The Free Motion Quilting Project: Section Quilting Part 4

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Section Quilting Part 4

Ah! I'm finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this quilt room remodel. I've purged 3 giant bags of fabric, patterns which will go to my local quilt guild to help with charity quilts and our quilt show next year. I finally got my machines back in place, and this morning I got back to quilting!

Speaking of quilting, let's finally finish up on the Section Quilted Quilt! Circles of Daisies definitely took me a lot longer to finish than I expected, but now that it's done, it's really a wonderful quilt.

We've already learned how to quilt 4 filler designs into blocks in Part 1 and Part 2 of this section.

Last weekend we also learned how to quilt 2 filler designs in the sashing in Part 3.

So now it's time to learn how to fill the border area of a quilt in Part 4!

To start, let's learn the filler design theory behind border areas and get some ideas and inspiration for what can work in this area:

So if you have pieced or appliqued shapes in your border, the same designs that will work well in your blocks will also work great in this area as well.

If your border is open, meaning if it is created out of one single piece of fabric with no piecing or applique, then really any design could work in this area and the sky is the limit for the many possibilities available to you!

In the Circles of Daisies quilt, we had many complex appliqued shapes so I choose one design, Basic Spiral to go into this whole area and fill it with fun, multi-directional texture.

As I quilted this design into the borders, I also worked my way from shape to shape, stitching in the ditch around each one. This not only saved me about 40 thread breaks, it also kept the quilt moving quickly with fewer stops and starts.

Let's watch this video to see exactly how this quilting worked:

I've received a lot of questions about why I stitch in the ditch and use filler designs at the same time.

There are many reasons I quilt my quilts this way: the stitching in the ditch provides a good "boundary" around each shape and motif that I can then travel along to get from one area of the design to another.

It also emphasizes the shapes ever so slightly, making them stand out a bit better. If I'm going to bother to piece or applique, I definitely want to get credit for it.

While it's probably not super important to most people, quilting in this manner also makes the back of the quilt look as good as the front.

For the longest time I would cringe whenever I looked at the backs of my quilts because they just didn't make sense! The filler design would be randomly blank in some areas (where the appliques were on the front), but because there was no stitching to clearly outline this shape, it just looked like a open area on the back.

According to Karen McTavish in her book "Quilting for Show," stitching in the ditch around each motif also tells judges that you're willing to go the extra mile. You're actively paying attention to the designs created with the piecing and applique, but also creating new designs with the quilting.

That being said, I don't always stitch in the ditch around every single motif. In Shadow Self, I didn't stitch in the ditch around the outer light circle because it would have bisected my flame and interlocking line motifs.

free motion quilting | Leah DayOf course, please keep in mind that there IS NO WRONG WAY TO QUILT A QUILT!!!

The point is to get them quilted and finished so they can be used! So if you don't want to stitch in the ditch, don't bother! Just quilt it the way YOU want to and enjoy the finished result.

So that's it for Section Quilting the Circles of Daisies quilt! Here's what it looks like when quilted with Lollipop Chain, Wandering Clover, Pointy Paisley, Trippy Triangles, Spiral Chain, Modern Art, and Basic Spiral!

free motion quilting | Leah DayClick on the image to enlarge!

For this quilt it took around 3 hours to quilt each block, 1 hour to fill the sashing, and 6 hours to quilt the border. That's a total of 10 hours to quilt this small quilt, so Section Quilting is definitely more time consuming than either Stitching in the Ditch or All Over Quilting.

But the texture and fun these many designs add to the surface of the quilt really can't happen any other way! If you have a special quilt in your closet that you just don't know how to quilt, consider pulling it out of the closet and trying your hand at a variety of new filler designs!

Now I know I promised to make 4 quilts with this How Do I Quilt This?! Series, but the Over The Top quilt is taking me a lot longer to finish than expected.

I really want to take my time with it and have some fun with trapunto and dense filler designs, so this part will probably run in late October or November. It just goes to show that even I don't always realize how long it takes to make a show quilt!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. You mention in your Section Quilting Part 5 video that you have trouble with the border areas sometimes because they want to pleat or pull in. Do you ever baste along the outer edges before quilting the borders? I do that with quilts on my longarm to keep things stable.

  2. When I read this:

    "Of course, please keep in mind that there IS NO WRONG WAY TO QUILT A QUILT!!! The point is to get them quilted and finished so they can be used!"

    the thought that came to my mind was "I love you." :-)

    Thank you for your positive encouragement. I'm slowly working my way toward finishing my pieced tops and turning them into quilts and then making some more! Keep up the great blog and reminders on FB. I'm lovin' it (and need it)!

  3. Hi Susan - Yes, I've also tried basting around the outer edge of the border, but because I quilt fairly densely this can cause more pleating issues rather than less.

    I've just found that simply cutting the border wider makes this area much easier to quilt. I mark a line for where the border will be trimmed to and simply quilt beyond this line a bit to make the filler continuous.

    After the quilt is finished, I block it, then trim the edges down. While it is an extra step to remember to cut the borders wider in the piecing process, it certainly makes this area easier to handle in the quilting process!

    Let's go quilt,

    Leah Day

  4. This video was one of your best in regard to:
    - working a border approximately no more than four inches at a time
    - a long visual of the direction in which the stitching proceeds
    - basic spiral is a great design to teach clockwise and counter clockwise movement and how to fill in the odd spaces evenly
    - speeding up to show more and more traveling over the larger space is such a great learning tool


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