Category Archives: free motion quilting

A Fast Finish

big leaf, nov 2015
Dawn’s New Big Leaf, 24½” Square (2015)

Under two weeks, from start to finish. That must be a record for me, as I am more like the hare than the rabbit. Granted, my New Big Leaf is a small project — but hey, every finish counts, right?

I started this on Oct. 28 in a workshop with Pat Pauly, a renowned fiber artist from New York who came to Portland to teach her “New Big Leaf” design using freezer paper templates. A week later my top was pieced. Now on to the quilting.

This is the point at which my projects usually get tucked away. Like so many other quiltmakers, the actual quilting is my least favorite part. It is oh so easy to procrastinate. This time I vowed not to do that. I geared up to tackle not only this new project but also the table runner of my own design that I had put aside eight months ago. (I quilted that one first and wrote about it in my last post.)

After pin pasting my New Big Leaf, I stitched in all the ditches. That enabled me to remove the safety pins for the rest of the quilting: free motion quilting in the blue parts of the leaf and gentle curves around the leaf using my walking foot. A few close-ups:

big leaf, quilting detail 1

big leaf, quilting detail 3 
big leaf, quilting detail 2
I used variegated threads that blend with the background, the goal being to add texture without adding color.

When it came to the binding, I didn’t want it to provide a frame around the leaf. I wanted the greens and purples to flow right into the binding. The solution: two fabrics in the binding. Here you can see where the green binding changes to purple on both sides of the upper left corner:

big leaf upper left corner

The back of the quilt is one piece of fabric (a departure for me). Although I used four different threads on the front of the quilt, I used the same purply-blue variegated thread in the bobbin so there’s just one thread on the back. The plan was for the thread to blend in completely on the backing fabric. That it did, but it also provided an outline of the leaf that both surprised and pleased me:

back of new big leaf
I finished hand stitching the binding Tuesday morning, 13 days from the day of Pat Pauly’s workshop. What a triumph!

Oops, not so fast. Now comes the confession: my project is not truly finished. Did you notice? No label on the back yet. And no name, for that matter. I was so eager to show it to you that I fudged a bit on my pronouncement that it was done.

I am still musing on a name. As for the label, I’m thinking about making one in the shape of a leaf, using the freezer paper technique I learned from Pat. Wouldn’t that be a fun touch?

Linking up with Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation on NTT (Needle and Thread Thursday).




Posted in free motion quilting, New Big Leaf, update | 6 Comments

A Spot of Sunshine

2014-12, Sun FlowersIt hardly seems possible but eight months have passed since I last worked on Sun Flowers, pictured above. It’s the third of four kaleidoscope wall hangings I’m making of my Season to Taste pattern — one version for each season of the year. This is the summer version, made from a lively floral print from Camelot Cottons.

I had quilted straight lines in the grey background and free-motion quilted a swirly design in one of the kaleidoscope blocks. That was as far as I got back in March. I quilted the last two blocks on Friday and finished binding the piece today. Here it is quilted, bound — and buttoned:

Sun Flowers (2)Yes, buttoned. In the center of each block are two layered buttons, adding a bit of whimsy:

Sun Flower, buttons

The back is pieced of leftovers and includes a sizeable piece of the original focus fabric:

Sun Flowers (back)I love to feature the focus fabric on the backs of my quilts, especially when I’ve used it to make kaleidoscope blocks.

Sun Flowers (18″ x 55″) is now hanging in the master bath:

Sun Flowers in situ

It’s a cheerful and colorful addition to the Portland White House. On the greyest of days in Portland — and we have many of those in fall and winter — it will be a spot of sunshine.




Posted in free motion quilting, kaleidoscope quilts, New Big Leaf, update | 8 Comments

Quilting in Progress: Sun Flowers

Finally — a quilting plan is in place for Sun Flowers, the wall hanging I set aside in January:

2014-12, Sun Flowers
You may remember that Sun Flowers is the third of four kaleidoscope quilts I am making that represent the seasons of the year. The first two quilts, representing spring and fall, are Under Paris Skies and Autumn Reflections, each of which measures about 18″ x 55″:

Season to Taste high res pattern cover (2)
The quilting on Sun Flowers is a combination of straight line quilting with a walking foot and free-motion quilting (FMQ) in the eight triangles that form each octagon:

Sun Flowers, one block quilted

The straight lines don’t cross the kaleido blocks as they did in Under Paris Skies. My intent here is to make the lines look as if they are going behind the blocks. The swirly free-motion quilting motif is the same one I used on Autumn Reflections and wrote about here. I used 50-weight Aurifil thread in pale grey so the quilting would add texture but not stand out too much.

