Free Motion Quilting Tutorial: Swirls and Twirls

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

It’s a chilly morning in Minnesota, but what do I care?  I don’t have to go anywhere this morning and we all know I have plenty of quilts to keep me warm!  I am going to quilt all day (I wish!)

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Today we are stitching a little Free Motion Party.  Swirls and Twirls looks like a “party-on-a-quilt” to me!  This pattern dances across the fabric and would look great on any quilt-formal or casual-waltz or zumba!

The Swirls and Twirls Tutorial

This is a 3-Pass pattern.  That means it will require three rows of stitching to complete the motif.

First, a little marking.  For each row of Swirls and Twirls, draw two lines 1 inch apart or more.  (This motif would be very difficult to stitch any smaller than one inch.)  On the bottom line, draw “ticks” 1-1/2 inches apart.  This will help you keep the spacing between the spirals even.  With practice, you may not need the tick marks.

(NOTE-Don’t forget… Frixion pen markings don’t come out with ironing–you must use steam to remove these lines-Thanks, Marianne for the reminder!)

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Stitch a row of spirals, filling in the one inch rails and  spacing the spirals between the tick marks.  See the Spiral tutorial HERE.

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Begin the second pass by echo quilting over the top of the first spiral.

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Add a loop -extending above your marked one inch lines.

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Add a second loop.

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Add a third loop and then begin stitching toward the next spiral.

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Your second pass should look like this:

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

The third pass is the same as the second, except underneath the spirals.

Echo stitch under the spirals, then add the loops…First one

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Then two and three…

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

This pattern takes a bit of practice, but it is so beautiful when it’s complete…

NOTE-Don’t worry if some of your loops are different shapes and get “squished” a bit.  Just avoid stitching over any other lines or double stitching in any area.

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

This tutorial was stitched with Aurifil in the bobbin and Robison-Anton Rayon thread on top using a Schmetz Topstitch size 80 needle on my Bernina 82o.

Free Motion Quilt Tutorial-Swirls

Tomorrow is Work in Progress Wednesday and I have a little vase quilt with swirls and twirls and spirals and more to share…

Hope you have made some progress on your Quilt Notebooks…How many UFOs have you found?  (Read HERE about this week’s Notebook Assignment)  One reader described her search as an archaeological dig!

Warm wishes and Happy Stitching from Minnesota,


PS…All tutorials, information and images are property of Lori Kennedy @ The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to Pin and Re-blog.  Please contact me at for any other use.  Thanks!

55 thoughts on “Free Motion Quilting Tutorial: Swirls and Twirls

  1. How do you go around the corner with this? Have you tried that? This looks like an awesome sashing or inner border pattern.

    • I don’t have a picture of corners…just extend the “tail” of the spiral into the corner and proceed. Try it on paper first. If you are still stuck, I’ll do a little photo example.

    • I just wanted to let you know that I added more photos and an explanation of how to turn a corner with this design on tomorrow’s post. (1-22-2014) Hope that you have time to check it out!

  2. That’s really pretty when stitched out in multiple rows. What is your spacing between the rows? Looks like about 3 inches? Thanks for another great tutorial!

    • Hi Kathy, The space between the rows is just one inch. That is the distance between the top of the first spiral row to the bottom of the next row. I offset the spirals on the rows so that the upward and downward loops would not run into one another. I added more photos and explanations on tomorrow’s post. That should make it more clear than words…

  3. This is sooo cute!! I thought it would be fun to paint this little bathroom a fun color…tropical lagoon!…sometimes I need to think before I think…so my back only lets me work above my head for about an hour a day so now that I’ve cut in the edges for my hour I better go sit in a chair…and rest my back….by the sewing machine…for several hours at least…(heh-heh!) I can’t wait to try this one …love it Lori!

  4. Do you mean only unfinished quilt projects? I usually have about 30 or so. If I add all the other stuff I haven’t finished, it must be 100. But I will count quilts this week, and post to my blog. This is a good exercise.

  5. very pretty! I’m only just learning the quilting do such a nice job!…..time for me to run to my sewing machine (thinking) I think i can I think I can,,LOL

  6. I enjoy reading your tutorials, if only I could print out some of your instructions.
    I am reading your pages on a tablet but do not have a wireless printer

  7. Your blog is just what I was hoping to find for beautiful, artistic and inspiring FMQ designs. Thank you for so graciously and freely sharing your ideas w us 🙂

  8. Love this tutorial, and truly appreciate all you post! Where did you get the stencil, or did you make it?

  9. I’m a quilter and it is so refreshing to see some new(to me) quilting ideas. Mine is all free hand and sometimes the ole brain just goes blank. Thanks so much for the fun and creative ideas.

  10. I am new here and loving it ! I recently attended a workshop held for our guild on how to free motion on a small sewing machine. I learned a lot as I am new to quilting although I have been sewing since age 10. I have a question…what stitch length are your projects which are shown here? Are they longer in order to show up on the photos? We were told to use a 1.7 or 1.5 stitch length and I don’t like how it looks or feels. Have there been discussions on this that I missed? Thank you… ( used to camp the St Croix when we were newly weds 48 years ago..LOL)

    • Hi Marta,
      So exciting to hear from you — and that you camped on the St. Croix–It’s such a beautiful valley! As for stitch length…with FMQ you do not need to set any stitch length. The feed dogs are lowered so you control the size of the stitch by the speed at which you move the fabric under then needle. You should like the look of the stitches always. It is far more important that your stitches are approximately even length than that they are small. Even is better than small in both FMQ and hand stitching. Give that a try and if you have any more questions–please get back to me!

  11. Dear Lori,
    I love your blog. Thanks so much for your willingness to share your talent with us. Your designs are amazing. They look so intricate but your directions make them seem simple. I’m just learning to quilt on my new Bernina 750 and am anxious to try your patterns.
    Ellen Jordan

  12. I am on fire for this tutorial! Thank you so much. It’s so graceful. I want to make a quilt to use it on.

  13. Thank you so much for showing us how you make such beautiful scroll-work. I look forward to seeing what you do!

  14. Pingback: A Quilt in Progress-The Swirls and Twirls Vase Quilt | The Inbox Jaunt

  15. What perfect timing! I’m just ready to quilt the border on my first “modern” non-bed-sized quilt with “swirls and twirls” appliqués on it, so this motif is absolutely perfect for the border! I only recently found your blog, and have really been enjoying your ideas, all the more so as I live in France and don’t have many opportunities for classes in FMQ. Thanks for your generosity!

  16. Hi Lori,

    I love your scrolls and swirls tutorial. When I FMQ, I like adding scrolls and feathers. This reminds me of that. I’m stil not allowed to sew yet. But I practice your tutorials in my journal. I can’t wait to get back quilting again. My machine is lonely. So sometimes I sit in my studio to keep it company…lol. Thanks for sharing your talents.

  17. Pingback: FMQ practice- results better than anticipated!

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