Take the Stress Out of Free-Motion Quilting with a Low-Risk Sketchbook

Candy Glendening on the set of Quilting Arts TV

A note from Vivika: Are you confident in your free-motion embroidery? Or do you just wish your free-motion quilting were more . . . free? Today’s guest blogger, Candy Glendening, practices her free-motion motifs in sketchbooks on her hand-dyed fabric Then she turns them into a fabric book for future reference and enjoyment. Here is Candy to tell you about it.

I use my Free-Motion Machine-Sketched sketchbooks to experiment with color palettes and stitched motifs in a low-risk manner. After all they are sketchbooks, which are meant to record thoughts and trials, not a finished piece of art (and I find they have a special beauty all their own!).

The sketchbook I create on the Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video Free-Motion Machine Sketching: Drawing with Thread from Birds to Botanicals is entitled Autumn at Olive Avenue and was designed to capture the colors of Autumn along with some of my favorite birds, vessels and plants you can find at my house (whose address is on Olive Avenue.)

autumn free motion embroidery sketchbook glendening

The front cover of my sketchbook.

Although I now live in Southern California, where fall is quite different from that of my New England childhood, the colors of autumn will for me always include the fiery reds and golds of the turning leaves. I expanded those colors to include the green and olive of the leaves before and their burst of riotous color. I then felt I needed a couple of colors to provide some more contrast when I started combining these colors, thus I added a deep purple and a clear tealy-blue. These colors combine to create a gorgeous multi-color fabric that is featured on the cover of the sketchbook, and inside I experiment combining these colors in different ways and stitch some of my favorite things found both inside and outside my house:

On the first page, you’ll find a lacy fennel flower, which hubby grows in our garden. Pages 2 & 3 feature an old-fashioned milk bottle (I wish we still had milk deliveries!) and a simple bird.

fennel flower free motion embroidery motif glendening

Detail of the Fennel Flower page.

On pages 4 & 5 I feature the lemon leaves of my Meyer lemon tree and a California quail, which I’ve never seen in my backyard, but its little curls are so cute.  In the center of the book, I can take advantage of the larger expanse of a double page and expand my sketch to one of my most favorite things: a set of graduated bowls. Pages 7 & 8 feature the dramatic Agapanthus which blooms in early fall and rosemary, which is literally a weed in my herb garden.

free motion embroidery bowls glendening

The graduated bowls.

Pages 9 & 10 have my favorite bird of all a hummingbird (some of whom keep me company in my backyard dye studio all year long) and the flower they love to drink from – Jasmine! The final page features a lovely pitcher we inherited from my hubby’s mom.

hummingbird jasmine free motion embroidery glendening

Hummingbird and jasmine.

All told, this sketchbook summarizes so many of my favorite things, it gives me great joy to see them all in one place, and done in a delicious autumn color palette. After working through these ideas and color combinations in the sketchbook, I had the confidence to create larger pieces of art.

I hope you will consider creating your own sketchbook with your favorite quilting motifs. My video Free-Motion Machine Sketching: Drawing with Thread from Birds to Botanicals will teach you the basics of drawing with thread and creating stitched motifs and assemble your own fabric book.

Candy Glendening


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