Tips & Tricks

How to Try Free Motion Quilting Designs

Quilting Design Trick
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Free Motion Quilting is one of my favorite parts of creating a quilt. It’s also one of the most intimidating parts for me. I help ease the fear of messing up by using this Free Motion Quilting Design Trick. You can test any quilting design with the help of dry erase markers. I love this little quilting design trick because you can quickly and easily try out lots of different designs to find just the right one. All you need is a clear surface to write on and some dry erase markers. I like using a picture frame because it gives me a bigger edge to to hold onto, the frame keeps sharp edges from snagging on my quilt and the little bits of dried ink from the dry erase markers are contained.

Using a Picture Frame

prepping a frame for free motion quilting designsI picked this frame up from a dollar store. I removed everything except the glass and pushed the little tabs back in place. The tabs didn’t quite reach the glass afterwards, so I put the border back in and everything was secure.
The edges of the frame create a nifty barrier if you get a little too enthusiastic while drawing. They also corral the little flakes of dry eraser ink if you choose to clean off the design while it’s still on your quilt.

Other things you can use

Other ways to test free motion quilting designs You can get pretty creative when it comes to what you use to try out your quilting design. There are lots of other things you can find around the house that will work too. The food lid in the picture came from a container of ready made salad from the grocery store that I had in my recycling bin.
  • Clear plastic food container lids can be found in the fridge and pantry. The edges help prevent the marker from slipping and getting on your quilt. Just be sure to clean the lid first.
  • Clear Document Protectors are another option. You just need to be more aware of the edges so you don’t write on your quilt. Protectors have the most movement. So you’ll want to remember they can shift around a bit.
  • Vinyl. You can buy it by the yard at fabric stores or snag your clear shower curtain. Just use some binder clips to help hold it in place if you’re using a large piece of vinyl.
  • Clear Storage Lids. I always seem to have a few of these floating my house. They’re also great for containing the marker residue.

 Testing Free Motion Quilting Design Trick

Using dry erase markers to test free motion designsNow for the fun. Just start doodling. Play around, see what comes out. Let your motions flow and see if something just feels or looks right. Don’t worry about mistakes, any evidence is gone in the swipe of towel. Don’t get hung up on ‘rules.’ It’s more important to like your design than trying to cater to someone else’s preferences. If you’re happy with how it looks, that is far more important than online quilt police. One quick note, while it’s easy to draw every where, don’t forget intersections can be harder to stitch through. You can also try out different colors to get a general idea of how it will look. Unfortunately, the lighter colors of marker don’t show up as well.

Test out how the design travels

Sometimes a design that I thought would look good, winds up being tricky to move between the areas I want to quilt. While disappointing, I’d rather discover the problem during the testing phase then after I start quilting. If I really like the design, I’ll try echoing (repeating the shape just a little distance away) the design or seeing how much traveling (stitching on top of a previous line of stitching) I would have to do before I could repeat the design.

Quilting Design Trick

I hope you found this Quilting Design Trick helpful and use it to push your comfort zone. Sometimes I’m surprised by how nice something turns out once I have to courage to try it.
orange dotted lines with nosy quilter logo in the middle

Do you have any free motion quilting design tricks?


If you like this little tip, check out this one about Threads for Binding.

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