Free Motion Quilting Videos: Fancy Hourglasses

May 17, 2016

Hello everyone!

I thought I’d show a bit about how I like to practice my free motion quilting.

My goal is to practice 15 minutes of free motion quilting a day.  Daily practice hits two things at once for me: It fulfills my need for daily creativity, and it dramatically improves my skills and confidence.

Practice is the most fun for me when I first create an interesting shape (in this case, hourglass shapes) and then fill it in with micro-quilted free motion fillers.

What is micro-quilting?  It’s tiny free motion work… usually the designs are around 1/4″ in height and width.  It may sound intimidating, but I actually thing smaller designs are easier on a domestic, or sit-down quilting machine.  The larger you get, the more bobbles and wiggles you’re likely to see in your designs. When you are quilting tiny designs, be sure to drop your stitch length to anywhere between 15-18 stitches per inch.  That will help you smoothly get around curves.

I loosely based my piece on a doodle from the sketch pages in my Quilter’s Planner:

Here’s the piece stitched out.  I don’t exactly stick to my sketch.  The sketch is just a jumping off point to get me going.

Free Motion Quilting Practice Fancy Hourglasses

2 Simple Steps:

  1. Use a 1/4″ thick longarm ruler to quilt ruler-based designs, not a rotary cutting ruler (Note: If you’re working on a domestic, or don’t have a longarm wave ruler like the one I used in the video, you can also use a fexible curve ruler like this to create a gentle curve, and then mark your waves using a water soluble marking pen that will disappear. Then just slowly follow the marked lines.  If you have a stitch regulator on your longarm, make sure use it when you quilt slowly and are trying to stitch marked lines.)
  2. Fill the hourglasses with any of your favorite free motion quilting designs.  I’ll show how to do two of these fills today.

Simple loops: “Ls and Es”

Free Motion Ls and Es

We all know how to write the lowercase letter “L” and letter “E” in cursive.  So why not put these skills to work in your free motion quilting?

Free Motion Rainbows

Free Motion Rainbow Filler


These little rainbows are based on the idea of the traditional Baptist Fan quilting design, but they are smaller and more free form.

Tension Talk

If you noticed that my tension isn’t great in these close-up photos, you’re right.  The top thread is being a bully and pulling the bobbin thread up to the top of the fabric ever so slightly.  I need to loosen the top tension a bit here.

But when I have 15 minutes to practice my free-motion quilting each day, I don’t always take the time to test and adjust my tension, because it’s just practice.  And when life is flying by at the speed of sound, just find a way to get the practice in.  That is the key to free motion quilting success.


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  • Reply Tish May 17, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    I love this piece. I’ve been following along on Instagram watching your progress.

  • Reply Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl May 17, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Practice really does improve skills, but I love how you point out that it also builds confidence. Yes! 🙂 It’s awesome to see what 15 minutes a day can add up to. This piece is lovely work, Stephanie.

  • Reply Needle and Foot May 17, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you for sketching all of this out. I am so focused on practicing my FMQ and this is helpful. May I ask – do you ever choose to quilt on your domestic machine over your long arm? If so, in what siutations would you FMQ instead of long arm, mostly for small projects that can’t be loaded, or aren’t worth loading? Thanks Stephanie!

    • Stephanie Palmer
      Reply Stephanie Palmer May 21, 2016 at 11:42 am

      This in itself would make a great article or blog post, Bernie. I definitely have a set of criteria I use to decide when to quilt on a sit-down/domestic machine and when to use the longarm. I’m going to write a post ASAP about it!

  • Reply Paige May 18, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Thanks for sharing the videos! And for the reminder to practice!

  • Reply SHARON Parcel May 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing! I quilt on my Janome 7700 and this is such a great idea! I am getting my quilt sandwiches ready to go and making a stack to practice on today!

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