Free Motion Quilting Practice Designs

I am so excited to share these Free Motion Quilting Practice Designs with you!! One of my most popular videos is where I show you how to make  8 quilting designs using one basic motion, I regularly get comments from people who tell me they can’t wait to try the designs. This is going to make it so much easier! Free Motion Quilting Practice Designs This post contains affiliate links which help support this site with no additional cost to you.

 

When you first start Free Motion Quilting, you spend time getting used to working with your machine. You need to “synch” with your machine. Like a mind-meld, but for quilting. My friend Christa Watson calls this the “hum-purr”. (By the way, if you don’t know Christa, go check out her book Machine Quilting with Style. An awesome book for Machine Quilters! And check out her blog Christa Quilts.)

Since you’re spending that time finding your “hum-purr”, it can be hard to also focus on your design, and where you want to go next. So, when I found out that Cricut was coming out with a water-soluble fabric pen, I was EXCITED! I could draw out those designs for you, you can draw them with your machine (any Cricut machine that can operate with a pen – it doesn’t have to be the new Cricut Maker.)

Here is what you need:
Cricut Machine that uses pens and the Cricut Design Space
Cricut Mat (I used a fabric mat)
Cricut washable fabric pen
12″ square of cotton fabric for drawing on (light color that the pen will show up on works best)
13″ square (or larger) of scrap batting
13″ square (or larger) of scrap fabric for backing
Sewing machine with Free-motion foot
Super slider (optional, but I love it)
Basting Spray (you can pin baste or thread baste – but I love spray basting)

  1. Pen draws linesDownload one of my .svg files for Free Motion Quilting. Right now I have a loopy fill and a border file. Let me know what you think, and I’ll add some more.

drawn designs for free motion quilting

  1. Open Cricut Design Space.
  2. Upload the file into Design Space. It is an SVG file, so it is pretty easy.
  3. Resize the file to whatever size square you would like.
  4. Ungroup the image.
  5. Remove the background shape (I have it sitting in a square for easy resizing)
  6. Over in the right-hand panel, click on the scissors, and change that to write (select washable fabric pen, 1.0, Blue)
  7. Your file is ready!

Put your 12×12 fabric on the mat. Load the mat, put the fabric pen in the pen holder, and let the machine draw the design.

Cricut fabric pen can draw free motion quilting designs

 

Once it is done, you can unload the mat, turn this layer into the top of your quilt sandwich, and start quilting! If you haven’t watched my video, I give you all the basics for Free Motion Quilting these designs in my post on 8 quilting designs using one basic motion.

free motion quilting practice

I’m using my favorite Wonderfil 12wt thread here. You can use whatever you like – but I love this thread for really standing out against any fabric!

Once you’re done, admire your work for a minute.

Free Motion Quilting practice - border designs

Then, you can wash away all that blue ink!

washing away the ink

How cool is that?

FMQ Practice Designs on the Cricut Machine

By the end of a practice square or two, you’ll have found that hum-purr, and be ready to try it on your own, without practice lines!

Want to know what to do with your practice pieces? You can save them as reminders of your quilting journey. If you like, you can trim them up, bind them, and turn them into mug rugs and place mats.

Save

Applique Zippered Bag

I’m on a little applique kick, making some samples, and I thought I’d show you how to make this simple applique zippered bag. Super fast and easy to make, once you get it down, you’ll be making all kinds of zippered bags!

applique zippered bag

Start with your supplies. You’ll need:
9″ zipper
2 rectangles from outer fabric – 9″x6″
2 rectangles from lining fabric – 9″x6″
Applique shape cut out with fusible web on the back.

supplies for applique zippered pouch

Fuse the heart onto one of the outer pieces, stitch in place. I used a tight zig-zag.

stitch around applique

stitch around heart

Place one outer piece and one lining piece, right sides together, with the zipper between. Stitch through all three layers. If the zipper pull gets in the way, stop stitching. With the needle down, lift up the presser foot, and carefully open or close the zipper to move the zipper pull out of the way.

