Tuesday, 26 March 2013

FMQ Design

Free Motion Quilting is all about the texture and design that you can add to a patchwork quilt - deciding on the design is when the fun begins!

Once you have the thread, needles and sewing feet sorted you are ready to start quilting!

I love the possibilities of filling the quilt with some depth that goes beyond the patchwork. Free motion quilting is a way of building another element of design into your quilt, it can be intricate or simple, and it is your choice!

I mentioned last week that FMQ is like doodling with a sewing machine.

To me that is exactly how it feels - I have a space that want to add some design to, so I use my sewing machine to doodle into that space!

There are hundreds of designs that can be used in FMQ, and probably hundreds more that are still be used!

I recommend practicing your idea on a piece of paper before you sit down at the sewing machine. This gives you a chance to work through the design in a space and see how it will work. It helps you when you are working on the sewing machine later as your brain remembers how to work through the design.

Here is a design I wanted to try on a mini demonstration quilt. I worked out how to fill the space on paper first and then started work on the piece:

Because I used the paper first I was just able to sew and not worry about how the design would fit into the space.


FMQ changes the way a quilt feels. If you intensively sew the whole quilt it becomes quite stiff. If you leave spaces with little or no stitching the quilt has a mixed texture and feels much softer.

How you want the final quilt to feel should help to determine the design and amount of FMQ you do. 

On the Tula Pink quilt I FMQ quilted every part of the patchwork design with intricate designs, that meant the quilt is heavy and full of detail, but I wouldn't necessarily quilt a baby quilt that way as I want the quilt to remain soft and light.

Mixing up designs in the same space, changes the texture again and the viewer more eye candy!

I am a little partial to swirls and pebbles! This design combining both makes my heart skip a beat!


I tend to use designs that drop out of my head - for example I quilted a cushion with swirls and hearts after being inspired by a student at one of my classes. It was great fun and was low density so the cushion is soft and comfy!

But sometimes I need some inspiration! One of the best places for ideas is the Free Motion Project by Leah Day. There are hundreds of designs on Leah's website complete with short videos demonstrating the design.

I have started a small collection of some of her designs so I have a pile of designs to look through when I am thinking about FMQ a quilt. I plan to try out more over the next few months to build my library of designs.

Angela Walters is another amazing quilter and teacher who suggests having a design book of quilted blocks using different threads and designs. Then you have a reference point for threads that you do you can see the different effects the thread has on the design.


I love Angela Walters books. They are packed full of hints, tips and designs.

I also really like Quilting Modern by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen:

Lovely designs and quilts!

The best way to start FMQ is to just give it a go. Work through the process slowly and steadily and most importantly have loads of FUN!

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