[ Free Motion Quilting Designs ]

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?


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Longarm Quilter, Pattern Designer, Teacher


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