How to Free Motion Quilt Spiral Squares

Kimberlee Tanner

How to Free Motion Quilt Spiral Squares

In a quest to actually finish all our quilts (it’s hard to snuggle under a quilt top), we are sharing a new free motion quilting motif with you each month. These are simple motifs that can easily be tackled by a beginner. Grab a practice quilt sandwich and some extra thread and try it out. You may just find a new favorite quilting motif!

This month, we are learning how to quilt easy spirals squares.


Where To Use a Spiral Square Quilting Motif

My favorite place to use this motif is in simple quilts that utilize a lot of squares. Pairing this design with a charm pack and creating a simple patchwork quilt makes for a fun and easy project that can be completed in a weekend and is the perfect solution to those last minute gift needs. You can also fit it into more complex designs for an easy all over pattern that finishes up quick.

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!

Marking the Squares

You don’t have to mark out squares for this design, I often just wing it, but if you like things to be more particular, you can. If you are using a quilt top that is made up of squares, there is no need to mark anything. Simply use the squares as your guides and fill them in. If you have small squares, you can combine four of them to make a bigger square for quilting purposes.

If you don’t have squares made with fabric, I recommend marking squares between 4-8″ or so. You don’t want to go too much smaller or you won’t have room to spiral and too much bigger will be hard to maneuver on a domestic machine. For this design you don’t need to worry about precision marking, so a piece of washable school chalk works great! Just make sure to always test whatever you are marking with to confirm it will come off before you mark your entire quilt top.

Quilting the Squares

Now that everything is marked out, it’s time to quilt the squares. This is a really relaxed shape and one you don’t have to worry about being exact on. The main thing to focus on is to keep the spacing between the lines even. As long as the spacing is consistent, you won’t see minor errors or mistakes. Everything will just blend together in quilty texture magic at the end.

Start by quilting the outside of the square about 1/4″ from the outline of your square. If you are freehanding it, just quilt a square the size you want. You can make sharp corners by stopping momentarily at each corner or make them more rounded. This is entirely your preference. I feel that rounded corners are easier if you are a beginner.

Now continue spiraling in, keeping the distance between your lines consistent. For a small square, I recommend 1/4-1/2″ spacing. For the larger squares, you can go 1/2-1″ between lines.

Spiral in until you have reached approximately the center of the square, then simply head straight out the side over your line of stitching to setup for the next square. When stitching the next square, I like to alternate the direction I start. I’ll go up first, then down for the next one.

When you reach the end of your row, simply head straight out of the square heading down to the next one and continue heading back across the quilt top.

Quilting Alternating Squares

Another fun variation on this design is to alternate the squares. When you start the second row, offset your first square to finish halfway into the one above it and let it run off the edge of the fabric, then continue with the next square, going from center to center of the squares above it. Start the third row to match row number one, then simply alternate across the entire quilt.

Quilting Spiral Squares in Borders

This is a really easy design to put in borders or sashing as well. If you plan it so that you have a square in each corner, it’s easy to go around the blocks and throughout the sashing in the quilt top.

If you have any questions, let us know!

Happy Quilting!

Kimie and Missy

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