How to Free Motion Quilt Filled Waves

Kimberlee Tanner

How to Free Motion Quilt Filled Waves

A quilt isn’t finished till it’s quilted! To help aid in this, we are putting together a collection of free motion quilting motifs you can complete on your domestic sewing machine that will help you complete all your tops. We will go over quilting direction, easier to more complex designs, and ruler quilting! Each month of the year we will feature a different quilting motif for you to practice and add to your skill set so that when you are ready to finish a quilt, you’ll have lots of ideas and be confident answering the question “How do I quilt it?!”

This month, we are starting with a filled wave.


Where To Use a Filled Wave Quilting Motif

This motif evokes movement and reminds me of water or wind. For that reason, I really like to use it on quilts that could benefit from the illusion of water or air. It works great as an all over design, simply change up the scale to fit your quilt, or in specific areas of the quilt. If you have large open negative space areas you are looking to fill, this design is a quick and easy way to do that. Whatever size you are using, simply try to keep the spacing between the waves consistent and it will look great. When quilting out this design, I like to turn my quilt to ensure I’m moving it from front to back and not into my sewing machine. This makes it much easier to manipulate the fabric and complete the design.

Preparing the Practice Quilt Sandwich

We’ll be using about 12-14″ square quilt sandwiches for our pieces. This size is small enough to practice a new to motif and not be overwhelmed by bulk, but still large enough to get a feel for the full pattern. It’s also a size that we can usually find scraps for. If you hang on to leftover batting from quilts, we love to use them for practice sandwiches. I recommend practicing on solids when you can as it allows you to see your stitches better and know where you can practice more to improve. If you want to save even more fabric, when your practice sandwich is full, simply throw a new piece of fabric on top and start over. You can do this until you have 3-4 layers of top fabric.

One thing to keep in mind when practicing, your quilts will likely be much larger than your practice sandwich. Remember to vary the scale and practice your designs larger as well so that they don’t end up super small when you move to the final quilt.

Doodle, Doodle, Doodle

Before you head to the sewing machine to stitch out a new free motion quilting motif, pull out the paper and pen first! Taking the time to doodle the design builds up muscle memory, gets you comfortable with the movement, and also helps you to identify a quilting path. Then when you get to the quilt top, you’ll know how to move around and fill in tricky areas. If you need something to occupy your hands while watching movies or tv, (or a work zoom meeting), keep a sketchbook handy and doodle out new free motion quilting motifs. This also works to keep a journal of ideas and quilting patterns you know which can make deciding how to quilt your projects much easier!

Quilting the Wave

With this free motion quilting motif, the first part is putting in the wave, this is the foundation of the design. I like to do 3 lines per wave as that always puts me ending the same place I started. It makes planning my quilting path really simple. Also, if you are better at doing your fill one direction over another, this makes it easy go the same direction.

  1. Make a gentle wave across the quilt. Don’t go too crazy, it’s important that this is smooth and goes up and down slowly. If your peaks and valleys are extreme, it can make filling it harder.
  2. Echo the wave stitching in the opposite direction. I like to use the edge of my foot to keep my spacing consistent.
  3. Echo the wave a third time.
  4. Now, move over about 2-4 inches (depending on your scale) and make a wave going up and down opposite the first set. This will create thick and thin areas for you to fill. I do not try to touch the waves at any point, I prefer to leave a small gap to move through with my fill.

Quilting the Fill

Now that the wave has two sides, you can go back in and fill it in. I’m using a wishbone in the video, but there are lots of different quilting motifs you can choose. Try mixing it up and testing a few different options to see what you like best. You can use feathers, pebbles, matchstick lines, and more.

Quilting the Next Wave

Now, simply repeat steps 2-4 to fill in the entire area or quilt. Move over and echo the wave two times, leave a 2-4″ gap, create the next wave, and fill.

Quilting the Edges

Don’t forget to go back and fill in the empty space above the first wave and the empty space below the last wave. I prefer to quilt off the edge of the quilt to make sure that there are no empty spaces. This ensures everything is held down and it doesn’t look like I missed something. If you are doing a shape like the matchstick lines or wishbones, you can either end them at the edge of the fabric with the curves still showing, or extend them past a little and not worry about maintaining that curve on your quilt. Both look great so it’s really just a matter of what you prefer or what is easier for you.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Happy Quilting!

Kimie and Missy

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