Freehand Quilting Frolic – Session 1

choosing quilting designs

Do you ever wonder WHY a quilter chooses one design over another?
Or indeed, HOW to arrive at such a decision? Read on, my friend, and I’ll talk you through it.

Before I dive in let me tell you about another resource I think you’ll find super helpful. I frequently film the quilting of an entire project, in real time, from beginning to end including bloopers. If you’re a machine quilter, I encourage you to join one of these events live! They’re not a formal lesson, but I do talk through all the steps of the project as I complete it, so it’s just like being invited into my studio to work side by side. Plus you can ask questions too!

​Live events occur on my Facebook page and my Youtube channel. You can see several of the replays here. If you want to know when they are in advance, sign up for my newsletter which will give you all the details.

handling thick seams

Ok, let’s get to the quilting, shall we?. We’ll start with Double Loops. This uncomplicated design is so great for youthful, playful quilts. I think the fun quality is very visible, but there was another factor I took into account when I chose this design. You can’t see it, but if I HADN’T considered it, you likely could.

Got you puzzled? 

Double Loop quilting design for handling thick seams

It takes a bit of explaining. One of the things I love best about quilting entirely freehand is that I can move freely around the quilt top, and particularly, I can quilt RIGHT OVER specific spots. See the points where all the different fabrics come together? There are 8 seams there, so 16 thicknesses of fabric. That’s a bulky seam! I deliberately shifted my quilting to sew right over, or very close to those intersections.  If I were to stitch half an inch away from those knobby seams, that would actually cause them to raise in higher relief from the rest of the quilt. Not pretty. This one factor REALLY makes a difference in making the finished quilt lay flat and smooth.

So in choosing quilting designs, be conscious of any foibles in the  project in hand. An appropriate choice can make the quilting much easier, and the final result much more satisfactory.

a masculine quilting design

Oak-ish leaf quilting design

Moving on to the Oak-ish Leaves. This is one of my favorites to quilt, in part because I’ve seen no other design like it. Plus, great masculine quilting designs are not thick on the ground, am I right?

This one looks complex, but really isn’t.  Pinky swear.  The leaf is formed with the same steps every time, in the same order. What makes it look so great (and cover a quilt so easily) is that it can be bent and shaped in ANY direction. So the hint is: no fear! Just flex that spine!

The leaves also play well with the colors of the quilt, and contrast well with the simple, but quite angular piecing.

fun floral freehand design

The Hibiscus is an old favorite! It has evolved and changed over the years into the shape it is today.

Three versions of the Hibiscus quilting design

For example, at one time it didn’t have an echo all the way around. I added that to make traveling much easier. Every good freehand design needs a great way to move the other areas.

Also, once upon a time, it had much longer petals. I learned that it’s a great deal smoother to fit plump and compact elements next to each other, rather than long and gangly ones. The resulting quilted spaces are quite similar in size, creating a really pleasing texture too.

I had to give you several photos of this one – I love it so much!

get your not-quite-Baptist fan on

Two versions of row-based fans I call Baptist-ish fans

These Row-based Fans, too, are a perennial favorite. Ok, ok, I have a lot of favorites.
I do love a traditional Baptist fan, but that’s not easily duplicated with freehand quilting. This fan gives a similar effect – it’s quilted in rows….they’re all the same size… – but is quite manageable freehand. 

This particular quilt has quite a lot of background so that the pieced elements appear to float. I think this quilting design really adds texture without distracting from the star blocks.

Starburst Quilt with Baptist-ish row-based fans

And a little PS – this quilt was especially fun to work on as it’s my own pattern STARSTRUCK. It was released as a block of the month, which has just finished, ad will shortly be available as a stand-alone pattern. I’ll keep you posted.

curly and swirly quilting

Coffee beans quilting design

And lastly, this curly swirly design I call Coffee Beans. In part because the first quilt I created it on was all coffee bean fabrics, and in part just because I love the (not-so) humble coffee bean.

Certainly this in another playful design, with lots of movement, and across the whole quilt it’s very circular in effect. I thought this contrasted well with the block-y piecing of this project, and serves to soften it and give it movement.

So there you have it! Next time you’re standing and staring….wondering what on earth to stitch on your quilt….think of a few of these factors to guide you.

​Happy quilting!

If you have any questions or comments, do visit me on Facebook @stitchedbysusan or Instagram @stitchedbysusan!