Tommy the Turtle – A Free Motion Quilt Tutorial

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Did you ever have one of those SLOW days?   Days that you don’t even want to get out of your pajamas?  Tommy the Turtle has them all the time–but he knows the secret….

Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

In honor of Tommy – and embracing his motto–let’s stitch a new motif!

TOMMY the TURTLE –THE TUTORIAL –Say that three times fast!

It is helpful when learning any new pattern to use some guidelines.  This helps keep a motif in proportion.  If you are sewing a quilt with squares–no need to draw lines-use the seamlines.

Begin by drawing any size square.  In the sample below, the squares are 3- 1/2 by 3-1/2 inches.

Next, draw a circle in the middle of the square.  I used this ruler – found at an office supply store and drew a 2 -1/4 inch circle.  You could use a cup or a small plate…

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Begin by stitching around the circle (Start where you want the neck to be positioned.)  Then stitch the neck and head into one of the corners of the square.

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Next, travel around the circle and stitch a rounded leg.  Stitch around the circle and close to the previous line of stitching.

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

At the opposite corner, stitch a leg, a curved tail, and another leg before proceeding around “the shell” again.

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Stitch the last “leg” and then cross into the circle.

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Spiral into the center of the shell and stop.

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Next, spiral out – but add a scallop as you go…(this is actually Tammy the Turtle…?)

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

For a boy turtle–simply spiral out and back toward the neck.   Knot off at the base of the neck somewhere.

NOTE--I was unable to find a nice looking way to transition to another turtle–so I knotted off between each turtle.  (For more on knots see HERE and HERE.)

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Make a pair of turtles…

and maybe a baby…

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, Tutorial

Or line them all up in a row…

Tommy the Turtle, Free Motion Quilting, TutorialThe turtle’s shell is an opportunity for creativity.  Add any embellishment here…Give your turtles personality!

Tommy the Turtle would look darling on any border and in the center of any quilt square.  Or–make a pillow or a pin cushion with a single turtle!


Check in tomorrow to see a little quilt I made with Tommy the Turtle.  I think I’m going to have it framed!



This turtle looks great on Kona cotton from RJKaufman’s New Summer Collection…Stitched with Sulky Rayon thread on top and Aurifil cotton 50 wt in the bobbin on my Bernina 820 without a stitch regulator…

PS… All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to Pin, Blog, Tweet with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!



28 thoughts on “Tommy the Turtle – A Free Motion Quilt Tutorial

  1. Turtles are endearing! And adorable (unless it’s a snapper, which isn’t so adorable). Lori, your turtle tutorial (whew!) is wonderful and I can’t wait to try it!

  2. The turtles are adorable. I had a pet shop turtle when I was a kid named Blossom. I don’t know if it was a girl or boy but it had a red design in the center of its shell that looked like a flower.

  3. Tommy and Tammy are precious! I think I’ll make a baby or child’s quilt to put them on. Thank you for your inspiration and expertise!

  4. OMG, I love that little guy! I think it would be adorable in the border of a baby quilt. Thank you so much for sharing this neat pattern, Lori. I re-read your knotting technique and I will do mine the way you curved to the left with tiny stitches from now on.

  5. Rosemary B here:
    OHHHHH NOOOOO this is way too cute. too much toooo much cuteness
    Oh gosh. I am looking forward to tomorrrowww
    This is so adorable.
    Now all I need is some grand children lol. I am waiting patiently
    So it is good to practice now

  6. Tommy the Turtle is really sweet. I know some little one will love this. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful ideas.

  7. Awww …..he’s so sweet. Nice addition to your collection!
    I can see window toppers to match a sweet little crib quilt in that soft green. 🙂

  8. How cute is this?! You get such smooth curves. I don’t think I can move the fabric that well to end up with cute turtles. I know, practice, practice, practice. Thanks again for such wonderful tutorials.

  9. Thanks for sharing. Just found your page last week but found it to be a needed treasure that’s filled with inspiration for joyful quilting. Enthusasium without a plan is not so great but your site has ideas to push me away from boring pieces.

  10. I love your tutorials! I am excited to try all of them. I’m sorry if you have already answered this question but, what type of marking pencil do you use to mark your lines?

  11. Lori, thankyou so much for this tutorial. Tommy, Tammy and the baby are adorable. I love to be able to do designs like this on my customers kids quilts, and they love it too! Thanks again

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