How to Free Motion Quilt a Checkerboard Pattern

Kimberlee Tanner

This month we are working on another fun grid design! This one is super easier to move around, just remember, to always work in odds and you'll be set.

This free motion quilting design is a variation on the basic stipple or meander. If you are new to free motion quilting, this is a great motif to master and helps you get used to moving smoothly back and forth. Try mixing up the size and number of lines to fit your project!


Quilting a Grid Design

This grid design is a little different than last months since we fill in each square completely before moving on. You'll finish the top line completely before going on to the next. The key to this design is to always work in odd numbers. Ideally the grid will have odd numbers as well! Don't stress if it doesn't, you can always travel along the edge of the grid to get to the next space if needed (as shown in the video).

The first thing we need is of course the grid. I'm using a 2" grid, but you can do any size you want. If you don't want to mark, you can easily use the blocks and squares in the quilt itself. If you are using this as a fill or background, you'll want to mark the grid out. I like to use fabric marking pens and markers that I will have to remove so it doesn't erase before I have a chance to quilt. Chalk, water erase, or heat erase all work fantastic. Just remember to always spot check before you mark the entire quilt top!

Where to Use a Checkerboard Quilting Motif

Like with other grid designs, this pattern works well as an all over or a background/fill element. If you have a quilt with lots of squares, you can easily fill them with a checkerboard. If they are big squares, you can split them up in to smaller grids as well. It is a great motif to use behind appliques or other elements to really make them pop! The closer together you quilt the lines, the more it will recede to the background. This design works well in a border or sashing too. Just use one row and make your grid the width of the border or sashing.

The Quilting Path

As I stated, as long as you remember to always work in odd sets, you'll be able to easily move back and forth along the rows. If you have an odd number of boxes, it makes the movement even more seamless. If your space has an even number of boxes (like my example in the video), it still works, just use the edge of the grid to move down to the next row. If possible, you can try to hide this line in the seam of a block.

Start in the top right corner of the grid. Fill the box using gentle back and forth lines. Small boxes may only fit 3, a large box may fit 9 or more.

Now, using the same number of lines, fill in the second box, alternating the direction.
Continue filling in boxes along the top row following the same pattern.
After you have filled in the top row, if needed stitch along the edge to get to the top left corner of the second row and repeat going back across the grid.
Now just keep repeating until your entire grid is filled!
After your grid lines are removed, you are left with a checkerboard effect created from the alternating directions and texture of the quilting.
And that's it! You can adapt your grid to fit whatever space you need. So, grab your sketchbook and practice sandwich and get quilting!
If you have any questions, let us know!
Happy Quilting,
Kimie and Missy

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