The Free Motion Quilting Project: Permission to Cheat

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Permission to Cheat

Josh here for Tip Tuesday. No video this week while we piece our blocks for March.

Today I'd like to talk about something we've all experienced with free motion quilting, and that's frustration. Sometimes you just get a difficult design, a pattern that just doesn't flow naturally with you, and stitching this out is a grueling uphill battle. Or maybe you're not having a good day at the machine with frequent thread breaks and other mechanical issues.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Leah, circa 2006, feeling the frustration.
How do you work through this frustration? Sometimes, it may be best to walk away from the machine for a while and try again later. Unfortunately, that's not always a viable solution as you may only have a small window of reserved quilting time.

Here's what I do... cheat!

That's right. I'll take a shortcut, skip some areas around the troublesome corner of the block, or sometimes I may just omit an entire filler if it's giving me a hard time. The thing to remember here is, at the end of the day, this is your quilt and your project. Assuming you're not going to enter your quilt in a show, you're not getting graded for this; there's no inspector who's going to scrutinize every stitch and take you to task for not finishing that last spiral on a 1/4 inch scale.

Give yourself permission to modify the design if needed. You can even do this if you're using spoonflower printed panels, as I am. Likely no one will ever notice the difference.

That said, always try to push your limit. Don't give up on a design because it's difficult; getting through a tough filler is part of the learning process. If you don't master spirals, you'll never be able to free motion quilt the host of more challenging--and super cool--designs Leah has to offer. Personally, I can't wait to crack pebbling, most specifically Pebbles in a Stream.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Day 25's Pebbles in a stream from the 365 Free Motion Quilting Project.
The key here is finding the balance between challenging yourself and mastering the art, and getting stuck on something that feels like torturous busy work and has you beating your head against the wall.

Until next week, let's go... cheat!



  1. Lol...leah, I'm not sure if you were going to burst out in tears or pronounce some choice words or find you were ready to practice breathing. Lol. Xoxo. So glad you overcame and with flying colors too!

  2. More new quilters need to hear these words or similar ones!


  3. Yup, we've all been there. You know that old adage to be kind to others? Well, you need to be kind to yourself as well!

  4. Thanks for this post! I'm a fairly new quilter, and I'm working on a quilt for myself right now and getting stressed out. I have to keep reminding myself that it's for ME and nobody is going to be judging it because I'll never have to enter it into a show. LOL Anyway ~ great advice!

  5. Hi, Leah! Thank you very much for that!


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