Free Motion Monday – Quilting Tips for Modern Curves

A simple wavy line is a beautiful design element to use in your free motion quilting. Let’s take a look at quilting tips for modern curves. Straight line quilting has been popular for a while and I am noticing modern curves may be taking over. Curves add softness and texture to the negative space that you often find in modern quilt designs.judy neimeyer pattern with modern curves quilting

Quilting Tips for Modern Curves

The 2 basic variations of the wavy lines that make the modern curves quilting design come from how shallow or deep you make the curves.

tutorial for modern curves quilting

You can add even more texture by combining and overlapping both styles of wavy lines.  Another way to draw the audience in and get them to take a closer look at your quilt is to vary the spacing of your lines.  Echo closely for a few lines and then add more space.

spacing of modern curves quilting lines

Modern Curves in a Quilt

Judy Neimeyer’s pattern for Glacier Star is a stunning quilt.  The fabulous medallion framed by circles of flying geese needs very little quilting so the modern curves and wavy lines add just the right amount of texture to highlight the quilter’s fabric choices.

glacier star with wavy line quilting

wavy line glacier star quilting detail

Focus on the wedge shape where I used the modern curves quilting and played with the spacing of my stitching lines. I was stitching with turquoise thread.

quilting modern curves

Continuous Curves Free Motion Quilting

I explain the idea behind quilting continuous curves in this post.  The orange peel effect is an elegant touch in the diamond section of the Glacier Star pattern.

continous curve quilting glacier star

Note…stitching is in turquoise!

continuous curve free motion quilting

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There are several books available if you want to learn more about continuous curve quilting.

judy neimeyer pattern with modern curves quilting

Quilting the Glacier Star pattern gave me the opportunity to try many different quilting designs, but I can’t overlook the basics. Stitch in the ditch is an important technique in machine quilting to stabilize the quilt and define your quilting space.  The flying geese in this quilt were fairly small, so I did not add any additional quilting beyond stitch in the ditch for those borders.

Whatever pattern you choose, free motion quilting can help you Enjoy, Experiment and Excel while you create!

Free Motion Monday – Stars and Stripes

Happy Independence Day!  Here in the U.S. of A we celebrate our country’s birthday on the 4th of July, waving the Stars and Stripes and proudly displaying our patriotism in red, white, and blue.  That patriotic feeling extends to the quilting world in various ways.  My charity of choice is the Quilts of Valor Foundation whose mission is “… to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”  When I am finishing a QOV, I include stars and stripes in the quilting designs to convey the gratitude I have for the servicemember who will ultimately receive the quilt.

quilts of valor disappearing nine patch

Adding Stars to your quilt

Most of us learned to sketch a simple five pointed star as a child which makes it a great starting point for free motion quilting. Combine the five pointed star with meandering lines and you can finish your patriotic quilt in a jiffy.

stars free motion quilting

Maybe you are feeling SPARKLY!  Quilt a straight-line star, similar to an asterisk (*) and branch off any line to move to the next space.  Sparklers can be lined up, then offset in a border, or stitched in a more random fashion.

asterisk star free motion quilting

Quilting Stripes

Adding stripes to your quilt is quite fashionable.  Straight line quilting can add modern flair to your quilt, especially when you include an unexpected pop of color as LeAnn/shecanquilt does.

stripes free motion quilting

If you want your stripes to mimic a flag, just wave~~~  put a gentle curve into your stitching line. Remember to keep the edges straight.

Stars and Stripes

Here is an example of both designs in one image.  Start with a classic star and exit to the top right to begin the stripes. Vary the spacing as desired, then travel to a new starting point.

stars and stripes free motion quilting

I have several more patriotic quilts waiting for some free motion quilting.  These stars and stripes will surely find their way to fabric soon!

Related Post: See how I quilted the Swoon pattern for a QOV.

My Summertime table runner is the perfect place to try out free motion quilting designs!

Free Motion Monday – Designs for Log Cabin Blocks

A customer brought me a quilt with the Cactus Wreath pattern so I needed to think of quilting designs for log cabin blocks.  I decided to use Flame Flowers in the sections with points, and clusters of pebbles in the flowers.  For the background fill I chose a curvy meander.  For the main portion of the wreath, I knew I wanted another curved design to provide balance for all the straight lines and angles in the piecing.  I selected Scallop Hills as something a little different to fill this space.

First, Choose Thread Colors

One of the challenges with free motion quilting is thread choice.  Should I match the fabric or draw attention to a contrasting color?  Is there a single shade that could blend enough with all the fabrics or will I need to change colors? My customer’s quilt has three distinct colors: teal, magenta and white.  I auditioned various shades of teal and pinks and purples, but with the batik fabrics, a single shade just didn’t work.  So, I am using a light teal, dusty rose and eggshell white.Cactus Wreath pattern from Cozy Quilts

Flame Flowers and Pebbles in the Blossom Block

I matched the thread colors to the fabrics in the Blossoms.

cactus blossom quilting plan quilting designs for log cabin blocks

Learn my method for stitching a flame flower quilting design.

