Beginner Machine Quilting Designs

Let's talk a little bit about machine quilting designs that will build your confidence and allow you to become successful as a longarm quilter.

Experience alone does not prepare you for learning the many facets of quilting designs.

Most quilters know how to sew but...

...machine quilting designs using free-motion quilting is done without a pattern, stencil, or template and in a style that is personal to each individual, much like handwriting.

Free-motion quilting is done from the front of the machine. In theory, the quilter just imagines the design in their mind and stitches it directly onto the quilt top.

Machine quilting designs using free-motion quilting is done without a pattern, stencil, or template and in a style that is personal to each individual, much like handwriting.

Free-motion quilting is done from the front of the machine. In theory, the quilter just imagines the design in their mind and stitches it directly onto the quilt top.

But in reality, we sometimes mark guidelines on the quilt top to help us maintain consistency. Unlike handwriting, quilting involves more of the body than just the hands.

Backup just a minute, it may be that when we learned to write we did experience the same learning curve as we will with quilting. We were just too young to remember!

No matter, training the eye, mind and hand to work together in order to coordinate your muscles to express and control your own personal style takes practice.

You see, you must synchronize the speed of the machine with the speed in which you are moving the quilt under the presser foot to achieve a good visual.

Machines with a stitch regulator might make this task easier because we can let the regulator control the machine's speed while we are learning how to design the pattern. Just as I promised, today's technology to the rescue.

Practice, Practice, and more Practice will improve your ability to master machine quilting designs whether it is free-motion quilting, continuous line quilting or hand quilting.

Stippling and Meandering
Are Machine Quilting Designs:

Is there a difference between Stipple Quilting and Meander Quilting?

This image says it all. Stippling is tiny meandering stitches and is used for filling in small areas such as inside quilted shapes or as a background for quilted or appliqued designs.

Meandering, on the other hand, is when the lines are spaced farther apart. Thus, large scale stippling is called meandering while small scale is called stippling.

Good stippling is usually very small, has no straight line segments and absolutely no crossing over.

When stippling, your lines of stitching should be about 1/8 to 1/4-inch apart.

While the words meandering and stippling are used interchangeably in the world of machine quilting designs, there really is a distinction between them. Regardless of the scale, be consistent in the distance between quilting lines and keep all quilting curvy without crossing each other.

Stippling Loops will flatten the area quilted and is often stitched in background areas of all your machine quilting designs. This technique will raise or elevate the adjacent pieced designs or appliquéd designs.

You'll want to practice stippling before actually stitching on a quilt top.  A few things to keep in mind while practicing:

  • How to secure your quilting stitches is another excellent Quilting Tips to review before you start.
  • Stippling and meandering are both free-motion quilting techniques for machine quilting designs.
  • Stitch small and close for stippling; move the quilt slowly so your stitch length is no more then 1/8-inch long.
  • Sew slowly. Let your hands guide the quilt underneath the presser foot.
  • You will need a plan to advance without crossing over any other line.
  • Practice until you become good at this technique.
  • Concentrate on an area approximately 2 inches square, fill it, and then move on.
  • Master the eye, hand, speed coordination with practice.
  • This will take a bit of effort, so don't give up!
  • The proof is seeing all those ladies out there having a ball at quilting!

Meandering Loops: Quilting a loop design is a good way to learn how to control the movement of the machine in all directions; forward, backward, to the left, to the right. It is also a good way to master the Quilting Foot or a darning foot.

Meandering quilting uses random curved lines and swirls just like stippling does. Strive to make all the loops evenly sized and as circular as possible. The lines connecting the loops should be curved, not straight.

The loops should fill the space without the appearance of rows. Alternating the direction of each loop (one clockwise and the next counter-clockwise) helps improve control because it allows frequent direction changes.

The only difference is the size and spacing of your loops, curves circles and squiggly lines.

Fill the entire space as you go. If that is not possible, leave an uneven edge, not a straight one so the next section will blend in.

Meander quilting is useful for filling in borders or around other machine quilted designs.

It is sometimes used to quilt over the entire quilt top which is very pretty for a busy quilt top.

