Saturday, May 12, 2018

Free Motion Quilting and Ruler Work

In between piecing projects I've done some free motion quilting and ruler work on my Bernina Q20 sit down long arm machine. While my desings are far from perfect, the quilts are getting done and  I can see improvement.

This is a baby quilt made from the leftover fabrics used in Stella's Splendid Sampler--see this post for more info.  I did "stitch in the ditch" first along all the row seams then used a ruler/template for the semi-circle motifs in the light print blocks and the yellow print blocks. One of my favorite designs is "wishbone" quilting so I used that on the strippy rectangles. Finally, I did a swirl motif in the outer border, really fast and fun.

This I call the "Simple What Nots Sampler". When I taught the second Kim Diehl "Simple What Nots" club at my local shop, I decided not to finish the six small quilts individually as I had with the first "Simple What Nots" club taught the six months previous to this class. I just saved all the small tops, then put them on the design wall and figured out what was needed to join them all together. More info can be found here

A few details:

These are great quilts to practice with because the prints are busy and the individual stitches don't show, just the texture of the quilting. Another tip: use busy prints on the back:

Earlier this year, Amanda Murphy presented a Ruler Work Quilt A-Long on Bernina's We All Sew page.  It was a good way to practice ruler work designs. I just wish I had used a new piece of muslin for the top instead of the stained piece I pulled from an old box. Washing helped it but some staining is still visible:

Practicing free motion quilting can generate a lot of "quilted scraps". My earliest pieces aren't very good but they'll be perfect as kennel quilts for our local animal shelter:


The outer edge is finished by turning the back to the front and sewing the edge in place by machine, no added binding. These can be used in the animal cages, washed a lot, then tossed when they get too ratty to use. 

My next practice piece will be larger and from a nice solid fabric. I want to work on a few favorite motifs, mastering them as well as I can. Then I'll get a few more tops quilted. All of quiltmaking is a learning process. I read a lot on quilting, follow several blogs and watch a lot of YouTube videos. Practice makes better.

Next week I am off to Portland, OR for Spring Quilt Market, my favorite show, I think, of all I go to. It is so good to reconnect with friends in the industry and get a chance to see what is coming on the horizon. And, I just might buy some thread...

Let's quilt!



  1. You are fearless in just jumping in and doing, Barbara. You have tried some motifs that still frighten me, and I have been machine quilting for 5 or 6 years now. Do you still have your first FMQ sandwich? I bound mine and hung it near my machine to remind me that I have come along way, on those days that I get discouraged with my quilting.

    1. Not sure what my earliest FMQ would have been but I'll bet it's long gone. I am pleased to see improvement with each finished quilt.

  2. More pretty quilts and quilting. I like doing the backing-as-mock-binding on small doll quilts. FMQ is fun and wasn't as difficult as imagined. Best wishes at the upcoming Market.

  3. Very nice. Thanks for sharing. I have been machine quilting for several years now but I still get a brain fog sometimes when I start on a new quilt. I don't have my first one but I have a lot of my earlier days of machine quilting to remind me.

  4. The more quilters/designers I hear that are going to Portland, the more jealous I am. I was a volunteer at market in St. Louis last year and toyed with volunteering in Portland. Wish that I had now, for sure! Have a great time!

  5. Barbara, I am working there on Saturday from 3 to 6:30. I’d love to meet you in person if you are stay that long.

    1. JoJo, I work for Quilts Inc so I arrive Tuesday and fly home Monday. I will be in the Education office or on the show floor. Shoot me an email and I'll give you my cell # so we can meet.