Free Motion Quilting Striped Blocks

A customer brought me a quilt made from striped fabric.  What design to quilt over all those lines? I used a variety of motifs when free motion quilting striped blocks. I was worried that the navy blue thread would be overpowering, but from across the room it blends nicely.

free motion quilting striped blocks

Echo Stitch around Applique

In the corners of the quilt, the customer placed applique leaf clusters that she had drawn herself.  Sometimes applique need some stitching on top as well, but these shapes were small enough to do without and the customer preferred the puffy look, so I just echoed around the stems and leaves, and added some wavy lines in the background.

echo stitching around applique

Free Motion Quilting Striped Blocks

Then I faced the challenge of choosing a motif for the striped blocks.  I wanted to use several designs, so I started with basic spirals following the lines in the fabric.

free motion quilting striped blocks

I embellished a bit with a loopy meander that spiraled to the center.

free motion quilting loops

Free Motion Quilting Plus Shapes

Some of the striped blocks were turned so that the fabric stripes formed a plus instead of a square.  I followed the lines in these sections and ended up with a quarter square design.

free motion quilting plus shape

I used my favorite Flame Flower too (read more about this design here)

flame flower on stripes

Free Motion Quilting Pebbles

The pebble block had me worried since it is very bold quilting in contrasting thread.

fmq spikes and pebbles

I created a new spiral variation with spiky lines as shown in the green block at the top of the photo.

I wanted to lighten the pebble design so I spread it out into single lines, which I call Infinity.

free motion quilting pebbles

Once you start free motion quilting, you will be surprised at all the variations.  Combine shapes, such as loops, with the basic form of a square or spiral to see what new designs you can create!

Rolling Stone Quilt Block – #9 for RAVBOM2016

Hello Ravelry friends and fellow quilters!  I chose the Rolling Stone quilt block for the sampler we are working on in the Quilters Knitting group on Ravelry. If you are just starting this project, find the details here.  The classic Rolling Stone block is a two color block, but you can add a third color accent, or get scrappy with each section.rolling stone quilt block with two colors   rolling stone quilt block with three colors

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Ooooh, I just had the thought of making it in a color wheel variation, that might be fun!  But back to business…

Rolling Stone Quilt Block Tutorial

These measurements will make a 12″ finished block.  Notice that the Rolling Stone quilt block uses a 9-patch layout.  Generally, the measurements will work best for multiples of 3 – a 6″ or 9″ block will have “nicer” measurements than an 8″ or 10″ block!  The units that make up the Rolling Stone quilt block are square-in-square (corners), rectangle pairs (sides) and a center square.

cut pieces for rolling stone quilt block

Cutting Instructions for the Rolling Stone Quilt Block

For the Square-in-Square corners, cut 4 squares from the main color at 3-3/8″. Cut 8 squares from the background at 2-7/8″, then cut once on the diagonal so you have 16 HST.

Note: In the picture above, I used the third accent color, so I cut 6 squares from the background color and 2 from the accent color.

You can also use the Square-in-a-Square ruler for these units.

For the Center, cut one square at 4-1/2″ from the main color.

For the Rectangle sides, cut  4 from the main color at  4-1/2″ x 2-1/2″, and 4 of either the accent or background at    4-1/2″ x 2-1/2″

*trim all units to 4-1/2″

Assembling your Rolling Stone Quilt Block

Square-in-square units can be tricky.  Sew alternate corners, press, then add remaining corners.  I use a quick finger-press to find the center of both the square and the triangle, then I pin before sewing the seam.

sewing corners on a quilt square

Sew the rectangle pairs together, then lay out the units in a 9-patch arrangement and sew into rows.

rolling stone quilt block ready to sew

Ta-Da!  You are on a roll!!

rolling stone quilt block

For more block tutorials, please refer to my post on the Jacob’s Ladder Block.

I also have useful tips for half square triangles and basic 4-patches.

Stretch and Move – exercises for Quilters

I hate to admit that quilting can be painful.  Joint and muscle pains are a natural consequence from being in one position for too long.  Over the past several days of working on a king-size quilt on my longarm, I remembered to take many breaks to stretch my back.  Here are some resources with exercises for quilters to use as a quick reference guide. I am NOT a doctor so please consult your own physician for specific complaints.

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Stretch every day

woman stretching

Have you ever been to an aerobics class?  There are some basic stretches that come to mind from the good ole days when I went to Jazzercise several times a week.  I work my way from head to toe with neck stretches (ear to shoulder), torso twists and ankle rotations.

Grab some simple equipment

tennis ball exercises for quilters

I have found relief for specific back pain from a chiropractor.  An at-home exercise she recommended was laying on a tennis ball.  I use it for both my shoulder and my sciatic nerve. You can see a good description of the technique on this page.