I couldn’t resist adding those buttons (not yet sewn on) for the photo. Layering the buttons creates a secondary sunflower, reinforcing the theme of the quilt.

You can see the FMQ design in the kaleido wedges more easily on the pieced back:

Sun Flowers, back of one block quilted-001

It feels good to be this far with the quilting. I have two more blocks to go but seem to have overcome my procrastination, always an issue where FMQ is concerned.

Linking up on NTT (Needle and Thread Thursday) with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation.




Posted in free motion quilting, kaleidoscope quilts, update | 3 Comments

Another February Finish: Olivia Twist

My first (but not my last) bedrunner quilt is back from the longarmer. It’s also bound, labeled, and ready to display. So satisfying to report another February finish! Here it is:

Olivia Twist front (2)

Olivia Twist, so named because of the floral focus fabric (A Garden for Olivia by In the Beginning Fabrics) and the twist block, measures 31″ x 76″ — a good size for the bottom of a double or queen-size bed. The design is adapted from my pattern 4-Patch Wonder with a Twist.

I’m delighted with the free-motion quilting done by Jolene Knight of Good Knight Quilts. I’ll bet you’d like to see some details, wouldn’t you? Happy to oblige.

In the 4-Patch Wonder blocks Jolene quilted a radiating blossom, repeating the same motif in the small black squares between blocks:

Olivia Twist quilting detail front 2
You can also see the whimsical leaf-and-loop motif she quilted in the lattice strips. Here’s another block:

Olivia Twist, quilting detail on front
In the background Jolene quilted a free-form spiral motif with pebbles here and there. Check this out:

Olivia Twist, quilting detail background

(The background fabric looks almost purple in the photo above. In actuality it is a very dark navy and black batik print.)

On the back of the quilt is a full length piece of the focus fabric as well as three leftover 4-Patch Wonder blocks set on point:

Olivia Twist back

In this close-up of the back, you can see more of Jolene’s playful free-motion quilting:

Olivia Twist, quilting detail on back
I’m already thinking about my next bedrunner quilt. My choice of pattern may surprise you. I hope you’ll check back in a few days to see what I have in mind.




Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, bed runners, faux-kaleido quilts, free motion quilting, update | 4 Comments

February Finish

In my last post I mentioned a Work-in-Progress that needed some free-motion quilting (FMQ). Remember this?

2013-10, kaleido table runner 1
18″ x 56″ Before Quilting


Back in October, continuing my love affair with kaleidoscope quilts, I made three large kaleidoscope blocks from a piece of autumn-themed fabric from In the Beginning Fabrics (you can read about it here) and put them together into the table runner/wall hanging you see above. After assembling the quilt sandwich, I did a fair amount of stitching in the ditch and then I put the piece aside. Why? Because FMQ is by far the most challenging aspect of the quilting process for me and it is far too easy for me to procrastinate.

This week I decided I absolutely had to finish it. And I did! I quilted a curvy motif in each triangle of the octagons — that’s 24 total, not counting the ones I made first on my practice quilt sandwich. Here’s a close-up of the quilting on my favorite block:

2014-2 Kaleido Wall Hanging quilting detail
Up Close and Personal


My inspiration for the quilting design came from the book Adaptable Quilting Designs by Sue Patten (American Quilter’s Society, 2010):

2014-2 Kaleido Wall Hanging quilt motif

I modified her design so that it would fit in my 45 degree triangles. The quilting lines are meant to cross each other so it’s a very forgiving design for a novice free-motion quilter like me.

Well, what can I say? My FMQ isn’t going to win any awards but I’m pleased with this effort. And I’m not going to get better unless I do more of it, right?

This post is labeled “February Finish” but in fact my little quilt isn’t done yet. It doesn’t have a label because I haven’t thought of a name. I’m thinking about making a second kaleidoscope runner like this one in spring fabrics, and then I can call them Spring Forward and Fall Back. Just kidding. Hmm. Maybe not!




