Tips and Tutorials Tuesday – Free Motion Quilting Practice {The Best Kept Secret}

April 5, 2016

Welcome to Tips and Tutorials Tuesday!  The link ups for wonderful quilting ideas from this week in blogging can be found at the bottom of the post.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share some tips with you for free motion quilting practice.  And today’s tip has got to be one of the best kept secrets in the quilting world. Or even if you know about it, most people I teach in quilting classes have never given it a try.

If you want to improve your quilting skills, it’s essential to practice your quilting for 15 minutes a day.  But in order to do that, you always have to be ready to quilt, right? That means having quilt sandwiches made up and sitting next to your machine, or always having something loaded on the longarm. Otherwise, that extra hump of preparing to quilt can really slow you down, or even stop you dead in your tracks.

The second hurdle is to figure out what free motion skill to practice!  There are so many books out there, and so many designs.  It’s quite common to sit down, stare at the unmarked fabric in front of you, and have no idea where to start.

So here’s a small investment you can make to ensure that you’ve always got something ready to quilt, and a clear road map of what you should be practicing for the day.  You can buy pre-printed panels of fabric that have the quilting designs lightly marked on them!  Some wonderful designers have made panels just for us to practice our quilting!  These panels work for both domestic and longarm quilters.

Here are my favorites (*these are not affiliate links and I get no compensation for sharing these…. I just really like them!)  They are available for about $16 per panel at Love To Quilt.


One of the important things to remember is that you can get a lot of bang for your buck if you use a thinner thread when quilting, so you can quilt over and over on the same line (like a 60 weight thread. Superior makes one called Bottom Line that I often use in the bobbin.  But it works great for this kind of practice as a top thread).

Do you need to practice your feathers?  Getting the shape of the plumes just right is often the biggest challenge.  This skill builder panel will help you practice the hump and dip of a plume from every direction, and you don’t have to spend time chalking them in first (or risk practicing on a top that you have spent hours piecing).


The last skill builder panel offers even more design options.  I love this one because it has beautiful spiral squares and chevrons, as well as a baptist fan and some versatile wavy loops.


You can buy workbooks on the same Love to Quilt site to go along with these panels if you’d like a little more guidance.

Leah Day also makes a couple different panels that are wonderful – especially if you like bright colors. They’re a tad more expensive because they’re printed to order at Spoonflower.  Here’s an example of one.


This one is just squares and sashings, with no markings, and would be a great companion for cruising Leah Day’s website to practice different fillers she has invented.


Ok, it’s time to link up! Here you go……

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  • Reply Yvonne Fuchs April 5, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I did not know about these panels. Do the quilting motifs wash out or stay lightly marked?

  • Stephanie Palmer
    Reply Stephanie Palmer April 5, 2016 at 10:28 am

    They stay lightly marked with a pale gray (except the last one by Leah Day, which doesn’t have quilting markings). If you used an aqua or pink colored thread, it would theoretically cover it. But if you use these for practice, and go over and over the designs, you probably wouldn’t want to use them for real. And I never actually hit the lines perfectly. So for me, these are practice only kind of pieces.

  • Reply sewcrazi April 5, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Awesome tips! I am purchasing a long arm quilter within the next couple of months and will definitely look into getting a couple of panels to practice on!! Thanks a bunch!!

  • Reply angie April 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    What great inspiration! Perhaps I shall PLAN to make up some sandwiches to have at the ready and ‘force’ myself to quilt every day. Surely I can set one machine aside with a fmq foot on, etc. for quick practice sessions. The panels are a great idea – tfs!

  • Reply Jan O April 6, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Excellent suggestion! I had no idea such panels even exist! And your suggestion to have some sandwiches made up and ready for practice is just the push I need

  • Reply Louisa @ Sewmotion April 7, 2016 at 7:55 am

    I think these panels are fantastic, especially the feathers one, I need all the help I can get to make those curves right! Thanks very much for sharing!

  • Reply Jayne April 7, 2016 at 7:56 am

    What a smart idea! I have never heard, seen or imagined there was anything like this out there! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply Anonymous April 8, 2016 at 11:29 am

    So sorry if I missed it but when will the 2017planner be available. I need it now!!! ????

    • Stephanie Palmer
      Reply Stephanie Palmer April 11, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      The 2017 Quilter’s Planner will be available for pre-order in August of 2016, and will begin shipping in September 2016!

  • Reply Johannah (@MsJohannah) August 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    What if I don’t have a long arm? can I do it on my regular machine?

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