Press them open, exposing the zipper. If you like, add topstitching along the top of the fabric.

press to one side

Repeat with the other set of lining and outer fabrics.

stitch on second set

Once you press open the second set, lay the fabrics so that the outer fabrics are right-sides-together, and the inner fabrics are right-sides-together, with the zipper in the middle.

put right sides together

VERY IMPORTANT: Open the zipper at least halfway. This will keep you from swearing later. Then stitch around all four sides, leaving a hole about 4″ long along the bottom of the two lining pieces.

stitch all the way around

Trim off the excess zipper, then turn the bag through the hole you left.

finish applique zippered bag

Hand-stitch the hole closed, and you’re all done!

applique bag set

 

Mini Quilt Math

Mini Quilt Math for converting your favorite patterns

Last year, I was really cranking out quilts – at a rate of about 2 per month! Yes, that is a lot of quilting! I love making quilts, and still have a lot of UFOs, as well as quilts on my wish list. But I really don’t need to make another mountain of quilts this year. To get that quilting satisfaction without all the time (and fabric!) commitment, it makes sense to make mini quilts. Several designers have started offering mini versions of their popular quilt patterns, but not every pattern is available as a mini. Instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping that your favorite patterns will be offered as mini patterns, I wrote a two-part post for Craftsy on how to use basic math to convert standard patterns into mini quilt patterns.

The first post is on basic mini quilt math. I take you through the basic steps, and at the end of the post have some tips that will help you in creating your mini.

mini jack in the pulpitThe second post is more advanced mini math – half-square triangles. It seems like they would be tricky, but if you know the “magic number” for HSTs, it is super easy to figure out how to make your mini.

 

A New Way to Clip Your Corners

Clipping corners using the seagull method

For years, I’ve been bothered by clipping my corners when making projects. Making bags, pillows, whatever, the instructions call for clipping the corners before turning.

The reason you clip the corners is to reduce bulk. If you don’t trim away the extra seam allowance before  turning, you’ll end up with a lot of bulk in the corners, which makes for unattractive corners.

However, when you clip right across the corner, you weaken the seam. After all, part of the job of the seam allowance is to lend support to the seam so that your stitches don’t pull right through the fabric. And cutting away all that seam allowance (leaving just a thread or two to carry the load) has never sat well with me. Especially since the corners of pillows and bags tend to take a beating – so that’s exactly where you would want strength.

I don’t want to start advocating that everyone stop clipping their corners, resulting in a bunch of bulky, unattractive edges. That isn’t a great solution either. So, I’ve come up with a new way to clip corners, I call it “The Seagull Method”. Pretty arrogant, right? Stitchers have been clipping corners the same way for centuries, and here I come along with a new-fangled way to clip. Well, read on, and feel free to tell me in the comments if you think this is stitching genius or sewing blasphemy.

So (or should I say “sew”…), the Seagull Method. Why call it that? Because instead of cutting off triangles, the pieces clipped off the corners look like little seagulls. You know, the little v-shaps seagulls look like when they’re flying way up high? Which is a great way to remember exactly what the method is.

To demonstrate, I stitched a plastic bag to two pieces of fabric, and clipped the corners.

clipped corner in two different ways

On the left is the traditional way of clipping a corner. At an angle all the way across.

On the right is the Seagull Method. I start about an inch from the corner and taper in, getting about 3-4 threads away from the corner, and then do the same on the other side. Clipping off a little seagull-shaped bit. This takes away more bulk, and spreads the removal over a larger area, keeping as much strength as possible in the seam.

But the real magic comes when the seams are turned.

clipped corner - traditional method

When we turn a traditionally clipped seam, we see this on the inside. The two cut edges but up against each other, and the corner lies flat thanks to the removal of the bulk.

Here is what a corner clipped using the seagull method looks like:

A clipped corner using the seagull method

The bulk is removed in the entire corner, making it very easy to insert a corner-turning tool to poke the corner out. There is a small increase in the bulk right in the corner (since we left 3-4 threads instead of only one), but the entire corner has been strengthened.

This corner-trimming method works on all kinds of projects, helping to reduce the bulk without completely weakening the seam. In any case where I don’t plan to top-stitch along the corner, I think the Seagull Method results in a stronger seam. However, if I plan to topstitch along the corner, as you can see from the images, the traditional method leaves more fabric in the corner seam. This additional fabric will help to strengthen the corner when it is topstitched, making traditional clipping better.

two different clipped corners

What are your thoughts? Will you be clipping corners differently from now on? Or will it at least cross your mind every time you pick up your scissors and get ready to weaken a seam?

