25 Free Motion Quilting Ideas: Part 1


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Note: Don’t forget to check out Part 2 and Part 3

Last spring, I taught a Circles, Lines, & Curves  free motion quilting class at Capital Quilts.  I think it helps in a class to see the free motion quilting stitched out on actual fabric, so I stitched up a ton of small samples.

I plan to share 25 of my “go to” free motion quilting designs in 3 parts– Circles, Lines, and Curves.  I hope that having a number of designs in one place will help inspire you–either to try one of them out, or to try something different.

These are not original designs–some of them I learned from friends, others from books, others from cruising the internet and seeing something that inspired me.

If you are new to free motion quilting (quilting done with a darning foot where you actually move the fabric [domestic machine] or the needle [long arm]), or would like to improve your skills, I suggest that you practice, practice, practice. Draw your quilting designs, then draw them to scale, then draw them out again. Buy a book or borrow a friend’s. Take a class, either at a local quilt shop or online (lots of machine quilting classes available at Craftsy).

Craftsy Logo

Master a “simple” stitch, like a circle, and then add variations. Try stitching Pebbles of varying sizes, filling in the quilt top or block with small and large pebbles.  Then, try Skipping Rocks, where you gradually quilt bigger and bigger circles, or try stitching large pebbles in the top left corner, and get smaller as you go diagonally across the quilt.  Then, add in straight lines, and quilt a String of Pearls. The options are almost endless. Practice, practice, and then practice some more!  And don’t forget to relax, lower your shoulders, unclench your teeth, and have some fun!

Note:  I used contrasting thread on these samples so the stitches would be easy to see. I normally use thread that blends in a little bit better.


25 Free Motion Quilting Ideas @swimbikequilt






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  1. Posted September 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I love your bright colors Katie! A little contrasting thread never hurt anyone, and it’s always a relief to SEE where you are going. Beautiful quitling!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure if my email went through, but thanks so much, Leah. Maybe I should try quilting with contrast thread more often–you are right, it is so nice to see where you are going. P.S. your comment made my day :)

  2. Posted September 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    oh this is a great reference! Thanks much for sharing – I love to try new designs. If you get a chance check out my ‘pebbles’ on my post today – first time I’ve tried them so large, but I think it worked! Again, thanks for this…

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much, Debbie!

  3. Posted September 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    love the skipping rocks and the rock wall especially!!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      Thanks–rock wall is definitely my favorite of the bunch. I need to make a new quilt just to try it out!

  4. Posted September 19, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    These look beautiful and I can learn a lot from you. I think it’s all about just trying it and not worrying if it’s perfect. That’s my motto anyway.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      That’s the best motto, I think. It is mine, too. I’ll have to add that in on the next post–it will never be perfect (at least not in my lifetime) but finished is always better than perfect :)

  5. Sarah
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful! I’ve been meaning to do more free motion practice, bookmarked for inspiration.


  6. Posted September 20, 2013 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    As someone who is just starting my FMQing journey this could not have come at a better time! Thank you for sharing these, and I love all of the samples. They are beautiful. You should turn these into a quilt – the whole QAYG idea :)

  7. Posted September 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Awesome! I never have a good idea of how I want to quilt things, so this is really helpful. Thanks for sharing! :)

  8. Posted September 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Love this… I am pinning this for inspiration when I start working at FMQ!

  9. E
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    So glad I always go back and catch up with Bloglovin’ no matter how far behind I might be. I would have been bummed to miss this! Thank you!

  10. Posted October 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I really want to try the string of pearls – so pretty. Thanks for all the visual inspiration and hints.

  11. Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I love it! I will try, thanks for the idea.

  12. mhel
    Posted May 10, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    This would really help me a lot…i just got intersted in quilting a few months ago, haven’t done any project yet, but reading and gathering infos on how it is done..thank you :)

One Trackback

  • By November 2015 BOM | seattle modern quilt guild on November 14, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    […] more ideas, see Katie/Swim Bike Quilt‘s extensive series of 25 Free Motion Quilting Ideas (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and the curiously named pin board, fmq + wf etc. So there! Oodles of ideas […]

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