


Curls – I really like using curls because they provide a great base to add other elements on top of, like feathers or flower petals.

Feathers – Let’s be honest, we have all seen feathers over and over again, with good reason. They are beautiful.


Pebbles – I love pebbles! They are super cute, and very versatile. In Graffiti Quilting, you often get some very awkward spaces to fill and pebbles fill them in perfectly.

Arrows – Arrows are definitely a signature design in the Graffiti Quilting Style. When this technique was being pioneered, so much of it was literally inspired by street art and arrows are iconic in that realm. You can do these completely straight and sharp, or curvy and organic. 

Flower Petals – Now, flower petals are quite the crowd pleaser. The other nice thing about them is they are quite versatile. Once you master the overall shape of the flower petal, you can fill it in with so many different fillers, and echo it so many different ways.

Leaves – While flower petals are very feminine, leaves are a great alternative to still giving your quilt an organic and natural look without being quite as girly. Yet, they still give those nice organic curves that are so aesthetically pleasing.

Angles – When I say right angles I am talking about squares and rectangles. Using angles will do wonders for your Graffiti Quilting. It adds that urban edge that you don’t often find in traditional quilting.

Now that we have talked about some of the shapes, let’s move to the quilting machine and see how we can combine all of these elements into one Graffiti Quilting masterpiece. This technique can be done on any machine that allows you to do free-motion quilting, not just Longarm quilting machines, but domestic machines as well. If you are using a domestic sewing machine, you can do free-motion quilting if you can drop, or disengage the feed-dogs on your machine. If you don’t know how to do this, call your machine manufacturer for more information.


Where do we begin?


I always like to track my practice in my sketchbook. This means as I am developing or practicing new designs that I come up with, I don’t want to ruin my nice fabric with something that experimental. So my sketchbook is my practice space. Here are some of my drawings.





 You can see that some lines are drawn thicker and more dense than others. I am sure you are thinking, “But Karlee, how the heck am I supposed to make my thread thicker or thinner as I quilt?? You are just delusional.” That is a great thing to point out. The way that those thick lines are translated into quilting is by overstitching. Now, I know that overstitching is a bad word to some quilters. But not to me. Overstitching allows you to add such contrast to different areas of your quilting, and you can really trick the eyes of the viewer to be drawn wherever your heart desires. Besides, at the end of your day, it’s your quilt. And you are the boss of your own quilts.


If you are on a stand-up Longarm machine, load your fabric and batting just like normal. If you are on a sit-down quilting machine or domestic sewing machine, make a quilt sandwich. Baste in whichever way you prefer. Also, I like to use thread that is a 40 weight or larger, anything thinner than that just doesn’t add the contrast that I desire. But again, to each their own. Use whatever thread you love.


For this demo, I am using a sit-down machine that allows free motion. When using a sit-down oriented machine, I prefer to start in the center of my fabric and work my way towards the edges. In this case, I quilted a circle about the size of a quarter, and put a curl inside of it.

From here, I want to add a little more depth to that circle so that as I add designs around it later, it will just have a little bit of space to breathe.

Now, Because my center design is circular, I am going to try and make the overall flow of my quilt circular… like a tornado. So, now I am going to start adding elements onto my circle; starting with a curl. (I like to call these “Karlee Curls”).

In the following image, notice that I have not only added a leaf shape coming from the crack in the 2 designs, but I have also overstitched the outer line of the curl. I love that doing just one pass makes that line so much darker.

Now I am going to add a few layers to that leaf, and fill in the middle with some pebbles.

Building on from there, I am going to just keep continueing around my center circle adding one design after another. Can you see how each new element flows in the same general direction? It is overall flowing in a counterclockwise fashion.

In the previous photo, notice that there is somewhat of an awkward space between the arrow we just added and the curl that we added at the beginning. My go-to element for an awkward space is pebbles. Pebbles fit anywhere. It is glorious.


So, there you have it. In this final picture you can see how the flow just kind of keeps going around the circle in the clockwise direction. One major component of Graffiti Quilting is a lack of planning. When I quilted that original circle in the very center of my quilt, I had no idea what elements I was going to add or where I would place them. It is all about living in that little space that you are quilting in that moment. It is completely spontaneous and it turns out beautiful way more often than not. Just keep practicing, and never give up! Everyone’s Graffiti Quilting will be as unique as their own handwriting and signature. Get creative with it. Try all your favorite types of thread, and even try some non-traditional fabrics like Satin, Canvas, Silk, or even leather. The possibilities are endless!

If you’d like to learn even more about Graffiti Quilting, be sure to check out Karlee’s book “Graffiti Quilting”


Happy Quilting!!!




More Graffiti Quilts by Karlee Porter:


‘Russian Mosque’ – 18” x 24”


‘Life is Beautiful’ – King Size


‘Mini Graffiti Quilt’ – 18” x 21”


‘You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar!’ – 50” x 56”


Karlee was born and raised as well as resides in Northern Utah. She has been an artist all her life and a quilt artist since 2009. She loves quilting for fun, relaxation, competition as well as quilting for hire. She is an accomplished author and wrote the quilting technique book titled “Graffiti Quilting”. She loves to create computerized quilting designs, as well as design and digitally print her own fabric to then use in her quilting and sewing projects. When she is not quilting, she loves playing the piano, singing, and hanging out with her family.

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