The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Along #6 - Stippling in Sashing and Borders

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quilt Along #6 - Stippling in Sashing and Borders

It's Quilt Along Wednesday again and time to finish up our little Sawtooth Star quilt and get some more practice stitching Stippling.

Just in case you're just joining us, here's a list of all the Quilt Along posts so far:

Quilt Along #1 - Let's Wiggle

Quilt Along #2 - Quilting in Rows
Quilt Along #3 - Playing with Scale
Quilt Along #4 - Quilting on a Line
Quilt Along #5 - Stippling in Blocks

For the last two weeks we've been working to quilt this small Sawtooth Star cheater cloth quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now so far for 4 of the last 5 weeks we've been working on Stippling, stippling, and more stippling! Partly because I'm feeling terrible and look terrible, and partly because we've seen stippling SO many times over the past month and a half, I'm not going to share a video this week.

Instead I think a better way to explain how stippling in sashing works is to show it through diagrams. Honestly, looking back over the video I shot for this week, this is a much better way to learn simply because it's very hard to see or understand how the quilt is moving and rotating when it's actually squished into the machine.

To start, please understand that there are probably a million ways to fill the sashing of a quilt. You could start in the absolute middle, or you can start off to one side as I did. You could even start stitching along the outer edges of the sashing and work inwards.

Why so much choice? Because once you've stitched in the ditch, and filled most of the blocks, the layers of the quilt should be fairly stable and it should be fine to quilt it however you like.

So here's the instructions on just one method for filling the sashing with stippling:

Note: I'm illustrating this with this graphically designed quilt top. I've labeled the Top and Bottom so you can hopefully understand how the quilt moved through the machine, how it was rotated, and how the bulk was dealt with at any given time.

free motion quilting | Leah DayStart at the top of a row of sashing. A great way to hide your beginning point is to start right on the tip or side of a sawtooth star. Start filling the quilt moving in a downwards fashion, filling the space with 1/2" scale stippling:

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou'll notice that this feels a lot like stitching the design in a row because it is! You're basically stitching a row straight down that channel, filling the space as you move the quilt up through the machine.

When you reach the bottom of this row, rotate the quilt, then stitch a narrow wiggly line down to the next row. Leaving this bit of space in this sashing area will make filling the outer row easier later.

free motion quilting | Leah DayRotate the quilt again so you're at the top of the second row, again stitch a new row of stippling straight down into this section.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow take a look at the image above. If we keep stitching straight down that row, we will leave an open space in the sashing between the two blocks Instead of leaving that space open, let's fill it quickly before moving down the row.

Simply quilt a narrow row of stippling into the space, then wiggle right back out so the entire sashing area between the blocks is filled. I wouldn't rotate the quilt for this since you're only stitching around 8 inches into the space and back out again. Even if it feels a bit awkward to stitch from right to left, it won't take very much time to get back out of the space and be stitching downwards again.

free motion quilting | Leah DayDo this one more time to fill the space below the middle block, then stitch to the bottom of the row.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow all that's left to fill is the outer ring of sashing. Pick a direction to move in to stitch through this area.

It might seem a simple choice, but the direction you choose here is actually quite important. If you keep the quilt as it is when you finished that last row of sashing and you quilt to the RIGHT (see the image above), you will be stitching Counter Clockwise around the quilt.

You will rotate the quilt at the corners and have the bulk of the quilt in the arm of the machine as you stitch from left to right. This is a good direction to go with if you're most comfortable stitching from left to right, but keep in mind that with each rotation, you will have the entire quilt squished into the machine and this can be quite difficult to deal with.

The other option is to rotate the quilt again and stitch straight down so you're moving in a Clockwise direction. This is the method that I advise and use simply because you'll only have to deal with the bulk of the borders in the arm of your machine. It will be much easier to move and shift the quilt moving in this direction.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNo matter which direction you choose to quilt in, make sure to fill any pockets of open space in between the blocks as you go.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can see now why we left that little section of sashing open so you can wiggle through the entire space without stopping. If you'd filled that section completely, you'd have to stop, break thread, and start again on the other side.

More than anything else, sashing is a time consuming and tricky area to fill. The best thing to do is take some time to think about the space first and how it can most easily be filled based on which directions you like to work, and how much bulk of the quilt you can deal with inside your machine.

free motion quilting | Leah DayOnce the sashing is fully filled, pat yourself on the back! Sashing areas are actually a lot bigger than they seem and at this point your quilt will be more than 1/2 way finished.

Now let's quickly quilt the borders of this quilt with an even larger version of Stippling:

free motion quilting | Leah DayStarting in a corner with the quilt rotated so you will be working down, start stitching a 1 inch scale stippling. If your row is fairly typical (5-6 inches) you should be able to fill the space with a single row of stippling working around the quilt in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.

Play with both directions to see what feels most natural for you. I find rotating the quilt so I'm always moving in a downward direction, and the quilt is always moving up and out the back of my machine feels most natural. This method also means the least amount of bulk of the quilt will be in the arm of your machine.

Now you might be wondering exactly what to practice this week. I've covered filling the sashing area of a quilt quite thoroughly, but if you don't have a quilt in progress, this can be tricky to practice.
free motion quilting | Leah DayHere's an idea to practice stippling in sashing: take the sawtooth star block diagram above and mark 4 of them on a plain piece of fabric. Space them so there's 2 inches between the star points. This will create the right size and spacing for your sashing and allow you to get some practice stitching around each block.

If you have a quilt already basted up, why not try filling the sashing with Stippling? After all, the best way to get that quilt finished is to QUILT IT!

Now let's link up your progress from last week's Stippling in Blocks:

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (, but the link to the specific post:

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!

As always, any questions you have, please post them in the comments below or on your blog and I'll answer 5 tomorrow on Question Thursday.

Time for me to shut up and quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Great've made it very easy to understand.....hope you're feeling better. :)

  2. It's funny how a cheater cloth totally looks like it was really pieced after you quilt it. I didn't really follow the quilt along last week as I was busy stippling a quilt in my spare time :) I guess I will link up the post anyway.

  3. Hi Leah,
    Even when ailing, you think and articulate clearly.
    Hope you're 100% soon.

  4. Leah ~
    Great instructions and so easy to understand and follow! You make FMQ fun as you take out the fear and frustrations of knowing what to do next! You are a good teacher :)

  5. Thank you for the directions like this, I enjoyed this. I am in the process of putting together a quilt, and this came at the right time for me. I heard to do the whole quilt the larger stippling, as I am using warm and natural batting.And I tried a piece, washed and dried it. it shrunk good, and the small stippling shrunk more than the large areas. what should I do? all large or small in the squares and large on the outsides?


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