The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Along #33 - Pointy Paisley

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quilt Along #33 - Pointy Paisley

It's Quilt Along time again and time to finish up working on Pivoting Designs!  So far this month we've learned Paisley, Lava Paisley, and Snake Paisley and watched them each being stitched into the sashing of the Batik Beauty Quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

By the way, did you know you can review all the posts to the Free Motion Quilt Along all year?  Just click on the "Free Motion Quilt Along" link on the top bar to find all the posts.  We also have a playlist right here on YouTube that plays each video in order from #1 to #33 so you can watch the videos play automatically without having to click around to find the next one.

This week we're continuing to fill this space with Pointy Paisley.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This was one of the very first paisley variations I created and has always been a favorite because the jagged, triangle texture really looks wonderful no matter where you put it on your quilts.

I've recently received a lot of questions about free motion quilting and how I make it look so easy on the machine.  Just remember that I've been quilting since 2005 (7 years now) and focusing almost completely on free motion quilting since 2008 (4 years now).

No, it doesn't take years to master free motion quilting, but it does require practice and a certain willingness to ignore your mistakes.  Just remember that you're using your machine in a totally different way from usual - YOU are creating the stitches by synchronizing the speed of the machine with the movement of your hands.

The difference comes in with the feed dogs.  When you sew a dress, piece a block, applique, or quilt using a walking foot, you're using those feed dogs to pull the fabric evenly forward underneath the foot.  This is how the machine is designed - to feed fabric forward the tiny amounts dictated by the set stitch length.  No matter if you stitch fast or slow, your stitches remain the same size when you're using those feed dogs because they do most of the stitching work for you.

While, no, I don't drop the feed dogs (I cover them with a Queen Supreme Slider and turn the stitch length to 0), I'm still not USING them in any way when I free motion quilt.  The quilt is not coming into contact with them, will not be fed forward by them, so all those perfectly fed, even stitches are going to disappear the instant you start free motion quilting.

So if you get started today and things look terrible, just remember that is PERFECTLY NORMAL!  We all have to stitch through the ugly stitches in order to get the hang of moving the quilt at the right speed in tune with the speed of the machine.  Just stick with it and practice each design for a bit each week and pretty soon balancing the movement of the quilt and the speed of the machine will be no problem.

Now let's talk about Pointy Paisley.  This design kind of stands out from the other Pivoting Designs we've learned so far this year because it features all straight lines and sharp angles.  If you find yourself struggling to keep the lines perfectly straight, try keeping the triangle shapes smaller and more compact and that will make them easier to stitch.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

While I know not everyone wants to quilt on a small scale, stitching smaller is actually a good way to learn free motion for many reasons.  For one thing, you don't have to move your quilt as far to form each shape.  Less movement will actually make this process easier because you're not having to move the quilt as often.  Keeping everything compact and small will allow you to focus more on forming the designs and matching your speed to your hand movement.

Stitching smaller also eats up less fabric, so there's less waste if you really mess up and want to throw your practice block away.

Once you feel comfortable with a design on a small scale, THEN expand it to a larger scale and see how that feels.  As the shape gets bigger, you will need to speed up the machine (put your food down!) to compensate because your hands will likely speed up to form the shapes faster.

Free motion is all about speed and movement.  The more control you have over movement, the more you can focus on speed.  The better you get at using your foot pedal and adjusting that speed minutely, the more you can focus on moving the quilt smoothly over the surface of the machine.

It's a balance and while it can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating to find this balance, it really is the ultimate key to unlocking free motion quilting on your home machine.

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!

Also it's not required, but highly appreciated and super cool to link back the Free Motion Quilt Along so everyone you know can come quilt with us too.  Grab a button to put in your post or on your blog to share the love!

Free Motion Quilt Along
Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. all true, excellent advice! you think you won't get it, but one'll just be second nature. i'm at the point where i can just jump back on my machine and pick up where i left off. i still need practice to get straighter lines (seem to have a problem with left to right, horizontal lines the most) but overall have come a long way in a year! even the travel stitches are getting better! listen to leah, she knows what she's talking about!!

  2. Very excited, just received my Free Motion Quilting pack; bobbon washers, gloves and glidey mat. Can't wait to experiment over the weekend. Going to give the not dropping feed dogs a try. It feels so wrong I might need a glass of Quilter's Helper (wine) to help me stop feeling like the Quilting Police will be over my shoulder tsk tsking like mad.

  3. Note to 'B'.....the Quilt Police have been sent on a permanent vacation (with a one-way ticket!LOL!), so relax and enjoy the ride! Soon you will be looking at this as the absolutely best thing you've ever started! And you are not alone.....such a HUGE 'plus'!...and we are learning from Leah and all the others who have linked up....yay! Hugs, Doreen

  4. I like the way the small starting points of the Pointy Paisley seem to glow on your example, like pinpricks of light. Cool! :-)


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