The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Along #30 - Pivoting Designs and Paisley

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Quilt Along #30 - Pivoting Designs and Paisley

It's quilt along time and yes, if you're a follower on Facebook you'll know that after a weekend of food poisoning AGAIN I am feeling much better.  I swear I never want to feel this sick ever, ever again, but luckily I was able to stitch out most of my misery by binding two rows of the 365 quilt while watching Weeds.

Fortunately I'm now feeling well enough to get on the machine and have decided it's time to MOVE ON.

We are officially leaving the world of Stippling and Independent Designs.  Yes, they've been fun, yes, there are tons more to stitch and to create, but the fact is, I'm getting bored with this family of designs.  I love em, but I can only focus on one family for so long.

So rather than beat each family of designs to death with months and months of intense focus, we're going to start moving month by month to a new family.  That means on average we'll play with 4 - 5 designs per month, some new, some old, but all of them fun and exciting to stitch on your quilts!

This month we're focusing on Pivoting Designs and as promised in the UFO Sunday quilt along, I'm going to start stitching out these designs in my UFOs to hopefully knock out two birds with one stone.

I'm also needing to make videos easier for Josh to edit, so I'm attempting to talk and quilt at the same time.  I did this with my Craftsy class and it worked out pretty good so here goes!

If you like the look of the Batik Beauty quilt, you can get a free copy of the pattern by signing up for our weekly email newsletter right here.

Now if you remember back to Independent Designs, Stippling is kind of the mother of that whole design family.  All of the designs in that group are stitched and move around the quilt similar to stippling.

With Pivoting Designs, Paisley is the queen bee, so this is the best design to start with when learning about this family.  Paisley is also the simplest design because it's based off a very simple shape: a tear drop:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
To stitch Paisley, you first stitch a tear drop.  In order to create this shape, you will need to hit your original starting point (red dot) to close the tear drop completely.

Next, pivot (hence the name) off that starting point and swing up and around to create an echo.  As you stitch the echo around the tear drop, bring it in closer until you hit the starting point again.

Pivot and echo as many times as you like.  Seriously!  You can echo a single tear drop 10 times or 2 times, it's entirely up to you.

To move on with the design, pick another direction and stitch a new tear drop.  Pivot and echo.

At times you will have to cut shapes in half, or squish and fit them into odd areas of your quilt.  Just try to keep the lines of stitching as consistent as possible with no huge gaps left open.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yes, Paisley and most Pivoting Designs are going to create a slightly more dense texture on the surface of your quilts.  The areas where you start a new shape and pivot will always contain more thread and this design naturally has more travel stitching when you need to move from place to place.

But don't be afraid of this density!  It adds a different texture, a different look and feel to your quilts, and no, it will not make your quilts unbearably stiff if you keep your scale nice and open.

Now when it comes to difficulty, personally I don't believe any design is naturally "easier" or "harder."  All designs have their own quirks, and as quilters we have quirks too!  In class I find students naturally quilt some designs easier than others. It really just depends on how your brain works and if this particular shape and movement feels natural to you.

To be honest, when I first started free motion quilting, I couldn't stitch this design at all.  In fact, I hated it.

Every time I tried to stitch Paisley, my thread broke, or I got lost in the design.  We just weren't a good fit.

It took a bit more time, a bit more experience, and switching thread before I gave Paisley a try again and suddenly found WHOA! I LOVE this design!  I began stitching multiple variations immediately and it remains one of the biggest design families in the project.

So don't worry if this design feels like you're pulling your teeth out the first time you try it.  Keep playing with it, watch other design videos, experiment, and don't give up.  You may love it immediately or you may hate it intensely, but ultimately it's a really important design to learn for free motion quilting.

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.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Beautiful Paisley designs Leah. Going to be a fun month.


  2. Rosemary B here:
    Dear Leah, as always you are a wealth of information, encouragement and creativity.
    Thank you soooo much

  3. Your blog has finally made me start one as well !
    Machine quilting is something I've always been afraid of and I've been patchworking and quilting for over 30 years. Your Blog has made me want to try and while it's still not easy at least it's fun to try


  5. Beautiful paisley design. I am a little behind since my modern quilt is a queen size I amstill working on it. I love all the designs and helpful advise you generously give each week.

  6. This is a lovely design, and one I would like to try. I have yet to attempt any kind of travel stitching, however. Doesn't it make your quilt rather stiff? Also wouldn't it show up rather badly on the back? Just trying to picture everything...I suppose I should just go find some scraps and try it. :)


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