Posted in free motion quilting, kaleidoscope quilts, update | 7 Comments

First Finish of 2014

“First finish of 2014.” Ah, it feels good to say that. May I present Square Dance:

Square Dance, 55½” x 64½”

Just 18 months from conception to completion. Not bad for me! To read about the inspiration for this quilt and how it evolved, see my first post about it and a follow-up.

Square Dance was quilted by Melissa Hoffman, one of many talented longarm quilters in the Portland metropolitan area. Here are a couple of close-ups:

2014-1 Square Dance quilting detail
Quilting Detail


2014-1 Square Dance quilting detail 1
Feathers and Filigrees

Don’t you love the way quilting adds texture? The filigree motif in the inner black background was free-motion quilted.

The back of the quilt:

Leftover Blocks on the Back


Just for fun, the label is a square in a square:

2014-1 Square Dance label
Final Task: the Label

Square Dance
will hang in the Stitches in Bloom quilt show at the Oregon Garden next week (Jan. 24-26). If you happen to be in the neighborhood of Silverton, Oregon then, I hope you’ll stop by.




Posted in free motion quilting, update | 7 Comments

Hi Ho, Hi Ho . . .

. . . it’s off to camp I go! Quilt Camp, that is. From Sunday afternoon till Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be at the conference center in Silver Falls State Park near Silverton, Oregon sewing non-stop with 11 wonderful women, four of whom are in my quilt group, the Quisters. This is my seventh year. Once we’ve unpacked and set up our sewing gear in the big conference room, we are good to go. We only stop to eat. Seriously! Three meals a day are provided — and they are ample and good.

Every year it’s a struggle deciding what to take. Because I vastly overestimate how much I’ll accomplish, I bring way too many projects in way too many plastic tubs. Some of them never even get opened. This year I’m more focused, more organized.

My Number One goal is to finish my Metro Rings quilt top. After making the test block I showed you in my last post — here’s another look at it —

2013-10, metro rings test block 1
Metro Rings block, 19″ Square

I set about getting all of the fabric cut for 11 more blocks. Here are my strips of black-on-white and white-on-black for the rings:

2013-11, Urban Rings fabric strips
Strips, Strips and More Strips


I’m using a total of 20 different fabrics. They are sewn into 20″ long strip sets and then cut into curves using a specialty ruler. I got the strip sets sewn and then cut the red and blue corner triangles and the white triangles and strips for the background:

2013-11, Urban Rings fabrics
Strip Sets Sewn and More


I got the curves cut in the background fabric . . .

2013-13, Metro Rings bkgd fabric
Background Fabric Curves Cut

. . . but I’ll wait till I get to Quilt Camp to cut the curves in the strip sets. I should be able to hit the ground running!

My Number Two goal is to finish this kaleidoscope table runner, also mentioned in my previous post:

2013-10, kaleido table runner 1
18″ x 56″ Before Quilting

It’s already sandwiched and I’ve done some in-the-ditch quilting. What the runner needs now is some free motion quilting. I’m going to try a plume feather design in each of the 45° triangles. Wish me luck! Free motion quilting is not my strong suit but I’m going to give it my best shot.

I’m also bringing a couple of UFOs with me in case I get my Number One and Number Two projects done. Yes, I know: ever the optimist!




Posted in free motion quilting, update | 2 Comments

On the Sewing/Quilting Front

While electricians and plumbers were working their magic last week in the bathroom that’s being renovated (see previous posts), I was at work down the hall in my sewing room. As planned, I quilted two baby quilts — but the quilting didn’t go as planned. I wanted to do free motion quilting (FMQ) using a large-scale boxy geometric design. Alas, it was not to be. My up and down lines looked fine but I lacked control on the side to side lines.

After several attempts, each of which was followed by picking out stitches, I gave up on the FMQ and resorted to quilting straight lines in both directions using a walking foot. I randomly spaced the lines from three to six inches apart. It wasn’t necessary to mark the quilts as I used the straight lines in the print fabric and the seamlines as my guides.

You may remember that Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting basted the quilts for me on her longarm machine. The big red basting stitches were extremely easy to remove — but even so, it took a bit of time to remove the thread.

2013-4, thread nest
A Nest of Thread


My friend Pam Raby, who blogs at Quilts and Paws, suggested using water-soluble thread next time. Brilliant! I’ve already passed the suggestion on to Nancy.

