The Free Motion Quilting Project: 6. Learn to Quilt McTavishing

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

6. Learn to Quilt McTavishing

Last week we learned two ways to work with fabric paint - both over and under the quilted design which creates two very different effects for your quilt.

This week I felt the need to knock out a bigger section of the quilt. I was feeling like spending a few hours stitching in the background with an oldie goldie design I've loved for many years: McTavishing.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

McTavishing was actually the 2nd design I ever learned (stippling was #1), and I found it after a long Google search and clicking through various links until I stumbled across Karen McTavish.

All I can say is I found her awesome books - Mastering the Art of McTavishing, Whitework Quilting, and Quilting For Show, all at exactly the right time. It was 2008 and I desperately wanted to kick my quilting skills into higher gear.

And this single special design did exactly that! I suddenly saw that quilting designs could be far more than complicated stippling. They could have a simple step-by-step pattern and flow through an area with logic and reason.

In order to see what I mean, here's the video on how to place this beautiful design in the background sun rays of Express Your Love:

Feel free to play with this design anywhere in your quilt! McTavishing can easily fit into the background, the hair, body, or even the earth sections of the Express Your Love quilt, so have fun playing with this design and see where you will like it best!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. The areas that have the travel stitching add such wonderful dimension! This becomes a very important element when I am doing feathers. In fact, if I don't have that visual when I have completed the motif I will go back over the spine to add this depth (see link: ). As long as the machine is "happy" doing this thread layering I continue, if there begins to be skipped stitches or thread breakage, then the thread needs to be of a finer weight. Great post!!! Hugs, Doreen

  2. I absolutely love this FMQ design. Will have to try it on one of my quilts. Thanks Leah!

  3. Can't wait to start practicing!

  4. Great video, Leah. I'm excited you reviewed this pattern because I have been wanting to try it for a while. I have watched vids online, but this one really just makes it look easy. It helps when you say we can't mess it up!

    I also want you to know a friend of mine, who doesn't have a blog but reads mine, has also started the quilt along. I am not sure you'll ever know how many quilters you inspire and are working along with you! :)

  5. I'm new to machine work and love your blog and your designs! When I recently mentioned to another quilter that I needed more books on free motion quilting she replied "the best way to learn machine quilting is to follow Leah Day's blog". Just thought you'd like to know you are appreciated:)

  6. I'm so glad you posted this design. I have seen it in a lot of quilts. I love the way it adds a bit of 3D movement.
    I knew it would pop up on your site eventually. Looking forward to trying it.

  7. Thank you for sharing your free mostion quilting. What brand of sewing machine do you use?

    1. See May 20, 2011 for her machine and a review of machines under $500.

  8. I can hardly wait to do this to a quilt that I have wanted to finish forever now. I am so excited. So glad you posted this for those of us that are in need of learning so much.
    Having these videos, one can really learn so much. So much easier than just trying to read about it in a book.Thanks!

  9. I am looking for a quilting pattern..that resembles large tractor tire or heavy equipment tire treads marks...I sketched some ideas..but they just don't look right or don't seem to not be easily done with continueous stitching. Thank you sew peacefully.

  10. Leah - your teaching style is unparalleled. I look forward to your videos, posts, and love your books/DVDs. Thank you for such a positive experience as I learn FMQ.


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