A Free Motion Quilting Finale

Look! I'm making binding, which means I must have finished quilting something. Yay me! Ombre Triangles is done. (I think I need a better name for this project.)

This poor quilt had so much start and stop quilting that I kept forgetting how I wanted to quilt it between sessions, so it lost its cohesive look. But I had fun playing around with these triangles and groups of triangles. Some were done as diamonds, others as hexagons, but all pretty different.

Most of it was ruler work, with the QP Edge (12") but I also used a QP Curve #8, and a free hand scroll-y, flower fill especially around the edges. Then I threw in a few other things just to keep it interesting.

This whole quilt was done in one fabric, V&Co Ombre, and I was able to trim up the extra backing for my binding, which left it mostly as the darker teal color.

I always struggle when it comes to stitching strips of binding together. I get distracted, sometime from others around me, other times from my ditzy brain. So I've taken to ironing one end of each strip (each strip oriented the same way) at a 45 degree angle. This helps me make the angled seam point the same way and makes sure I sew the strips together properly.

Don't you hate it when you pull the strip open and you've done it wrong? Maybe you've stitched right side to wrong side? Maybe I'm the only one whose botched it more times than I want to admit?

Then I open the crease and I've got something to follow for a good straight 45 degree seam.

Now, if I had turned my binding around so the bulk of it was lying to the right, I could have used these handy dandy markings on the needle plate (see red arrows below). Janome machines have a mess of helpful lines on the needle plate! Sometimes I forget they are there though....bad Janome dealer, shame on me!

Then I switched to a different foot 'sole' for my integrated walking foot, aka the Accufeed Flex System. Love these built in walking feet that are completely removable. This foot combination has a 1/4 inch guide on it.

Of course, by the time I got to the binding, I was beyond ready to do something else and didn't audition the binding around the quilt very well and ended up with this....

Now, if this had been an actual solid fabric, I could have easily adjusted that last binding seam that joined the ends. But that ombre was making its move to another color where I wanted to do it. In the end (ha!), I worked it out as far away as I could without having a noticeable change of color between the two strips. (Totally should have done the "No Tails Binding" by Linda Hungerford.)

I like using Roxanne's Glue Baste It for putting ends of binding together. I pressed my 45 degree angle, added a smidge of glue in what would be the seam allowance, hit it with the iron for instant drying, then opened it up and stitched along the crease. Once I stitched, I popped the seam allowance open, trimmed it to 1/4 inch, pressed it open, and stitched it the rest of the way.

Next, I'm machine stitching this guy down by stitching in the ditch. Then I'm off to one of many things on my to-do list. So many things I want to make. I want to make a little girl's dress to show off a new fabric line in the shop, there's a bag I want to make from another line, I want to make a sloth pillow.... the list goes on and on!

Plus, there's moving to do! We're coming up on our one year anniversary of owning Sew Simple and to celebrate, we're packing everything up and moving down the road almost one mile to a better, bigger location. I'm so excited!

Goodness! Look how dark my hair is. I need some highlight, stat.

One of the things I'm loving about this move is that the new location has no overhead tenants. So many videos have gotten ruined by thumping feet. I think they must be little gymnasts. Also, we will have a separate classroom space from the rest of the sales floor, which will give me a better chance to work on projects. Finally, I think we're just about ready to take another giant leap of faith and look for our first employee or two. I just can't do it all, even with my wonderful husband's help.

How to Choose Quilting Designs

Whether you use a walking foot, free motion, free motion quilting with rulers, hand quilting, or a combination of more than one of these techniques when you quilt your quilt, there are a lot of factors that can come into play when choosing designs. This is why "How do I Quilt This?" type classes are so popular and why this question can cause even the most experienced quilter to cringe (especially if asked in an email without any photos!).

I divide quilting designs into 4 major types:

Overall Designs- These are designs that do not pay attention to the piecing. Similar to a pantograph used by a longarmer, these are great designs for utility, bed and comfort quilts.

Block and piecing designs- These are designs that are based on the piecing. Designs for blocks, squares, triangles, borders and sashing.

The piecing here determined the quilting.
Fills- These smaller designs are for filling in spaces between other types of quilting, adding texture and interest along the way, sometimes they are even used as larger design elements in the quilting.

The Celtic Square design used here is both a motif and a block and piecing design and is surrounded by dense fills to make it pop.
Motif Designs- These are the ones we love to see in fancier quilts; the scrolls, feathers, floral motifs and more that are major parts of the design of a quilt in of themselves.

Don't confuse the types of designs with the type of quilting. There are designs in any of these four categories that can be done with a variety of methods of quilting. Tiny fills are usually free motion, much of what I do with rulers could be classified as block and piecing designs, and large swaths of straight line quilting all the way across a quilt could be done several different ways, but would still be considered an overall design no matter the method used.