Pebbles fit into a variety of shapes.  See more quilted pebbles.

Background Fill Quilting Designs

I chose the curvy meander for the background to continue the theme of using curves to offset the angles in the piecing.  Meandering quilting designs also help move around the odd background spaces without having to stop and start again.  See my filler designs from the Arizona Flag quilt for more detail on meandering.

scallop hills sketch scallop hills on a quilt

Scallop Hills: quilting designs for log cabin blocks

Scallop Hills are easy to stitch and they fit into the angles of a log cabin block surprisingly well.  Start with a row of hills across your quilt block.  When you reach the end, backtrack to the middle of the last hill and begin your next row by bouncing off the middle of each hill.  If your rows of hills end at the edge of a block, you can hide your travel stitches in the seam line and start with either a full or half-hill depending on where you left off in the previous row.

scallop hills free motion quilting design

Since my customer mixed the magenta and teal fabrics in this log cabin wreath design, I could not match each individual fabric.  I decided to stitch the Scallop Hills in both dusty rose and teal thread, alternating by quadrant.  Of course, the design is more visible on the fabrics with contrasting thread, but the overall texture complements the quilt pattern quite nicely.

Any of these designs could be used on log cabin blocks.  What will you stitch today?

Free Motion Quilting: Spiral Variations

Spirals are one of the basic shapes that become the foundation of many free motion quilting designs.  Traveling in to a center and back out again becomes hypnotic.  But there are some quilts that beg for a more angular design.  I decided to play a bit in a quilt that features large snowball blocks.

Pattern: Blue River from Monochromatic Quilts: Amazing Variety

free motion quilting spirals

I divided the snowball quilt block into nine sections and used my new design, Polygon Spiral, in the four corner triangles and the outer squares.  In the center of the block, I stitched a design I refer to as the Corner-to-Middle Star.

Free Motion Quilting: Polygon Spiral

As I surfed the internet last week, I saw a sketch of an angular spiral.  I played a bit in my sketchbook, forming increasingly smaller squares within squares.

potential free motion quilting spiral

Although my sketches have slightly curved lines, I found it helpful to use a ruler when I stitched the spiral on fabric. I aimed for a point about one quarter inch from the corner so that each side of the square (or triangle) became smaller as I continued stitching toward the center.  The sides of the polygons gave me a clear path to travel-stitch to another section of the quilt.

Related: More spirals in free motion quilting designs

Polygon Spirals Step by Step

You can start your polygon spiral with any shape.  Your next round of stitches will not be exactly parallel.  Remember to aim for about 1/4″ toward the center on each side to be consistent.

free motion quilting spiral tutorial

Starting with a large space gives you plenty of room to practice.  Having more sections within your shape gives the illusion of curves and a eye-catching texture to your quilt.

These polygon spirals would look pretty cool in a border.  Variegated thread would add even more dimension to the design.  Is there a place for polygon spirals in your next quilt?  Please send a photo for the gallery.  We love show-and-tell!

Free Motion Monday – Follow the Fabric

Where do you find inspiration for your free motion quilting?  If the quilt contains classic blocks or soft colors, traditional feathers add a touch of elegance.  If there are busy, bold prints then the quilting details may not be noticeable so a simple meander might be the best choice.  And sometimes, you can follow the designs in the fabric itself to create gorgeous texture and whimsical patterns.

applique lantern quilt top

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A customer brought me a quilt with a variety of prints and said a pantograph (edge to edge design) would be fine.  I looked over the pattern – Lanterns  – and decided it would be more fun, and perhaps less time consuming, to do a bunch of different free motion quilting filler designs.

Free Motion Quilting Design – Traveling Flames
free motion quilting, Tula Pink

One of the prints is a Tula Pink fabric from the Chipper line, featuring this super cute fox.  I outlined the fox, and filled around it with Traveling Flames.  Once you are comfortable with the basic S-curve that makes the center of the flame, you can widen the design a bit and travel in any direction.

free motion quilting traveling flames

Free Motion Quilting – Echoed Spirals

Several fabrics called out for spirals.  In the tree rings pictured above, I traveled between each circle and the spirals were contained with the print.  In this green section, the spirals are almost touching.

free motion quilting, echoed spiral

I stitched a basic spiral, then echoed around the outside 2-3 times before stitching the next spiral.

how to stitch an echoed spiral

Tip: Use the hopping foot as a visual reference to keep the echoes evenly spaced!

With practice, your eye will learn the “right” distance for echoes.  I aim for a quarter inch in most cases.

Do you have a quilt whose fabric is calling you and inspiring some free motion quilting?  Please share in the comments.

Free Motion Monday – A BIG Daisy

Quilts have many purposes…to provide comfort and warmth, a gift on a special occasion or as a piece of art.  One goal of free motion quilting is to invite the viewer to take a second look.  Designs don’t have to be intricate, although some talented quilters can stitch fabulous designs that are very detailed pictures.Colorblock Flower

This is “Colorblock Flower,” a quilt I made in 2009.  I used the colorful blocks as the background for a large daisy motif.  It was a joy to stand near this quilt as it hung in my guild’s show and hear people exclaim as they recognized the quilted image in addition to the bright colors and bold shape of the quilt blocks.