Remember, the goal is to find a balance.  If I have been looking to the left as I guide my longarm over a pantograph, I focus on stretching to the right.  If I have been hunched forward, I spread my arms and lean backwards.  An exercise ball is a great tool.  Some quilters even sew while sitting on one!  I simply lay back on mine for about five minutes to relax my torso.

woman sitting on exercise ball

Keep Moving!

In addition to stretching, keep your body moving!  I cannot stand at the longarm for more than an hour, so I set a timer which reminds me when to switch activities.  With several projects going at once, it is never hard to move to the next task!  If I am piecing at my small machine, I have a steady rotation between the cutting table, sewing space and ironing board.  These small changes in position throughout the day make a huge difference by the evening.

Since I don’t have the money for a gym membership at the moment, I am taking advantage of the free option in my neighborhood – a walk around the block.  Several blocks, actually, since I have a route that is a little over a mile long. I drag my husband along and it’s becoming a nightly ritual that gives us some time to converse rather than stare at separate screens.  Speaking of technology, are you a Fitbit wearer?  There are many tracking devices and apps to encourage you to get your steps in! What are some of your favorites?  Please share in the comments!

Let’s stay happy and healthy by doing some stretches and exercises every day!

Free Motion Monday – Figure 8 Quilting Design

Loops are an easy free motion quilting design that adds great texture to a quilt with lots of straight lines.  I chose a figure 8 quilting design for a recent customer quilt.  The quilt pattern is Stacked Coins and she used men’s shirts to create the blocks.  This is a keepsake quilt for children to remember their father – what a touching gift!

free motion quilting figure eight

Free Motion Quilting is like Writing in Cursive!

The figure 8 quilting design looks like a line of Ls. I have to remind myself to keep a steady pace with the stitching so my tension doesn’t get wonky on the back. You can adjust this design to fit any space.  It would be equally effective in sashing strips or a border.

free motion quilting loops

Audition Quilt Designs Before Stitching

When I loaded this quilt onto my longarm machine, I knew what the background would be since the customer had requested echoed pebbles.  Of course, stitching white thread on a white background can be tricky, but it is a fun free motion filler design.

The primary blocks took more thought.  Many of the shirts were plaid so there are alot of striaght lines in this quilt. I had several ideas so I drew a quick sample of the Stacked Coins pattern in my notebook and auditioned these designs.

free motion quilt sketch stacked coins pattern

Maybe a basic grid of wavy lines?  What about a single feather?  Check out more free motion quilting designs here.

No, I really liked the loopy Figure 8 quilting design. I chose a light blue, slightly variegated thread that blends nicely with all the colors in the shirts.

For the outside border, I kept it simple with straight line quilting in a matching navy thread.

stacked coins quilt longarm quilting

Would you have chosen a different free motion quilting design?  I’d love to see your work! Email photos to info@truebluequilts.com and I will add them to my project gallery.

Need some practice with free motion designs?  I have a free workbook for you!

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!

3 Reasons why I love EQ7

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How does the tactile experience of quilting fit into the high tech world of computer design?  Electric Quilt developed a software package that has become my favorite tool for designing quilts.  What began as a long process of sketching with graph paper, drafting multiple copies for coloring and then pages of calculations has become an enjoyable online process.  Notice that I did not say it was faster, mainly because I get lost in the process and end up creating seven versions of a quilt in the time it used to take me to design just one!

Let me share the top 3 reasons why I love EQ7: coloring, yardage calculations and free motion quilt sketches!
reasons I love EQ7 color auditions

 

#1 : EQ7 helps you audition colors for your quilt

EQ7 has a great selection of colors, in both fabrics and solids.  You can spend many hours coloring your favorite quilt pattern with just the click of the mouse.  You can also upload pictures of your own fabric stash!

solid palette EQ7palettes in EQ7 solid or fabric

I start in the block library to find a quilt block, then I select the coloring tool and play until something strikes my fancy.  Remember to save everything to the sketchbook as you make changes, so that you can come back to the version you liked best!

Need more help learning to use the EQ7 program?  Check out Beaquilter’s tutorial library or the Electric Quilt website!

#2: EQ7 calculates fabric yardage for your project

I am a former math teacher, so working out all the calculations to figure out how much fabric my next project requires never scares me too much.  But, any time you can speed up the process means that much more time for quilting!  This is another reason I love EQ7.  Once I design a quilt with a certain block size, and set the border size, the computer does the rest of the work.

