[ Free Motion Quilting Designs ]

Sketch then Stitch {Back to School Blog Hop 2022}

The best part of back to school? A new notebook! I picked up some sketchbooks at the Dollar Store so that I can Sketch, then Stitch. Doodling is my favorite way to warm up and practice free motion quilting before I sit down at the machine with fabric and thread.

free motion quilt sketch stacked coins pattern

Practice, Practice, Practice

To improve any skill, we must practice. Have you heard the 10,000 hour rule? The theory is that it takes ten THOUSAND hours, almost 20 YEARS, to master a skill. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you have only tried machine quilting a few times. It does get easier and your skills will improve over time.

An easy way to practice free motion quilting designs is by doodling or sketching on paper. That’s why my mantra is “Sketch, then stitch.” Developing a regular sketching practice will help build muscle memory which makes it easier to replicate a design when you move to your sewing machine.

Sketching Supplies

To get started sketching, you need some basic supplies. Paper and pencil will do the job, but I prefer a whiteboard and dry erase markers. Here are some suggestions from Amazon. I appreciate the support of purchases made with my affiliate link. Read the full disclosure policy here




Markers & Whiteboard



Quilt Block Coloring Pages

If you want to stitch a design in a specific quilt block, it helps to have a block diagram when you practice. There are several methods to incorporate quilt blocks into your sketching practice. Obviously, you could draw the block yourself but there are tools to help speed up the process. If you own the EQ8 software, you can search the library for various blocks or print your full quilt design.

Or, you can use my Classic Blocks & FMQ Workbook to combine different motifs with traditional quilt blocks. Watch and sketch with me in this YouTube series:

At the Machine

Once you have warmed up with sketch practice, it is time to work with needle and thread.

Prepare some quilt sandwiches by layering backing, batting and a plain fabric on top. Muslin is an affordable option for practicing free motion quilting.

Once the sandwich is ready, I may mark a grid as shown in this sample, or just go for it and enjoy the process of simply filling the space with multiple designs.

True Blue QUilts longarm FMQ sample

Remember to use contrasting thread so you can see your designs. And, you can go over the same piece with different colors, for multiple practice sessions!

More tips

Have you visited all the quilters who are sharing great quilting tips on the Back to School Blog Hop?

Back To School Blog Hop 2022

Here is the full list:

What did you find most helpful?




About Author


Longarm Quilter, Pattern Designer, Teacher


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