The Free Motion Quilting Project: So Much Sashing

Monday, September 14, 2015

So Much Sashing

Today I'd like to bump up an old post and delve into something quilters often email me about, and that is sashing!

The diagrams and instructions below would be a perfect project alongside my DVD, From Flames to Feathers, which is on sale this week for just $9.99.

Within the DVD is a free pattern for the Squares and Sashing Quilt. Piece this quilt top together, baste it using your favorite method, then follow along quilting each square and sashing space with a different design.

Just to give you an idea of how to quilt the sashing of your next quilt, I've pulled in some photos from the 2012 Free Motion Quilt Along as a visual guide to quilting a small quilt top.

There are probably a million ways to fill the sashing of a quilt. You could start in the absolute middle, or you can start off to one side as I did. You could even start stitching along the outer edges of the sashing and work inwards.

Why so much choice? Because once you've stitched in the ditch, and filled most of the blocks, the layers of the quilt should be fairly stable and it should be fine to quilt it however you like.

So here's the instructions on just one method for filling the sashing with stippling:

Note: I'm illustrating this with this graphically designed quilt top. I've labeled the Top and Bottom so you can hopefully understand how the quilt moved through the machine, how it was rotated, and how the bulk was dealt with at any given time.

free motion quilting | Leah DayStart at the top of a row of sashing. A great way to hide your beginning point is to start right on the tip or side of a sawtooth star. Start filling the quilt moving in a downwards fashion, filling the space with 1/2" scale stippling:

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou'll notice that this feels a lot like stitching the design in a row because it is! You're basically stitching a row straight down that channel, filling the space as you move the quilt up through the machine.

When you reach the bottom of this row, rotate the quilt, then stitch a narrow wiggly line down to the next row. Leaving this bit of space in this sashing area will make filling the outer row easier later.

free motion quilting | Leah DayRotate the quilt again so you're at the top of the second row, again stitch a new row of stippling straight down into this section.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow take a look at the image above. If we keep stitching straight down that row, we will leave an open space in the sashing between the two blocks Instead of leaving that space open, let's fill it quickly before moving down the row.

Simply quilt a narrow row of stippling into the space, then wiggle right back out so the entire sashing area between the blocks is filled. I wouldn't rotate the quilt for this since you're only stitching around 8 inches into the space and back out again. Even if it feels a bit awkward to stitch from right to left, it won't take very much time to get back out of the space and be stitching downwards again.

free motion quilting | Leah DayDo this one more time to fill the space below the middle block, then stitch to the bottom of the row.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow all that's left to fill is the outer ring of sashing. Pick a direction to move in to stitch through this area.

It might seem a simple choice, but the direction you choose here is actually quite important. If you keep the quilt as it is when you finished that last row of sashing and you quilt to the RIGHT (see the image above), you will be stitching Counter Clockwise around the quilt.

You will rotate the quilt at the corners and have the bulk of the quilt in the arm of the machine as you stitch from left to right. This is a good direction to go with if you're most comfortable stitching from left to right, but keep in mind that with each rotation, you will have the entire quilt squished into the machine and this can be quite difficult to deal with.

The other option is to rotate the quilt again and stitch straight down so you're moving in a Clockwise direction. This is the method that I advise and use simply because you'll only have to deal with the bulk of the borders in the arm of your machine. It will be much easier to move and shift the quilt moving in this direction.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNo matter which direction you choose to quilt in, make sure to fill any pockets of open space in between the blocks as you go.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can see now why we left that little section of sashing open so you can wiggle through the entire space without stopping. If you'd filled that section completely, you'd have to stop, break thread, and start again on the other side.

More than anything else, sashing is a time consuming and tricky area to fill. The best thing to do is take some time to think about the space first and how it can most easily be filled based on which directions you like to work, and how much bulk of the quilt you can deal with inside your machine.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Once the sashing is fully filled, pat yourself on the back! Sashing areas are actually a lot bigger than they seem and at this point your quilt will be more than halfway finished. with shifting your quilt in many directions to see what feels most natural for you. I find rotating the quilt so I'm always moving in a downward direction, and the quilt is always moving up and out the back of my machine feels most natural. This method also means the least amount of bulk of the quilt will be in the arm of your machine.

If you're ready to dive into sashing and explore 16 cool designs that work great in the sashing of any quilt, pick up your copy of Free Motion Quilting from Flames to Feathers today for only $9.99.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

1 comment:

  1. Great article, thank you. This is the kind of lessons I need. Clear directions, with great visual instructios. I am so not a creative thinker, but if I see it then I can create it, hope that makes sense.


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at