Echo Quilting that Imitate Ripples in the Pond:

Quilting stitches that radiate around an image in an outward formation is called echo quilting. Echo quilting is a form of free motion quilting which requires the feed dogs lowered.

A darning foot works best when echo quilting and it is easier if you use a low-loft batting. Also use machine embroidery thread or a good quality cotton thread in both the needle and the bobbin.

You should applique or machine quilt the motifs around which your quilting stitches will echo around. Pin baste all areas that are not quilted and then stitch 1/8 inch from the outside edge of your applique or quilted design using the free-motion technique.

Echoing enhances a focal point by outlining it, and at the same time, it can fill the background in your machine quilting design.

You can create wonderful effects by gradually increasing the amount of space between each line of stitching. This also helps hide any imperfections in the spacing and allows the stitching to become part of the quilting effect.

As you add new rows of echo quilting the curves and indentations become less and less pronounced. Curves and angles will all but disappear the farther away from the original motif your stitches get.

Usually an echo technique can transform a machine quilting design into a beautiful filler, by stitching around and around the motif using 2 or more parallel lines. This type of quilting does not need to be marked.

Loops and Stars  is another good way to learn how to include direction changes. The star points require bringing the machine to a complete stop and then moving again in a different direction with a smooth motion. This machine quilting design is a little tricky but doable. Points will be rounded if the machine does not come to a complete stop. The star teaches how to plan the quilting route also. Notice that the star entry and exit directions are opposite.

A simple Leaf is a combination of straight lines, start, and stops and left and right curves.

Quilting leaves might feel more like drawing than quilting, which is the objective! For me this machine quilting design is a step up from the large meandering...prettier too!

Make the leaf by beginning with the center spine.  This requires coming to a complete stop and changing direction.

At the top of the leaf make a curve in one direction, stitch toward the bottom of the leaf, aim to make the leaf point somewhere past the end of the center spine and at the point, change direction and try to make a mirror image of the leaf along the other side.

In the Ditch Quilting does not mean you're stuck with your machine quilting design:  The ditch is the seam line between any patchwork piece including the seams between blocks and sashing or between pieces within a block.

Quilting along seam lines or along edges of appliquéd pieces is a
built in stitching line and there is no need to mark.

A walking foot or dual-feed mechanism moves quilt layers through the machine at exactly the same pace. This helps to control shifting of layers and puckering on either side.

The feed dogs need to be engaged and you need a slightly longer stitch. Lower the machine needle into one of the seams, anchor the stitches and stitch along the side of the seam line that does not include the seam allowance.

Crosshatch Quilting is straight lines in a grid pattern.

Using a hera or marking pencil start at the center of the quilt block and mark your first line.

Move the ruler to the right 1-inch and mark a second line. Continue marking parallel lines at 1-inch intervals across the quilt block.

Rotate the quilt block 90 degrees and repeat the marking process. Using one of the cross markings on your ruler double check to make sure all lines are perpendicular to the first set of lines.

Quilt the vertical center line of your grid anchoring at the start and at the end of the line of stitches. Turn the quilt 90 degrees and quilt the horizontal center line anchoring the each line as you go.

Now quilt the outermost lines on all four sides of the quilt to stabilize the entire surface.

Starting in any quadrant of the quilt, start with the line that is midway between the center line and the outermost line of stitches.

Turn the quilt 90 degrees and repeat this step. Work around all four sides of the quilt in the same manner turning it 90 degrees after each line of stitches.

With this process you will be able to ease any fullness in the fabric evenly over the entire quilt.

Crosshatch quilting can be done diagonally across entire quilts. Mark and stitch a diagonal grid in the same manner as described above. Start with the first line at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the quilt block.

Channel Quilting is straight, parallel lines going one direction only. This is much like crosshatch except your lines will only go in one direction.

It is half the work and looks just as nice as the crosshatch design.

You will mark it much like the crosshatch and is generally marked or stitched using a guide.


Outline Quilting: Quilting a consistent distance, usually 1/4 inch, from seam or applique is called “outline” quilting.

Outline quilting may be marked, or 1/4 inch masking tape may be placed along seam lines for quilting guide.

A word of caution here; do not leave masking tape or any kind of tape for that matter, on a quilt longer than necessary, It may leave an adhesive residue which can be difficult to remove.

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