[ Free Motion Quilting Designs ]

Free Motion Monday – Curls

Free motion quilting is my favorite step in the process of making a quilt.  Early in my quilting journey, I took a class from Gina Perkes and learned to stitch free motion curls.  The curl has become my go-to filler design and it shows up in some variation in most of my quilts. Once you build a collection of basic free motion stitches, you can mix and match them with any quilt block, which makes it easier to answer the question – How do I quilt that?

Basic Free Motion Curls

A curl is a mini spiral. When I am meandering to fill a background area, I alternate directions of the curl.  So as I stitch the stem, I think left – right- left – right, and I stitch the free motion curl in those alternating positions.

basic curls

I used the free motion curl as the basic filler design in my Teal Universe quilt.

The free motion curl works on a bigger scale too, and I use it frequently for baby quilts.

Change it up

So how do you take a basic filler design and change it into a more structured motif?  I put the design into the other quilting features I use.  Feathers are a traditional quilting design – how can we blend a curl with a feather? The core parts of a quilted feather are the stem and the petals. What happens if each petal becomes a curl?

free motion curls

TA DA: meet a faux feather. There is no need to mark this design or worry about perfect back-tracking on the stem. Just stack the free motion curls along a consistent path. Keeping the curls close together will give the illusion of a classic feather.

Flipping this idea of changing the core parts of the feather turns the stem into a curl.  As you stitch out of the curl, start making petals or bumps along the spine and now it is a feathered curl.

Curl variation

This motif is easy to use in a flowing graffiti-style of quilting where you just stitch across your quilt, adding echo lines as necessary to travel to new sections.

Curly Flowers

Another way to use the free motion curl stitch is to create a flower.  For this design, I start in the center of the block and add curls in circular rows. When I have completed one circle, I make the next curl a bit taller to start the next row.  Because you can fill any size space this way, I call it my “Infinity Flower.”

flower with curls

I used an Infinity Flower design in one of the blocks in my Blue River quilt.

Blue River detail

Free motion quilting is a chance to play and express your creativity in tangible ways.  Add new designs to your portfolio and then combine them to create something new and wonderful. Tell us in the comments about your favorite free motion quilting stitches.


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Longarm Quilter, Pattern Designer, Teacher

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