Free Motion Monday – Developing a Quilting Plan

Many quilters have a stack of quilt tops because they aren’t sure what type of quilting design to use to complement the piecing.  “How should I quilt this?” is a question we all struggle with at times. When developing a quilting plan, it helps to first analyze the sections of your quilt, then decide which designs will fit in those sections.

Divide and Conquer

The first step in developing a quilting plan is to identify the different parts of your quilt top.  These may be different block designs in a sampler, or simply the center and borders of the quilt.

My example today is a Cactus Wreath (pattern by Cozy Quilt) that a customer asked to be custom quilted. The photo shows how I mentally separated the main areas of the quilt.

developing a quilting plan longarm ideas

Section 1 is the corner motif while section 2 is the darker ring formed by the log cabin blocks. Section 3 is the side border area and sections 4 and 5 are the central motif and the background.  Finally I would treat the outer border as another distinct section when developing a quilting plan.  I often let the fabric colors dictate the quilting sections since I generally match thread color to the fabric.

Pair a Motif to the Pieced Block

As I am considering the sections of a quilt, I imagine the different quilting designs I have practiced.  These motifs include a variety of feathers, flowers, leaves and filler designs.  For this Cactus Wreath, I chose a large flower for the center section, with curly-q filler in the light background areas.

infinite flower free motion quiltingfloral motif quilting design









In the corners, I quilted a leafy vine that extended through each piece of the log cabin block.

developing a quilting plan for corners


free motion quilting leaves









For the frame created by the log cabin blocks, I extended feathers in the dark sections, a ribbon swirl in the medium areas, and a flame-stitch flower in the light sections.  A full explanation of my flame flowers is in the post Flame Variations; a tutorial for the ribbon swirl is in the post Simple Designs for Strip Blocks.

ribbon quilting on quilt borders


free motion quilting various designs







Sometimes I write down my ideas with notes about thread colors and keep that posted near my longarm so I can stick to the plan.  Although I have been known to change my mind in the middle and stitch something completely different! Spending some time developing a quilting plan will generate lots of ideas for your quilts.

Comment below with your favorite quilting motif. Is there a block design that you struggle to fill?


Free Motion Monday – Simple Designs for Strip Blocks

free motion quilting strip blocks

The Bali Fever pattern by Judy Neimeyer is a stunning quilt.  The fabric and piecing should take center stage so I chose simple free motion quilting for strip blocks.  The loops and wavy lines provide just enough texture to enhance the strong … Continue reading

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 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

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. The full disclosure policy is here.

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 – 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?

Free Motion Monday – Arizona’s Flag

Making a postage stamp quilt, with thousands of tiny pieces, was on my bucket list when buzz started about Arizona’s Centennial anniversary of statehood celebration. The resulting quilt had 2,012 pieces in honor of our state birthday in 2012.  I will tell the whole story … Continue reading

Free Motion Monday – Pinwheel fillers

Disclaimer…this post contains affiliate links.

Rainbows and Quilts just go together!  Many years ago, I was in an online fabric swap and each person was assigned a color.  The swap host collected everything and then sent out this beautiful collection of rainbow shades.  The fabric was cut in charm squares, which made it easy to turn into a Twister quilt.


I laid out the colors from light to dark, and I had enough squares to make two rows of each color, so I alternated the gradient with each row.  Once I had the squares sewn together, I grabbed my Lil’ Twister ruler  and cut it apart again.  It was so fun watching the pinwheels appear!


The reward for chopping up a quilt top with the Twister ruler is the bonus squares.  I put some of the leftover scraps to use in the corners, keeping everything in proper ROYGBIV order.

My Garden Twister Pattern also features the Lil Twister Ruler!

Then it was time to choose quilting designs.  I spent alot of time on Leah Day’s website for inspiration!

image image image image

Then I made little rainbows in the background by echoing small curves:


Here are my names for the quilting designs.  Each column of color had its own unique free motion design:


It’s been quite a while since I quilted this wallhanging.  I remember tying off and burying hundreds of thread tails, so I think I was insane and started each pinwheel from the center.  I will have to revisit these designs and see if they can be modified for a continuous line design.

Please share some of your favorite quilting projects.  Do you keep the quilts you make or give them away?

Free Motion Monday – From sketchbook to finished quilt

Last week I shared the plan for several border designs.  I finished the quilt and I’d like to explain the designs in more detail. The quilt is for a school raffle and each child made a hand and footprint angel.  … Continue reading