Sometimes the design chosen decides the method of quilting. For example, a tiny, curvy, dense design is not likely a good candidate for walking foot quilting.

There are other times that the type of quilting (hand quilting, walking foot, free motion) the quilter wants to do, will help the quilter choose designs that work better for those methods.

Sometimes a design works well for several types of quilting and the quilter will determine which method to use. I could do straight line square spiral design with a walking foot, but since I love using my rulers, and especially if it's a big quilt, I'd choose to use free motion ruler work. You might choose differently.

Someone might choose big stitch quilting to add interest to a quilt and do it by hand, while another quilter, maybe with less time to spare, would set her machine up with some monofilament thread in the top of the machine and use a "hand-look quilting" stitch. Can you guess which method I'd choose? Leave your guess in the comments below.

The four types are not overly segregated and mix and mingle quite often. While overall designs are usually loners, typically, motif and fill designs work together and are pretty much mutually necessary. Block and piecing designs are good mixers in a quilt, and I think are the unsung heroes of quilting.

Overall Designs- Also called edge-to-edge designs. These are some of the easiest designs to begin with, but not all overall designs are simple. They can be large stippling, other larger meandering designs, or even feathers  as an overall design. You can get ideas for these types of designs by looking at quilts done by longarmers with pantographs. Some can even be quite complex, featuring horses, bears, flowers, stars, etc.

This design could be a filler , fit into a block, or made large as an overall design. You choose!

Block and Piecing Designs- This includes the tedious but many times necessary "Stitch in the Ditch" which can also be done with a walking foot without using FMQ. Once you have a good grasp of FMQ, doing stitch in  the ditch with the darning or free motion foot means no turning of the quilt as you stitch. Block and piecing designs can really enhance the piecing in a quilt.

Here's an easy sashing design.

Fills- Pebbles, smaller stipples, even closely spaced lines of stitching are in this category. Leah Day's site does a great job of categorizing and teaching many, many fills at the Free Motion Quilting Project. She's also produced three books of designs, one of which is From Daisy to Paisley: 50 Beginner Level Free Motion Quilting Designs. Keep in  mind that because of the scope of the project and the stitched samples, these designs are shown quite small. At the small size these are great for filling in around larger motif designs or in conjunction with block and piecing designs. It is up to you to decide at what size you want to quilt these for your quilt! Make them bigger and many can even be overall designs.

Motif Designs- Many of these designs benefit from good planning and marking. There's the classic feather wreath and all of its variations, feathered swags and borders. Some motifs are suitable for block and piecing designs too. Traditional whole cloth quilts are fabulous examples of motif designs coupled with fills. Two wonderful books by Karen McTavish (I have most of her books; they're great) The Secrets of Elemental Quilting  and Whitework Quilting: Creative Techniques for Designing Wholecloth and Adding Trapunto to Your Quilts give great examples of using motifs in quilts along with some great tips.

Some general tips for choosing designs:

Quilt Density: the denser the quilting, the stiffer the quilt. And of course, dense quilting takes longer and uses more thread. Save really dense quilting for wall quilts, fancy quilts, and yes, show quilts. No one wants to snuggle down with a stiff quilt, so for comfy quilts, choose an overall design or fairly simple block and piecing designs.

Abbie is happy I didn't quilt her quilt to death.
One of the big differences between what we can quilt with our domestic sewing machines versus those of the longarm machines has to do with our range of motion. We can only quilt in the space between our hands before we have to reposition our hands and quilt. Those using longarm machines, have a range of motion for stitching that is pretty much the range of their upper body motion. This means the designs we choose either have smaller shapes, well-planned changes of direction, or we have to be really good with our stops and starts when repositioning our hands. Usually, it's a mix of all three factors.

Many quilts benefit from "Stitch in the Ditch", stitching along piecing lines to stabilize the seams, keep things square and subdivide the quilt to keep shifting of batting and backing to a minimum. For the most part this type of quilting is done first and many choose to use a walking foot with the feed dogs up. But, again, once you become proficient at FMQ, doing it in free motion can be a lot faster with little or no rotation of the quilt needed.

Applique quilts can also benefit from stitching around the applique shapes. Ann Fahl's book, Dancing With Thread: Your Guide to Free-Motion Quilting, describes this type of quilting and regular stitch in the ditch quilting as stabilizing the quilt and recommends using clear monofilament for this type of stitching in case the stitches wiggle from one side of the seam or applique to the other.

This applique was carefully SID'd to make it pop.

Large motif designs with inadequate fills around them lose their impact. When properly surrounded with fills, motifs can really pop, making a faux trapunto effect. Couple motifs and small fills with a lofty batting and you've got some great dimension and texture. Larger areas of "white space" are prime real estate for motifs.

Much of this article came from a post I did years ago on "How to Free Motion Quilt: the Designs." You may want to see the line drawings there I did to show examples of various types of designs.