Giant Classroom Wall Tree

One of the best things about having a school-aged kid is the fun projects. Yes, I’m going to be coming back to this post in a couple years, after drowning in school projects, and laughing at my former self who got excited when teachers asked for help. But right now, in this moment, it is pretty awesome. I love helping out in my son’s classroom, and this is one of those fun projects.

Little Moore’s teacher is a self-described non-crafty man. I offered to help out with some crafty projects, as needed. He wanted a big tree in the hallway that could be changed out for the seasons. Basically, just the trunk and branches. I told him that not only would I make it, but it would be awesome. Because I’m a lot of things… but humble is not one of them (however, awesome is totally one of them – ha!).

I’m not giving you a step-by-step here because I’m pretty sure that the demand for giant tree tutorials isn’t worth the time it’ll take me to edit the photos… but I’ll give you the highlights.

Classroom Tree with my Kindergartener

I prepped the trunk at home. I used Foamcore cut into the right shape. The “carving” on the tree is a piece of styrofoam. I carved the heart and the word “school” into the heart, then covered it in Smooth Finish. After the Smooth Finish hardened, I painted it brown, with the carving a lighter brown so it would really stand out.

Tree trunk with Styrofoam Smooth Finish Carving

At the top of the trunk, I put a piece of cork. This way the teacher can easily switch out things in the hole in the tree.

Classroom Tree Cork Board

I lined up my foam core, styrofoam, and cork pieces, and Duck Taped them together. I used some extra cardboard on the back to give some extra strength to the seams. Then I added on the bark.

The bark is crumpled up paper from a Fed Ex Box. It was already crumpled up, which was perfect. I just wrinkled it more, and used a TON of Mod Podge to secure it onto the tree trunk. Lots and lots of texture. Once that all dried, I used a sponge and some brown paint, lightly went over the whole trunk with the brown paint in spots (more texture!). Then gave the whole thing a thick coat of Mod Podge. So thick that it isn’t fully dry in these photos, and you can see some of the white!

The branches were fun to do.

Classroom Tree Branches

When I put the rest of the brown paper trunk on, I left 5 long pieces hanging off of the top, then took the trunk to school. I used a staple gun to secure the tree to the wall. Then I twisted the brown paper branches into place, using the staple gun to secure them. I tore off any extra, and added sub-branches off the 5 main branches. Once all the branches were up, they got a quick swipe of brown paint sponged on, and then a coat of Mod Podge.

It took about 5 hours at home, and about another 2-3 at the school… but this tree looks awesome.

Any volunteers to try to take it down at the end of the year?

Same Block, Three Ways

same block three ways

Recently, I made 3 different blocks for a swap. Well, they look different, but really they are the same. They all use green and red fabrics from Kate Spain’s line “In From the Cold” for Moda Fabrics. And they all actually use the same block pattern… but by switching up the color placement, and the amounts of red and green in each block, I ended up with three completely different blocks!

same block, three colorways

This is a great exercise when playing with color. Different colors, in different places, make the same block… not so much the same.

 

Roots and Wings Quilt using Art Gallery Fabrics

When the wonderful folks at Art Gallery Fabrics asked me if I’d like to play with some fat quarters of one of their new lines, I got giddy. Seriously, playing with fabric always makes me a little giddy, but playing with brand new fabric that magically arrives in my mailbox is cause for extra excitement.

AGF has several new lines coming out, but I love the new “Legacy” line by Angela Walters. First, because I love Angela Walters’s work. She is an amazing long arm quilter, and I’m always in awe of her incredible work with the negative space that modern quilters love to leave in quilts. But also I loved the colors and designs in this fabric. Many modern fabrics have very bright colors. I love bright colors. I really do. But sometimes fabric that feels a little more neutral fits the bill. This fabric reminds me of blue jeans and work shirts. There isn’t a single plaid or rivet, but it has that homey, comfortable look to it. Like Saturdays. If you don’t understand what I mean, check out the fabric in person, I think it’ll start to make sense.

Front room Roots and Wings quilt

I took my AGF fat quarters to my local quilt shop to find a good solid to go with them. I ended up with this great burlap-brown color. Brown isn’t a very modern color, but burlap is very “in” with crafters, and since I’m kind-of a crossover crafter/quilter, this seemed like a fun choice.

