The Free Motion Quilting Project: How to Quilt an Olaf Frozen Quilt Panel

Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Quilt an Olaf Frozen Quilt Panel

Yes, Olaf is in the house! I found this delightful Frozen quilt panel and realized it would be the perfect gift for my young niece and a great way to practice machine quilting.

Quilting Olaf Frozen Quilt
I found this project to be really fun and a great learning experience. The challenge is the same as every quilt: how do we quilt it? Where do the design go and what will look best in which space?

Having hundreds of designs to choose from can really make it hard to pick just a few designs to work with. I knew Olaf didn't need to be elaborately or densely quilted. In fact, I had a bit of a time crunch on this project and needed to have him off the machine in just a day or two, which meant the quilting design needed to be fast and not fussy.

What makes a design fussy? Lots of thread color changes, thread breaks, and dense quilting. Thread breaks and color changes have long been the bane of my existence. It's both time consuming and distracting to stop, pull out your bobbin and re-thread the top of the machine. Dense quilting is also S...L...O...W. If I'd quilted this on a wall hanging style scale (1/8 inch between the lines of quilting) I'd probably be getting Olaf finished when my niece is graduating from college. Not an option!

Quilting Olaf Frozen Quilt
For that reason, I quilted 99% of this Olaf quilt panel with white thread. I intentionally choose designs like Stippling and Tangle of Lights that could be quilted with minimal thread breaks. I also quilted this panel on a 1/2 inch scale and left most of Olaf un-quilted so he puffs up nicely on the surface.

I also added snowflakes! Lots and lots of snowflakes were marked on the quilt surface using a stencil I cut from an AccuQuilt snowflake die. These shapes took up space and added to the overall design.

Quilting Olaf Frozen Quilt
All told, it took around 4 hours to quilt this panel from start to finish and I couldn't be more pleased! It's super soft and cuddly, but the quilting definitely added a beautiful additional texture to the surface. Watch how this design was planned, then quilted in this free video:

Here's the list of materials I used to transform a single 1 yard Olaf panel into a quilt:

- Olaf Panel for the top
- Craft sized wool batting (Quilter's Dream Wool)
- 1 yard blue solid fabric for backing
- 3 strips of white fabric 
- Snowflake stencils or templates (optional)
- Basting Pins and Pinmoors
- White and Black Isacord Thread 
- Machine quilting gloves

About halfway through quilting my Olaf quilt I hit a little speed bump of indecision. I made the mistake of stopping and analyzing the quilt and I wasn't completely thrilled with the designs. It was still less than half quilted and looked a bit blotchy and weird and I started to feel like I'd made the wrong choices.

Do you do this to yourself? Is this part of the reason why it's hard to pick machine quilting designs?

Instead of picking up a seam ripper or chucking the quilt in the trash, I just kept quilting. This is the learning experience I think is most key to this quilt - who cares if your quilt isn't perfect? FINISHED is better than perfect!
Quilting Olaf Frozen Quilt

I also found as I quilted more of the panel and the design emerged that I really liked what I'd picked. It just took a bit more time to see the machine quilting designs coming together and see the cool effect it created.

So my advice to you with any quilt project is this: Pick some designs and jump right in. If halfway through you feel worried you made the wrong choice, keep stitching. Judging a quilt by it's half quilted state is silly because you have no perspective of the overall design.

Keep quilting and if in the end you hate the quilt, at least it's done and you learned something! Win win in my opinion!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. I love using panels for practise! And if I'm not sure of the design or how it turned out, i tell myself the recipient doesn't know what *I* hoped it would look like. ;) Each one is just a learning experience for me, and a change to practise my skills more.

  2. Lovely ideas here Leah and perfect timing for me... I have a Frozen princess panel to quilt!

  3. Leah... Thanks for creating this video on the Olaf panel. It is so inspirational to see that a long arm quilter is not required to create beautiful designs... You have proved that many times over! I picked up a few Olaf panels and am excited to dive in. :)

  4. Great advice! Hope I remember it. I am so critical of my projects and get discouraged before I finish them. Beautiful Olaf quilt!

  5. Did you use black thread in your bobbin when filling in the arms and buttons? Thank you for this tutorial.

  6. I hope I didn't offend you, Leah. I didn't use any words of abuse, did I? Unfortunately, I can't see my comment. Is it a technical mistake?

    1. No, Ann, I wasn't offended, but I generally don't allow active links in comments simply because it could be spam. It's just a precaution, nothing personal.

    2. I see. I'm really sorry for the link and for the violation of your rules. I just wanted to share my pleasant feelings about my niece and the experience I had. Once again, Leah, accept my sincere apologies.

  7. Leah , I love to watch your videos . You make it look so easy . I am trying to decide to decide how to quilt a panel that says I love you to the moon and back . Not so good at fm . May have to use my walking foot . Wanted to stitch around letters and the moon but may not happen . Anyway I love your videos . Thanks for sharing .


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