Last week we filled grids with straight lines, curves and S-shapes. That leaves two more of the 5 basic shapes to create even more filled grid variations, swirl and loop.


The swirl is a fun one to quilt because it flows so easily. If you are not proficient at quilting swirls, remember to practice this shape every day. Your skill will improve and before you know it you’ll be loving to quilt swirls too!

Let’s start with a little larger grid this time. A 5 across by 4 down will work well for this example.

Pro-tip: You can fill any size grid with these shapes! you might be filling a border that’s 4″ x 60″.  Just use the same paths. It will work.


Start (as usual) in the upper left corner. Stitch a swirl. I chose to do a simple spiral into the center and use the diagonal line trick to get to the upper right corner of my grid box. Just like we did last week with the square spiral design.


I also chose to make that line from the center to the upper right a curve. If I had chosen a straight line, I’d get a different look. But, I don’t need to pull out my straight line ruler to quilt the curve. It will be faster and easier this way.

Next travel along the grid line to skip the next box and get to the third box.

Since I practiced this design before I quilted it on a real quilt, I realized some thing that would help me finish this grid work faster. Remember the S-shape design from last week? It looked much better when the grid was also stitched. Because the swirls do not fill the entire grid box, this one will look much better with the grid lines quilted as well. As I practiced, I discovered if I quilted across the top of the 2nd and the 3rd grid boxes. Then started my swirl from the upper right corner of the 3rd box (rather than the upper left). I would complete stitching the horizontal grid lines as I worked the swirls. This saves a lot of time!

Pro- tip: As you practice your design, try to think of ways to make it easier or faster to stitch. Try variations to see what works and what doesn’t.


Don’t worry!  I will stitch the top of that 1st grid box a little later.

By stitching the top of 2 boxes I need to start my spiral from the upper right. No biggie!

Then stitch that diagonal line to the upper right corner of the box.

Rinse and repeat

Continue across the top row of the grid in the same manner till you reach the right side of your grid.


The next row will get worked right to left. Stitch down the right side of the grid to the top of row 2. Remember you are filling alternate grid boxes. So stitch across to the top right of the box you want to fill next.


Stitch the swirl and end in the upper right corner of the box.

Use the trick of putting marks in the boxes you want to fill so you don’t make a mistake. It’s easy to do!

Pro-tip: Use all the tricks you have up your sleeve to help make the quilting easy!

If you have followed along with this Free Motion Quilting for Beginners series you have quite a few tricks you can apply to whatever the job. If you’re new here, start with this post. It has links to many of the first posts in the series. Then you can continue on from there.

Travel across the top of the box you just filled and the next box that will remain empty.


Fill the next one. Then travel across and down and back across to the right. This will set you up to fill the next box.

Rinse and repeat til you have filled all the alternating boxes.



All that is left to do is to finish stitching the grid. Most of the horizontal lines are already stitched! Just finish the last part of the line you are working.


Then choose a path to complete the vertical grid lines. I chose to stitch up the left side to get started. You can finger trace your path to figure out which way will work the best in your situation, before you start stitching.


Now I can finish that open top!


As you come to a vertical line, stitch it. So I stitched down that first vertical line I came to.


Rinse and repeat.


I ended up at the bottom right corner working my vertical lines. So all I needed to do was to go across the bottom and up the one grid box that was still open. And my design is finished!


Next week: Loops and more ideas.

BTW, the basic examples I am showing you are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to filling up a grid and creating texture on your quilts. I hope you’re imagining other ways to use the shapes! That’s the fun of free motion quilting. The sky’s the limit when it comes to more filled grid variations!


Quilt every day!


by Mary Beth Krapil