EQ7 cactus blossom quilt designEQ7 calculates fabric yardage for my project

 

 

 

 

Using the print preview option, I can see that this quilt will need 2-1/4 yd of green fabric, 5/8 yd pink fabric and 5/8 yd of a light background fabric.  Of course, once I set foot in the quilt store, those yardage estimates may increase by 50-100%…stash acquisition is an investment opportunity, right?!?

Related: there are several books about designing quilts with EQ7.

#3: EQ7 helps plan free motion quilting

The final reason I love EQ7 is that I can preview free motion quilting designs before I put the quilt under the needle. I simply print a few copies of the block and sketch my designs on paper first.

reasons I love EQ7 sketch free motion quilting

EQ7 has an extensive library of blocks and it has an EasyDraw function that allows you to create your own block designs as well.  When a single block is printed in grayscale, it becomes the foundation for planning free motion quilting designs.  Sometimes, your original quilting plan may become too complex and having another page ready to sketch helps you find a creative solution.

Related: I had to adjust the quilting designs for a Swoon block.

Why I love EQ7

 

EQ7 quilt design software helps me choose colors, calculate yardage requirements, and plan free motion quilting designs.  EQ7 is practically a necessity for anyone who loves to design their own quilts.  If you get stuck with color selection or frustrated with the math, let this software help you out.  Computers can make our lives easier and the best part is that we have more time to quilt!

What are your favorite tools for the quilt design process?

Jacob’s Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

For my contribution to the Ravelry Block of the Month 2016 quilt, I chose a classic block.  Gather 2 or 3 fabrics to  make the Jacob’s Ladder Quilt Block.

jacob's ladder quilt blockJacob's Ladder quilt block

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Jacob’s Ladder Quilt Block Design – Basic 9-patch

I always start by analyzing the block to identify the units I need.  The Jacob’s Ladder quilt block has a classic 9-patch layout with 5 four patch units and 4 half-square triangle (HST) units.  Because of the 3×3 layout, this block works best with units that are multiples of 3. Therefore, 6″ and 12″ finished blocks will be our goal.

Fabric Requirements

This block can be made with just two colors, while I show it in three colors.  Of course, you may want to be as scrappy as possible, making each unit with different fabrics, and that is fine too.

For the pictured block, you will need 1 strip of background fabric at 4-1/2″, 1 strip of light/medium fabric at 2-1/2″ x 25″, and 1 strip of dark at 4-1/2″ x 10″.  Note…I use the Easy Angle Ruler to cut my HST units.  If you use a different method, your fabric strips may need to be larger.

From the background strip, cut one rectangle at 4-1/2″ x 10″ for the HST. Cut the remaining piece to 2-1/2″ x 25″ for the four patch units.

fabric for Jacob's Ladder quilt block

Sewing the Jacob’s Ladder Quilt Block

Step 1 – HST with the Easy Angle ruler

Lay your background and dark fabrics right sides together.  Place the Easy Angle ruler on the fabric aligned with the 4-1/2″ markings.  Cut 4 units, then sew on the diagonal.  Press to the dark fabric and trim to 4-1/2″ square.

cutting half square triangles

Step 2 – 4 patch units

Place the background and light/medium fabrics right sides together and sew one long strip.

pair two fabrics for four patch units

Press to the darker fabric and cut into 2-1/2″ units.  You need 10 units to make 5 four patches.

two color four patch quilt block

Pair these units together, nesting the seams, and sew the four patch units. Press and trim to 4-1/2″.

Final block construction

Layout the units according to the block illustration.  The HST “kiss” and the 4-patch units all face the same direction to create one light diagonal and one dark diagonal chain.  Note…I flipped the corners so I do not have a light chain in this block.  Remember that errors in quilting are “Design Opportunities.”  This is a mistake I can live with, so no need for the seam ripper.

jacob's ladder quilt block

I also made this sample with just two colors, which creates a strong graphic design with the dark squares and HSTs.

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block by TrueBlueQuilts

Making smaller blocks

To make a 6″ Jacob’s Ladder Quilt Block, you will need units that finish at 2″.  The HSTs can be made with 2-1/2″ strips and the Easy Angle ruler, while the Four Patch units need strips cut at 1-1/2″.

The math also works out nicely for a 9″ block.  The HSTs can be made with 3-1/2″ strips and the Easy Angle ruler, while the Four Patch units need strips cut at 2″.

To make 8″ or 10″ blocks, you will need to work with units measured at the 1/8″ or 3/16″ line…much too fussy for my taste!

 

What does your Jacob’s Ladder quilt block look like?  I can’t wait to see the variety of colors and sizes! Join us in the Quilters Knitting group on Ravelry for show and tell.

More details about sewing with HSTs are described in my Pinwheels post.

 

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?