So, you’ve been practicing quilting those five basic shapes in all different orientations. Now it’s time to start putting it together into free motion designs, basic ones that are fun to use on quilts. We will start with straight lines.
Putting it together – Straight lines
Modern quilters love straight line quilting. So do traditional quilters. You really can’t go wrong with straight lines. Here are some super useful straight line design ideas you’ll use over and over again.
Piano keys is probably the #1 most useful quilting design ever. I use it on almost every quilt somewhere.
Piano keys are most often used in long narrow sections of a quilt such as borders or sashings. There are a gazillion variations of piano key designs. If you don’t believe me, just Google it or search on Pinterest.
When quilting piano keys, the straight line quilting usually goes perpendicular to the edge of the border and the lines are, usually, evenly spaced apart.
Pro tip: An advantage to the piano key design is that it takes up fullness in a border.
The basic piano key looks like this:
and is stitched like this:
You can vary the spacing like this:
This design is sometimes referred to as Beadboard.
And you can double or even triple stitch your straight lines. Like this:
Or you can even try slanted straight lines, like this narrow border at the top and on the left:
You might notice that my straight line quilting is very straight. That’s because I use a longarm quilting ruler to guide my hopping foot as I quilt. It’s kind of like using a ruler and a pencil to draw a straight line on paper. The pencil is my needle. My ruler keeps my lines straight.
Another way of achieving straight lines is to use channel locks for straight horizontal and straight vertical lines. There are two options for channel locks, Electromagnetic Channel locks and wheel-lock type channel locks. Both work great!
We will delve into ruler work quilting in future blog posts. For now, just know that you can accomplish these straight lines with simple free motion. They will be straight-ish. And that’s OK!
Pro Tip: Give yourself guidelines to keep your piano keys spaced the way you want them. A simple way to do that is to use a ruler and chalk to mark the intervals. For example: put a little dot of chalk every 1/2 inch along the edge of the border. Then stitch a straight line at each mark. Travel along the edge of the border, don’t break thread in between. You might even mark the piano keys with chalk. That will help keep you going straight and keep your keys standing up straight like soldiers.
Bricks is a fun design that’s easy to quilt. And it quilts fast!
(Note: the green circle is the start and the red circle is the end in all the examples.)
Start at the left side of the first row of bricks. Stitch the bricks in rows. I stitched up – right – down – up -right – down- up -right etc. When you’re ready, start the next row and stitch it right to left. Be sure to alternate the spaces between the bricks in subsequent rows, so it looks like real bricks. Keep going in rows til your space is filled.
You can use Bricks as an all-over design, as a background filler, even as a border. It just depends on the size you make your bricks.
Stars can be used in blocks or connected by loops or a meander for an all-over design.
Two kinds of stars are pretty easy to stitch.
Remember back in grade school your teacher would put a big star on your paper if you did a good job? These are the easiest stars to draw and stitch. Here is the path you take:
Remember to pause in the points (go back here and read the Pro tip) to get nice sharp star points.
This star has quilting lines in its center. If you prefer an
it’s a little harder to draw and quilt. But I have some tips for you to make it easier.
Start with a Witch’s Hat like this:
That’s not too hard. Then imagine another Witch’s Hat that overlaps the first. Like this:
Then you only have to stitch the V-shape (circled)
Visualizing the witch’s hat helps to get the correct angle on the lines so that your star comes out looking nice. Note that the left and right “brims” are on the same plane. They form a straight line and the “peak” of the hat is an upside down V-shape right in the middle.
Then just add 2 more star points using the witch’s hat visualization trick and you’ve got a beautiful open star!
This open star is a design you might want to practice drawing on paper until it becomes natural for you. Then go to the machine to quilt it.
Here are a couple more straight line designs that you can practice this week. I know you can figure out the path pretty easily.
Pro tip: When quilting designs like these, they look best when the spacing between the quilting lines is similar. They don’t have to be exact, but similar. It helps to create nice even texture on your quilt. Use the edge of your hopping foot to give 1/4 inch spacing. Ride the edge of the hopping foot along the previously quilted line.
Have fun giving these designs a try! How’s that 15 minutes a day working for you? Are you being faithful? I’m watching you!
by Mary Beth Krapil
This is the first blog I have read at this site, it was VERY helpful. Thank you!
Welcome Alexandra! Glad you found it to be useful. Hope you’ll continue to follow along.
[…] hope you had some fun trying out those straight line designs from last week. They will become some of your favorite go-to’s when you’re deciding how […]
I have never heard the witches hat idea for open stars…great tip!
This is the first time I’ve seen this! I need to get practicing on paper because my Simply Sixteen is being delivered within two weeks. I’m so excited!
What is a hopping foot?
Hi Lori, The foot on our Handi Quilter longarm machines actually hops up and down as we quilt. Some domestic machines have a free-motion quilting foot that hops and others are stationary and kind of hover over your quilt sandwich.They all work well!
I like the designs. I will try practicing 15 min. Per day. I like the star, perhaps I can make that. The others are beautiful but I need to see these designs up close and all the details.
Very helpful. I likethe names for practice. Thanks
So helpful, I am faithfully practicing and see immediate improvement. Thank you so so much!