2023 Quilt Along - Month 4

Kimberlee Tanner

It's now time for Month 4 and more fun free motion quilting motifs. This month we are learning one of my favorite filler motifs, spirals!



Looking for previous months? Check out the main quilt along page for links to all the blocks and instructions.

2023 Quilt Along - Quilt as You Go

Preparing the Block

Before we can quilt, we need to prepare the block. If you want to see this, head to Month 1, we show you how in that video. Grab one of your 19" background squares and 1 - 19" batting square. If you want to spray baste them, spray the backing square and carefully lay the batting on top of it. If you are pin basting, you don't need to worry about this.

Next, fold the backing and batting in half on the diagonal and press it. This will help us line up the quilt block in the middle. Press it again on the opposite diagonal and press again.

Now that you have an X across your block, spray (if using spray) the back of your quilt block, then gently lay it down, lining up all the corners on your X. I find that folding it in half makes this easier so it's not sticking to everything.

If you are pin basting, after lining up your block, go ahead and put a few pins in. You might not need as many as a full sized quilt, but it's good to keep everything in place.

If you have a specific layout, quilt the blocks following the order below. We'll be trimming outside edges differently when joining the blocks to allow us to add the borders. 

The Quilting Plan

We are going to start our quilting plan in the center block and work our way out. This will create 1 set of threads we need to bury, but it also keeps everything in place and if things shift, they are shifting out and not creating extra backing fabric we have to deal with. Remember, don't do anything with the extra backing and batting yet, that will be used to join the blocks.

If you want to print out the quilting plan, click on the photo below and it will pull up a bigger version.

block 4 quilting plan

If you want to create your own quilting plan, click on the blank photo and you can print out the block and sketch your own designs.

If you are new to free motion quilting, I recommend printing out the blank block and practice drawing the designs, moving as if you were quilting the block. This is great practice, creates muscle memory, and helps you figure out how to move around without the stress of ruining the quilt block. 

Setting up your Sewing Machine for Free Motion Quilting

Now we need to set up our sewing machines. A couple of general tips:

  1. Put on your free motion quilting foot. This will let us move around the quilt block in any direction.
  2. Lower your feed dogs. If you can't lower your feed dogs, try setting your stitch length to zero. That way they won't move.
  3. Create as much flat space as possible. If you have an extension table or can set it level in your sewing table, this helps.
  4. Put your needle to stop in the down position.

If you have quilting gloves and want to use them, grab them! They can really help with moving your quilt around the machine.

Quilting the Block

Now we are ready to start quilting. We'll complete the plan as follows:

  1. Before we start quilting this block, we want to mark the corner straight lines. I used a ruler and the back of a butter knife. Use the lines and points in the quilt block to keep things even.
  2. We'll start in the center, starting at a corner and quilting a straight line to the center of the triangle, dividing it into thirds, then quilt back out to the opposite corner. Then, repeat with the next triangle, moving around the center. 
  3. Now, repeat with a second set of angled lines, quilting in to the center at the lower third of the triangle, then back out to the opposite corner. Repeat around all the triangles again.
  4. Next is the spirals. Fill in the white area around the center triangles with spirals.
  5. Moving onto the outside triangles, repeat the same design for the center triangles, stitching from the corner to the center line, dividing the triangle in thirds. Then quilt back out to the opposite corner.
  6. Fill in the outer white center triangle with swirls, and then stitch towards the center and back to the outer corner of the next outer triangle. 
  7. Repeat step 6, working your way around the block.
  8.  Now, stitch the second in and out line on the remaining third of the outer triangle, then travel down the seam of the triangle to the connecting bar.
  9. Stitch pearls across the connecting bar, starting and stopping with a partial circle.
  10. Stitch out to the first marked line, stitch in to the smaller circle and repeat the straight lines, dividing the triangle into thirds, stitching both sets now. Continue stitching on the marked line to the opposite corner of the corner block.
  11. Stitch back and forth on all the marked lines to finish off the corner.
  12. Quilt along the edge of the block to the next corner and repeat steps 8-10 until the block is done.

When quilting, remember to stop at the edge of the quilt block. Don't stitch into the extra batting and backing, we'll need these free for when we join the blocks.

Free Motion Quilting Tips

If you are new to free motion quilting, there are a couple tips that might help.

  1. If you are having trouble moving the block around, try stitching a little faster. This will also help smooth out curves. It seems crazy, but works. I promise.
  2. Doodle the design first. If you are comfortable doodling the pattern, you'll feel more comfortable stitching it.
  3. Sit up straight. Try not to hunch over your machine. You'll just end up causing unnecessary muscle strain and pain.
  4. Try different hand positions and holds till you find one that feels comfortable for you.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. Just like anything, you can't get better if you don't quilt! Be gracious with yourself and allow the opportunity to improve. No one looks at your quilting as closely as you do, so don't judge too harshly!
  6. Have fun! If it's not fun, why are we doing it? 

If you have any questions, please let us know!

Happy Quilting

Kimie and Missy

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