Getting to play with fabrics also meant pulling out techniques that I have been wanting to play with. I have had my EZ Dresden ruler for some time, and haven’t had an excuse to play with it. I used it to make a modern, slightly wonky twist on Dresden blocks to use in this quilt, which I call “Roots and Wings.”

Roots and Wings Quilt with Legacy fabric by Art Gallery

I love the name of this line, “Legacy”, which Angela so named because of her Grandfather. As I was working on this quilt, I thought a lot about my boys. My oldest just started Kindergarten, and on a recent Facebook post about my son growing up, a friend reminded me that as a mom, it is my job to give my son roots and wings. I hope you can see the roots and wings in this quilt.

This quilt is fully double-sided, I pieced Legacy into the back as well. I was careful with the placement of the piecing, and let my long-armer know my intent… so the quilting on the curves of the front shows up in these giant stacked-coin pieces on the back.

back of roots and wings quilt

I did the piecing on this quilt, but I handed it over to my friend and long-arm quilter Nichol of A Desert Quilter to do the quilting for me. We decided on the pebbles for the negative space, and I think she did an amazing job. Here is a closer look at some of her quilting.

quilting pebbles

It should have taken her practically forever to do all this quilting – the finished size of the quilt is nearly 60″ x 70″. But, she got it all done for me in less than a week!

I have been wanting to re-cover the throw pillows in my front room almost since the first day we got them. They came with the couch and although they were fine, they weren’t my style. I would have loved to re-cover them with wild quilting patterns, but my husband is more a fan of builder’s beige. Since I had so much brown in the quilt, I knew I’d be able to get away with making pillow covers that went along with this quilt. Nichol did the quilting on these pillow covers as well!

Legacy fabric pillows

I’m loving the style it brings to my front room! This is the first room that guests see when they walk into my home, and it has always bugged me that I don’t have much handmade in there. That problem has been more than solved with this new quilt and pillows! There is now plenty of handmade… but not at all in a kitschy way. I love me some kitsch… but probably not for my formal living room.

Roots and Wings on the Couch

If you want to know how to make this quilt (which, by the way does NOT require any curved piecing), here is how you can make your own Roots and Wings quilt:

Selection of Fat Quarters from Legacy by Angela Walters for Art Gallery Fabrics
3 yards background fabric (also used for binding)
Additional fabric for backing

Start by making quarter dresdens. I used the Easy Dresden Ruler to cut wedges out of 8″ wide strips of fabric, then shuffled up the wedges and stitched them into 16 sets of 5.

I then squared up the edges of each, making one side even, and when evening up the second side I cut away at the hole traditionally left for the center circle of the Dresden plate. On half, I cut the right side off, and on the other half I cut the left side.

trim off excess dresden

Using the basting stitch on my machine (making the stitch length as long as possible), I stitched about 1/8″ from the curved edge, leaving long thread tails.

I then pulled one thread a little, making the edge start to gather so that it curved up. I spread the slight gather evenly across the whole curve.

curve the edge of the dresden

I then gently folded in the curved edge about 1/4″. Try to be accurate, but if it isn’t perfect don’t sweat it.

fold down edge of curve

I pressed this edge down, and had the perfect edge to top stitch down onto my block.

pressed down dresden edge

I cut 16 squares from my background fabric, each 9″ square. I pinned a chopped quarter dresden onto each. One side is longer than the other. That gives the final quilt blocks a little more of a wonky look.

one quarter of the dresden

I top stitched the edge of the dresden down, right on the edge of the curve. At this point you can cut away the excess background fabric behind the dresden, but I left mine on.

Put the squares together into sets of 4.

modern modified dresden plate block

Then sew these blocks into a row to make the roots and wings design.

blocks pieced together

I then added yardage to each side to finish the top. I cut the backing fabric into the length I needed, then cut off the selvedge. I cut 9″ of the fabric off, down the length of the fabric, to divide it into two unequal pieces. The 9″ piece went on one side, the larger piece on the other.

finished roots and wings quilt top

I then pieced together my backing and gave everything to Nichol to quilt. After she got it back to me I bound it with the same fabric I used for the background. I think this gives it a nice, clean edge.

The pillows were made from the leftover fabric. I made several different scrappy pillows, keeping them fun. I even made one with the scraps from cutting the dresdens down! I took all of those pieces and pieced them into a long row…

extra dresden piecesI trimmed up the sides and pieced these little pieces into a pillow!

