The Free Motion Quilting Project: 7. Traveling and Filling Through Small Sections of a Quilt

Thursday, January 24, 2013

7. Traveling and Filling Through Small Sections of a Quilt

As you can tell from the title of this post, this is kind of a complicated topic! Basically as I was filling Express Your Love with McTavishing, I realized I had an excellent second video right in front of me on how to move through a quilt with minimal thread breaks as you fill many small sections of a quilt.

Quite simply this is how I really quilt a real quilt.

I'm always getting funny questions along the lines of "so you taught this THIS way, but how do you REALLY do it?"

It's funny because I sometimes spend so much time breaking a technique or design down to make it simple to understand that I actually end up making it more difficult to understand because it's NOT the way I would REALLY do it in real life.

I've now learned my lesson, which is why it struck me as so important to turn my cameras back on and shoot this video on quilting through all those tiny sun sections all in one go. Here's how the quilt looked after everything was finished:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

And yes, I quilted this entire section - all those little bits of McTavishing - with 2 thread breaks for bobbin changes. That's it!

Now let's learn how you can do it too:

As you'll learn in this video, this technique works great if you're using 1 main thread color through most of your quilt. Traveling and filling with multiple thread colors in each section just won't work the same way because you probably won't want the different colors overlapping one another weirdly along those outlines.

Yes, as I shamelessly admitted in the video, I HATE breaking thread! This is the core reason why so many of my quilts are quilted in white thread. I'm lazy!

But understand why - being able to travel through a section and fill every area with one thread color is a huge time saver. When your interest is getting maximum bang for your buck, you like that thread color to show and don't mind the contrast, and you're in the mood for a lot of stitching, but minimal thread hiding, this is a good method to use.

I personally love the rhythm and flow that I can get into when filling this way. Had I picked the other background fills, I would be filling far more of those sections at a time with other designs as well.

At this point, however, I haven't yet figured out what other designs are going in those sections, or even if they will be quilted in white!

So that's another lesson - you don't have to have it all figured out to start with. Yes, a bit of planning will go a long way and I plan to sit down with this quilt tonight and stare at it on the wall for a bit to figure out where I want to go next.

Please understand that there is no wrong way to do this. Every quilt is beautiful. The point is enjoying the process.

Let's go quilt,


Download the free pattern for Express Your Love right here

Find the printed fabric (cheater cloth) panel right here at

Express Your Love Cheater Cloth Printed Quilt Panel


  1. "This is the core reason why so many of my quilts are quilted in white thread. I'm lazy!"

    No Leah, you are not a lazy person! :-) Of course not!

    I love McTavishing, it's a really nice quilt pattern. This will be a very nice quilt.

  2. I have troubles moving back over already quilted area's or traveling. Lots of practice in my future to get better at it.. :D

  3. I'm so glad you posted a larger picture showing your progress. I am following this on two quilts, one to practice your techniques and one to play with. It helps a lot seeing the Mctavishing on a larger scale. Thanks :)

  4. Leah--wonderful work and I disagree on the "lazy" part. We all have our preferences on thread. Your thread choices just happened to be white and that is just fine. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us :)


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