The Great Jelly Roll Bash is on September 21st – Join me!

10 Free Motion Quilting Tips

The Giving Challenge Finishes

Welcome to a Brown Bird Designs kind of Tuesday, where quilting is always the main topic. Today, I am finally sharing something that I’ve been meaning to reveal for months. If you follow me on Instagram or read my blog, you may have heard me mention The Giving Challenge. Every November, I take on this challenge with a different approach. In the past, I’ve done giveaways, created special projects for one cause, and made various handmade goods for different causes. Last year, I aimed to reduce my stack of charity quilt blocks, which had grown to six different tops. I wasn’t as productive as I had hoped, but I did manage to turn two sets of blocks into finished quilts, started quilting another charity quilt, and quilted a quilt from the Home Again Quilt-Along. Plus bound a quilt that I had created for a Quilt-Along I hosted many years ago. As I completed these quilts, I explored techniques and had my own creative sparks along the way. I am excited to share the details behind each of these quilts with you, as well as 10 free motion quilting tips.

I love doing charitable work so get ideas on what you can do click here.

Irish Chain quilt

The first quilt I finished was an Irish Chain quilt. This simple block pattern is perfect for using up scraps and was also featured in the 2022 Great Jelly Roll Bash as part of a digital goodie bag. The quilting design was inspired by something I saw on Instagram by Quilts Made With Love. I studied the pattern and its quilting motifs, noticing how similar it is to teardrop shapes. I then drew out my own version, figuring out how the shapes could interlock. However, I soon realized I needed some assistance. So, I used the drawing by cutting out the teardrops as guides to determine the spacing and placement of my quilting. Although my quilt may not be as polished as the digitized pattern, I am proud to donate it to Project Linus.

Busy Bee quilt

For my Busy Bee quilt, I wanted the quilting to mimic the whimsical flight of a bee. I had recently completed a Quilt-Along where I practiced swirling quilting, so it was already fresh in my mind. To refine my technique, I turned to my computer, searching for images of quilting swirls. I found three that I loved and printed them out. Using them as a reference, I drew out my own version on a large piece of paper. Then, I practiced on a quilt sandwich before quilting the actual quilt. I kept that drawing close to me so I could figure out what direction to go next and what possibilities I had with each direction choice. Due to time constraints, I used less dense quilting compared to my previous quilt, but I am still pleased with the result.

Cafe Terrace quilt

Lastly, the Cafe Terrace quilt was part of last year’s Great Jelly Roll Bash bundle. By the time I got to this quilt, I was eager to finish it and move on to the next one. I even put my next pattern release on hold to focus on completing more quilts, or as I like to say, sending more “hugs” out into the world. For this quilt, I stuck with swirls but quilted them in rows, occasionally bringing them out of the row to create an airy effect. The goal was to have some areas of the swirls touching, but not all of them. If you’re interested in the patterns for any of these quilts, check them out below.

Quilting tips from three charity quilts I finished at the end of last year

To wrap things up, I thought it would be enjoyable to share ten of my quilting secrets to make the process easier. I hope these tips inspire you in your own quilting journey. Thank you for joining me on this quilting adventure!


Deciding on a design.

First, consider what complements the quilt. I gave an example of this above with the bee flight and swirls. Then consider how the quilting could contrast the quilt and whether that is a good thing? An example of this would be organic curves with geometric boxes. Don’t forget to think about what you want to explore and what you have been quilting lately. Probably the biggest factor is how quickly do you want to finish the quilt?  Are you in a rush? Go for larger motifs. Want a more intricate design? Prepare for more time. After you answer these questions are there more than one answer that is the same? If so, I would go with that one.

Quilting gloves are the best!

It helps give you extra grip, which might alleviate discomfort while quilting

Remember to take breaks!

Stand up, admire your progress, or grab a snack. Your mind and body need a breather, and it’s a great excuse to stretch your legs.

Place a pillow on your lap.

This makes the space between the table and your machine smaller. This prevents the quilt from getting caught on the edge and disrupting your flow.

Practice makes perfect!

Start on a quilt sandwich. Test out your thread and tension before you start quilting on your quilt. Work out how large you want your design to be and how it feels to move the fabric around.

Practice on paper.

You can work out how to get out of spaces you get boxed into.

Put something on the edges of your table.

Maybe an ironing board or a portable table, to prevent the quilt from hanging. If the quilt is hanging, its weight will make it harder for you to work with and the quilting will have a ripple to it.

Remember, there are no quilting police!

Give yourself some grace and room for mistakes. Once the quilt is finished, others won’t even notice those tiny slip-ups.

Save time by winding bobbins ahead of time.

No more pausing to re-thread your machine. Wide two or three before you start quilting.

Maintenance is key.

Clean and oil your machine before starting to ensure smooth and effortless quilting.

Thank you for hanging out with me today. Share your go-to quilting tips and designs in the comments below! Let’s help each other create ridiculously good quilts.

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