Bound, labeled, and washed and dried, this quilt is ready to be delivered to its rightful owner. Here’s a photo of the back of baby Nehemiah’s quilt:

2013-4, back of Nemo's quilt
Baby Nemo’s Quilt, 46″ x 47″


I also found time to work up a wall hanging using my own Full Moon Rising pattern:

2013-4, FMR 900
In Progress: Full Moon Rising, 16″ x 57″

In addition to four metallic fabrics from the Neutral Territory line by Donna Becher for P&B Textiles, I used a beige circle fabric from the Earthtones line by Norman Wyatt Jr., also for P&B Textiles — those two lines are a match made in heaven! — and a Marcia Derse scallop print for the end pieces. The strips between blocks, which I’ll use for the binding, are from an Andover blender that I have in several colorways.

And finally, just because it’s spring — my favorite season — and I’m rejoicing in every blooming thing, I have to show you what’s on display in front of the Portland White House:

2013-4, April showers, tulips
Tulips in the Rain


2013-4, April showers, hellebores
Hellebores in the Rain





Posted in baby quilt, bathroom remodel, free motion quilting, update | 2 Comments

Marta’s Quilt

My third finish of the year — Marta’s Quilt:

Marta's Quilt, 47" square
Marta’s Quilt, 47″ square


I started this quilt last spring as part of a Quilt-Along led by Jenny Pedigo of and finished the top in June. The pattern is Jenny’s own design, Urban 9-Patch. I added the fuchsia diamonds between the blocks for an extra jolt of color.

Why did it take so long to get it quilted? Well, I had lofty ideas of doing some fancy free motion quilting (FMQ) on it. The longer I put off practicing my free motion quilting skills, the longer the quilt top languished. There’s just no getting around the fact that FMQ demands lots of practice.

Little Miss Marta is now 14 months old. I figured I’d better hurry up and get her quilt done before she graduates from college. I had done some preliminary stitching in the ditch to stabilize the blocks in preparation for FMQ. I stitched in more ditches and then quilted ribbons in the center of each block and a loop-de-loop in the borders to finish it.

A leftover block went on the back:

back of Marta's Quilt
back of Marta’s Quilt


Don’t you love that wrinkly, crinkly look a quilt gets when it’s been washed?




Posted in free motion quilting, Quilt-Along, update | 4 Comments

Memories of Sisters, Part 2 . . .

Free motion quilting is not a skill that comes easily to me. In fact, I really struggle with it. Because of that, I try to take at least one class a year from an expert. When I learned that Janet Fogg was teaching a day-long class called “Basic Drawing for Machine Quilters” during Quilter’s Affair, the week of classes leading up to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show on the second Saturday in July, I jumped at the chance to register.

The best part was . . . we didn’t have to bring our machines!  We were asked to bring a sketchbook and a pen, plus a quilt top that we planned to quilt ourselves. Janet led us through a variety of drawing exercises, showing us how to build a simple quilt motif, build on it, travel with it, and transition to other quilting designs. We did that all morning, filling pages and pages in our sketchbooks with motifs and notes. She gave us a fantastic handout which included many of the motifs she has used on her own award-winning quilts.

practicing spirals in Janet’s class


In the afternoon, Janet treated us to a slideshow of her amazing quilts, all quilted freehand, and then we took turns displaying our own quilt tops, getting feedback from her and fellow students on ideas for quilting. I am really excited now about putting my classroom learning to the test at home.

On the day of the quilt show I took special notice of quilts that had been machine quilted freehand. Here are some closeups, starting with Janet’s own quilt, Hippo Love. (I neglected to get a photo of the entire quilt but you can see it on her website: )

detail of Hippo Love by Janet Fogg


detail, Hippo Love by Janet Fogg


detail, back of Hippo Love by Janet Fogg


detail, back of Hippo Love by Janet Fogg


Here are other examples of free motion quilting I admired:

quilting by Shireen’s Stitching


quilting by Shireen’s Stitching


quilting by Tammy Mac Arthur


Quilting by Loretta Orsborn


As you can see, the bar is set very high. Janet echoed the advice in every book I have on the subject: it takes a LOT of practice to become a proficient machine quilter. I’m on a road trip to California right now to visit my grandchildren, so all I can do is think about practicing. Does that count?




Posted in free motion quilting, Sisters OR Outdoor Quilt Show, update | 2 Comments