Nancy’s Quilting Classroom: Choosing Quilting Designs, Part 2 – Fons & Porter

In Choosing Quilting Designs, Part 1, I talked about allover quilting designs. Sometimes an allover design is the perfect choice. However, most of the time I want the quilting to add another design element to the quilt. Today, we’ll talk about how to incorporate different quilting designs into your quilts and I’ll give you several tips on how to choose your own free motion quilting designs for future projects.

Sinclair Stars – Free Motion Quilting Designs

When I started quilting, I hand quilted all my quilts. Today, I use many of those same principals when choosing machine quilting designs. Before choosing a quilting design, decide what type of batting you’re going to use. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended quilting distance. The batting I prefer recommends a 2″ – 4″ quilting distance, which means I need to choose quilting designs in which the stitched lines are no more than 4″ apart.

As I assemble the quilt top, I start thinking about what I’m going to quilt in the open spaces. I don’t agonize over finding the perfect quilting design, instead I concentrate on how I can fill in each area of a quilt block.

In “Sinclair Stars” from Easy Quilts Winter 2015, I knew most of the quilting wasn’t going to be visible because of the busy prints. So, I decided to use white thread throughout and simple quilting to emphasis the star points. I quilted curved lines from one triangle to the next in a continuous line, then I stitched in-the-ditch around the center square. I stitched a curved line motif in each of the white triangles and in each white square. A continuous 4-loop motif was quilted in the center square. I skipped the green rectangles and quilted a wavy line in the black frame. I quilted back-and-forth lines in the sashing and a curved motif in the sashing square.

Sinclair Stars Quilt - Star Patterns
Sinclair Stars Quilt - Star Patterns

The quilt blocks in “Crossed Wires” from Scrap Quilts Fall 2013 are super simple, so I chose a simple quilting design. I stitched a 4-loop motif in the center of each block, then I used a slightly larger 4-loop motif to fill in the corners of the blocks. To quilt a continuous design, I stitched across the sashing. stitched a loop in the white square, and then stitched across the sashing again. I stitch a continuous line of circles in the sashing between the blocks. For thread, I chose a blue thread that blended with all of the blue blocks and an orange thread that worked with all of the orange blocks. Then I used white thread in the white areas.

Cross Wires - Free Motion Quilting Designs
Cross Wires – Free Motion Quilting Designs
Crossed Wires Quilt

Jelly Beans” from Love of Quilting May/June 2016 is a 2-block quilt, so although I chose different quilting designs for each quilt block, the designs are similar for continuity. And, I used white thread throughout because it blended with all the fabrics. I quilted a different motif in the center of each block, but each motif was comprised of loops. In the block on the left, I quilted a continuous line of large double loops in the larger rectangles and circles in the smaller rectangles. In the block on the right, I quilted closely spaced back-and-forth lines in the white triangles. In the blue triangles, I quilted back-and-forth lines that were more openly spaced.

Jelly Beans - Free Motion Quilting Designs
Jelly Beans – Free Motion Quilting Designs
Jelly Beans Quilt

Here are three tips for choosing the right machine quilting designs for your quilts:

  1. Take a photo or make an outline drawing of your quilt block. Then make several copies of the photo or drawing. Draw different quilting designs on each copy of the block. Choose the one you like best.
  2. Place a piece of clear plastic on top of your quilt top. Draw quilting designs in different areas to see how they look. I recommend placing tape around the edges of the plastic so you don’t accidentally draw on your quilt top.
  3. Look at quilting designs in magazines, books, and at quilt shows. Keep a sketchbook of the designs you like. Develop a group of go-to quilting designs. Every time you draw or stitch a design you’ll build muscle memory for that design.

And, give yourself permission to play. The more you stitch a design, the more confident you’ll feel and the more you’ll want to try new designs. I love trying new free motion quilting designs!

Don’t miss Choosing Quilt Designs, Part 3 where I talk about quilting borders!

Nancy Mahoney, Fons & Porter Guest Blogger


Happy Quilting,



Other topics you may enjoy:

Leave a Reply