How to Free Motion Quilt Vines

Kimberlee Tanner

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 vines.


Where To Use a Vine Quilting Motif

Like feathers, this quilting motif is very versatile. You can use it as an all over design and in borders and sashing, but also to fit in different shaped blocks! Simply alter the spine and size and shape of the spirals to fill your space.

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!

How to Quilt Free Motion Vines

First, start with the spine. You can just freehand it as you go, but I find it much easier to have a base line to come back to. You can either stitch this in, or if you want to avoid thread build up, draw it in. Some of my favorite marking tools are school chalk and air or water erase fabric markers (just make to always test before drawing on your fabric to make sure it will come off).

 For the spine, use a nice wavy line. You can use a straight line, but a slight curve will look more organic and has a nice flow. After you have put in the spine, on one side, go out and make a gentle spiral shape. No need to go crazy and try to make lots of loops. One small gentle curve in is perfect. Now, head back to your spine trying to stay on that initial curve as much as possible. This is great practice for backtracking, but don’t stress if you go off the stitch line. As you can see in my sample, I wasn’t perfectly on and it still looks great! After you do one side, I like to alternate and put a spiral on the opposite side, alternating as I move down the spine. This makes it so that when I get to the end, I’m done! No need to head back down the spine to do the opposite side.

If you are filling a big space or using this as an all over design, go down a few inches and make a second spine, leaving enough space for another row of vines. I like to go the opposite direction and alternate each row, but you can certainly quilt them all in the same direction as well. Fill the space between the first vine and second, changing the size of the spirals as needed to eliminate empty areas. For an all over design, aim to keep your spacing fairly consistent. No large open areas or ones that have lots of stitching really close. This will give a great overall texture to the quilt and your mistakes will blend nicely.

Alternate back and forth, continuing across the quilt top until you are done!

Don’t forget to practice this motif up, down, backgrounds, and all around! Also, grab some chalk and draw in some simple quilting shapes to practice filling. Make sure to extend the spirals to really reach the edges of the shape. After you feel confident with this motif, you’ll be ready to tackle feathers!

As well as with any skill, remember to practice. The more you free motion quilt, the better and more comfortable you will get. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you are just beginning. Give yourself the same grace that you would extend to your favorite quilting buddy! Don’t ever point out your mistakes to others and remember, only you will see every inch of your quilting up close, everyone else just gets to enjoy the overall final effect and the warmth from your finished quilt!

Don’t forget to pin this post and share with your quilting friends! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Happy Quilting!

Kimie and Missy

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