Couch with Roots and Wings pillows and quilt

Here’s one more shot with my little helper. With his big brother in school, he’s not quite sure what to do with himself, so he “helps” me with my projects. You might have noticed him in one of the other photos… and if you scroll up, you’ll see his hand on the left side of the couch in the 5th photo from the top. So cute!

roots and wings with baby b

Best way to Cut Cake: Cut Cake with a Spool of Thread

cut clean lines of birthday cake with this simple trick!

If you’ve ever taken the time to frost a beautiful cake, you dread the time that it will be chopped up. Sure, you want your guests to enjoy a bite of cake, and you know that dismantling your work of art is part of the process, but seeing all your hard work hacked to crumbs and pieces might make you die a little inside. Instead of attacking your cake with a knife, use a spool of thread for beautiful, clean lines that you might not even notice after cutting! This trick even works on cakes that have been out of the refrigerator for a few hours, with frosting that is a little soft, and cake that is no longer firm.

Grab a spool of thread. Hold the spool in one hand, and the end of the thread in the other. Pull your hands apart so that they are a few inches wider than the with of the cake.use a spool of thread to cut clean lines of birthday cake

With the thread tight, pull the thread straight down over the cake. This will make a clean cut. At the bottom, make sure that the thread reaches all the way down to the cake board (or plate if that is what the cake is sitting on), and pull tight to make sure you have cut cleanly through the whole cake.

Release the thread end, and holding on to the spool, pull the thread out. Repeat the process across the length and width of the cake to cut all of the slices. Then serve your beautifully cut pieces!

Must-know tip! The best way to cut a cake with neat, clean lines - even if it has been sitting out for hours!

Should I Press My Quilt Seams Open or to One Side?

Should I press my seams open or to one side

 

The quilting question “Should I press my quilt seams open or to one side?” comes up very often in my quilting classes. When my students ask me, I think they’re looking for a single, definitive answer. A quilting rule that they can follow or flaunt. The problem is that I believe in very few quilting rules.

I believe that when quilting, you should press your seams. But how you press your quilt seams depends on a variety of factors. You should take these factors into account when you decide if you’re going to press your seams open, or to one side.

press seam open

How are you going to quilt your finished quilt?
If you plan on doing a “stitch in the ditch” on your quilt blocks, your decision has been made – you must press your seams to the side. The quilting technique “stitch in the ditch” is so named because of where the stitching falls. Pressing the quilt seams to the side created a slight raise on one side of the seam – which results in a slight ditch on the other. This is easy enough for a newbie quilter to find and aim at when quilting.
If you try to “Stitch in the Ditch” on a quilt where the quilt seams have been pressed open, you will be quilting along the seam line right between the pieces of the quilt top, and instead of securing the backing, batting, and top, you’ll be securing the backing and batting while tacking the top in place.
If you plan to do an all-over or a stitching pattern that does not closely follow the piecing of the blocks, you can press your seams however you like.

 

How flat do you want your finished quilt top to be?
Pressing quilt seams open results in flatter piecing. This is because instead of pressing all the bulk of the seam to one side, the bulk is divided in half and spread equally over two sides. Your finished quilt blocks are much flatter than a block with the seams pressed to the side. Once your quilt top is quilted together with the batting and backing, much of the flatness created by pressing seams open is lost into the batting, and a quilt with the seams pressed to the side is no more lumpy than one with the seams pressed open.

press seam to the side

What piecing techniques are you using?
Depending on the techniques you are using when piecing your top, you may prefer one pressing method over another. If you are piecing many small pieces together, you may want to press the quilt seams open to reduce the bulk at the individual seams. However, if you are doing intricate piecing where you want to match your seams, pressing the quilt seams to the side may actually help you. If you press one seam up and one seam down before laying two pieces with their right sides together, the ditches of the two seams will “lock” together, helping line up the piecing, and resulting in more crisp lines and points.

 

How do you press best?
What is most important in pressing is that you do it, and do it as well as possible. I have seen new quilters who did not press properly, and lost as much as 1/2″ of fabric in each seam because of poor pressing. So, if there is one way that you prefer pressing because it makes you happier, go ahead and use that method. Because staying happy while you quilt is what it is all about anyway, right?