The Free Motion Quilting Project: How to Quilt Patchwork Quilts

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to Quilt Patchwork Quilts

Recently I was emailed by a wonderful woman named Guilitta from Germany.

Guilitta sent me a photo of a quilt designed by Bonnie Hunter who lives here in North Carolina!

I just think it's so cool that this project is not only connecting quilters from all over the world, but also locally within my home state.

It just goes to show that you never know who you're going to get an email from these days!

I'm super excited about helping Guilitta with some possible quilting designs for this quilt because I've been a fan of Bonnie Hunter's super-awesome quilting website for quite some time.

Just in case you've never heard of her, Bonnie is the creator of where you can find piecing tutorials on every scrappy quilt known to quiltkind.

Like me, Bonnie posts almost all of her information for free so don't hesitate to head over and check out her awesome info and her book Scraps and Shirttails!

Guilitta pieced Bonnie's Leaders and Enders quilt, which was featured in a recent issue of Quiltmaker Magazine. This quilt is also being published in Bonnie's new book, Adventures with Leaders & Enders, due for release in Feb 2010 by Kansas City Star.

Based on Bonnie's instructions, I think this is one of those quilts that LOOKS hard to piece, but actually is super easy.

So, big question of the day:
how the heck to you quilt a quilt like this?

This is definitely a quilt where Shape has total dominance. Yes, Color is also playing a pretty big role in this quilt, but really it's the hundreds of small pieces that your eye really catches at first glance.

With such a dominance of shape and color, texture (your quilting stitches) really needs to take on the role of supporting actor.

This is one of the ONLY situations where stitching in the ditch is perfectly fine because you're quilting isn't likely to show up very much, no matter what you do.

So that's design suggestion #1 - just quilt it in the ditch (I know, it hurts to suggest it).

But what if you didn't like stitching in the ditch had no desire to stitch ALL of those ditches?

Then I'd try the next design:

This design draws focus to the square shapes created within the piecing, making the quilt almost feel like a square within a square design.

You can stitch these lines in the ditch or quilt them slightly off center so you don't have to quilt it quite so carefully (ditch quilting can take FOREVER if you're doing it right).

On to suggestion number 3! Let's change things up a bit and see this quilt with quilting lines that totally ignore the piecing:

This definitely creates a different look. Keep in mind that even if your quilt top is busy, you can always back the quilt with a plain backing fabric so your quilting stitches can show off to the back instead.

And what if you were totally sick of straight lines and wanted something really different for your quilt?

Try circles! Here's design suggestion #4:

And of course to show you just how versitile all of these designs are, here's design #5:

Yes, those are supposed to look like feathers (I'm still not good at drawing with a mouse).

You can take ANY of the designs I've suggested, even stitching in the ditch, and fill the areas with any of the fillers from this project.

Design #5 is based on the same idea as Design #2 where you are stitching in the ditch over certain lines to draw more attention to them.

By adding the feathers within the lined areas, you're creating even more focus to those areas. This would be a design that would do very nicely in a local quilt show, but also be open enough to still be comfortable on a bed.

That's it for Guilitta's patchwork quilt! I decided to post this all in one go today because she said the quilt is for her daughter's wedding. What a beautiful gift!

Special thanks to Bonnie Hunter at for providing such an excellent resource to quilters all over the world!

Now let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Great ideas, as always! I might have to send you a photo of one of the tops that has me stumped...

  2. Thanks for offering all those options to quilt a scrap quilt.

  3. Hello Leah,

    Thank you very much for your efforts and your willingness to help me find a good way quilting my leaders and enders quilt. Your proposals may actually all very happy and right now I do not know yet what exemple I will start. But I let them know for sure. I thank you very much for your nice, friendly and attentive Type and wish you joy in our wonderful hobby.

    I think my english isn´tgood, but I think you understand me.Thank you very, very much.

    Sincerly Guilitta

  4. Okay! You've just helped *me* solve the question of how to quilt the one that's laying on the chair in my living room. It's a Values Quilt (mostly) and I just finished it today.
    Thanks Leah!
    (And yes, you better believe I'll give you credit when I finish it and blog about it!)

  5. AND if you want to keep up with all the Bonnie chit chat join the yahoo email group

    Wonderful idea for the quilting ... thanks.

  6. LOL I only frequent TWO quilting sites -- Bonnie's and yours! You both have influenced me equally in totally different ways. Bonnie is the scrap QUEEN, and she was the one who taught me about crumb quilting!

  7. Leah - all great ideas
    I too like No 5
    But what about a top which has each 'round' using varying block formats with an applique top panel - my Round Robin (, I've tried but am still stuck on some of the 'rounds' - any suggestions fellow bloggers ;-)

  8. I love version #5 myself. I like seeing the different quilting ideas!!

    Laura T

  9. Thanks for the walk-through of your thought/design process. Great blog!

  10. Great post. I've been trying to figure out how to quilt a square in square quilt and now I'll be trying design #5. Thank you!

  11. This one post has changed the way I look at charm quilts and "non-block based" quilts. When I see one of these quilts I always think pantograph, but with this post, my mind is changed!

    I have been scrolling through your blog for the past several days and have learned so much in that time. I started getting seriously into the machine quilting this past December 2009 when I had to get a quilt done for a gift. I had tried before but just "scribbled" all over the surface of the quilt with a Bernina 170. I just got the Juki and put it on a frame and have been trying out your techniques and I'm getting further along than I could have dreamed I would. I may take a page from your book and take the Juki off the frame and put in my table. I enjoy your posts and look forward to where you're going in life.

    Kevin Britton, founder of QuiltGuy

  12. I would love to know how you do the white quilting design over the quilt you have software to do this? I'd love to find a way to electronically draw on top of a quilt photo like that. Kate Lyon

  13. Hi Kate - Back when I wrote this article, I was just using the typical Paint program that came with my computer. Open the photo in the program, then switch to a drawing tool and change the color to white.

    Nowadays I use Serif Draw Plus and a drawing tablet. It makes things much easier and you can do more effects with the background photo using layers.

    Good luck,



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