Quilt a daisy with a pebble center and echoed petals.

petals and pebbles

I chose thread that fit with the daisy theme – yellow petals with a purple center.  The quilting shows up nicely on the pieced quilt back.

colorblock flower back

The big daisy did not completely fill the quilt, so I added a meandering leaf in green thread to carry the design to the edge of the quilt.

meandering leaf

Three simple designs combine to make one BIG daisy an unexpected surprise in the Colorblock Flower quilt.

Quilt some pebbles, petals and leaves for a hidden garden in your next project.

Step 1.  Define the space for the center.

Step 2. Add pebbles by stitching a circle.  Continue on top of the circle halfway around again before branching off for the next pebble.

Step 3. Add five or six petals around the center of your flower.

pebble daisy tutorial

Step 4.  Echo inside each petal.

Step 5.  Fill the background with meandering leaves.  The leaf shape is a wider version of the flame design. (See my Flame Flowers here.)

Share your garden on the True Blue Quilts Facebook page or Instagram with #Mayisforflowerquilts

Free Motion Monday – Spiral Rose

May Flowers are here!  I have an easy free motion quilting design to complement your floral quilt.  This design works well in a single block or as a large central motif.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

This is my Garden Twister quilt, made from a variety of floral prints.  For the free motion quilting, I knew the spiral rose would delight those who look closely without detracting from the cheery garden I created with the flowered pinwheels using the Lil’ Twister ruler.

spiral rose quilting detail

Quilting a Spiral Rose

I started in the center of my quilt and stitched a simple spiral.  As I moved outward, I began to stitch with slightly wavy lines.  As you near the edge of your space, or your rose is as big as desired, you might choose to add a few leaves.


With this simple floral free motion design, you can quickly grow a bountiful garden!

Free Motion Monday – Sometimes, simple is best

Quilting involves a lot of decisions, from fabrics to pattern choices, and finally the quilting design.  If you are sending your top to someone else for the quilting, you should have a discussion about the type of design you want.  A simple quilting design may be more appropriate than heirloom quilting featuring dense, intricate designs.

Snowball I-spy quilt

I made this Snowball I-Spy quilt for my daughter when she was about three years old.  It is quilted with a basic crosshatch and spirals in the borders.

I-spy quilt with crosshatchTo stitch the crosshatch with minimal starts and stops on a longarm, plan your lines in a V pattern.  Plan on traveling in the seamlines on the edges of the pattern and you may be able to complete the whole row in one pass.

crosshatch quilting 1crosshatch quilting 2crosshatch quilting 3Spirals are an easy design to use in the border of your quilt.  You can add interest by alternating the direction of the spiral…curve to the right on the first spiral, then curve to the left on the next one.  In the Snowball quilt, I alternated direction along the top and bottom borders with wavy lines in between.

quilted spirals

Here is a comparison of the two options when quilting spirals:

Two options for quilting spirals

Many years later, my daughter still enjoys her Snowball I-Spy quilt.  The simple designs of crosshatch and spirals were subtle interesting additions that let the conversation prints take center stage.

Snowball I-spy quilt

Some things to consider three things when choosing a quilting design:

1. Who is using the quilt?

A quilt destined for a child’s bed or the family sofa will likely be washed more frequently than the artistic piece for the guild show. A simple design will be just as effective and stand up to more activity.

2. What elements of the quilt do you want to highlight?

If the fabric is the main feature, consider a simple design.  Use intricate free motion quilting in the negative spaces of a quilt where they can be properly admired.

3. How much time and money do you have to spend on the quilting?

Heirloom quilting takes more time and generally costs more if you are hiring a professional quilter.  Choose the simple yet beautiful designs if you have a tight deadline and/or budget.

Simple free motion quilting can be the perfect finishing touch for your next project.  Enjoy, Experiment, and Excel while you quilt!



Free Motion Monday – Words on Quilts

Last week, I shared some of the filler designs on my Arizona Flag quilt.

imageSince I was inspired to make this quilt for Arizona’s statehood centennial, I wanted to include some of my state’s history.  Schoolchildren in Arizona learn the 5 C’s that were key to local industry: cotton, copper, climate, citrus and cattle so I quilted those terms right into the quilt in the lower blue portion.

image (Shown from the back to enhance visibility)

I used the letters E and M as a filler design.  Three bumps up, then 3 bumps sideways and you can stitch quickly across your quilt.


I also stitched “Arizona 1912 – 2012” centered below the star.  Unfortunately, this did not stand out very clearly.  Perhaps I should try adding crystals to the surface to emphasize that detail!


As a final touch, I quilted the names of all Arizona’s governors in the border of the quilt.  I marked a writing line in chalk, then just wrote carefully in cursive as if I were holding a pencil.


Have you written on any quilts?