Eight Steps to Free Motion Quilting on Applique


free motion quilting, appliqué


Today I would like to offer a few hints for free motion quilting an appliqué block by walking you through my thought process as I worked on this little quilt.

I started with this “orphan block”  made years ago.  (The pattern is from Erin Russek-you can find similar ones HERE.  She has many free appliqué tutorials – though I don’t use her appliqué method…more on appliqué later this summer…)

Applique, Free Motion QuiltingI added three borders for interest.

Layered a quilt sandwich with Warm and Natural batting.

Then the fun part…I pulled several threads choices…all Rayon: Sulky 40 wt and Robison-Anton Twister Tweed- I love the texture of this thread. (I used Aurifil 50 wt in the bobbin.)


Next, I looked at the pattern and decided what I wanted to emphasize.  Naturally, I wanted to emphasize the appliqué.

  • The area you want to “pop” or emphasize receives only minimal free motion stitching.
  • Everything around the “pop” area-is heavily free motion quilted.


Begin by free motion echo quilting around all of the appliqué.

In this quilt, I echo stitched three times around the appliqué pieces.

Then I was restless…

Applique, Free Motion Quilting I added a few details that matched the theme of the appliqué it was surrounding…scallops on the leaves, swirls that resemble flower stamens…

Then I echo quilted around those motifs.  I added a few circles for more visual interest…

Applique, Free Motion QuiltingFMQ THE APPLIQUE PIECES

Once the background was finished, it was time to consider the appliqué pieces.

While I wanted to minimize the quilting on the appliqué so it would “pop”…If you don’t add any FMQ to these pieces they look bare–or like you just forgot to quilt them…

I used this Dritz chalk marker to draw a few ideas…

Applique, Free Motion QuiltingOnce I was happy with the design, I stitched it with the Robison Anton Twister Tweed.

I added a few stitching lines to the leaves as well.

Applique, Free Motion QuiltingON TO THE BORDERS

On the small blue border, I opted for circles–to highlight the purple appliqué circles.

On the yellow border, I thought the quilt needed something more quiet and linear to contrast with all the circular patterns.

On the outer blue border, I kept the quilting a simple pattern.  The fabric is very busy and elaborate quilting does not show on “busy” fabrics.

Applique, Free Motion Quilting


Applique, Free Motion Quilting


Applique, Free Motion Quilting

In summary:


  • Decide the elements that should “pop”.
  • Quilt the background–the area that is not emphasized.
  • Echo quilt around the appliqué pieces at least twice.
  • Add other free motion quilt motifs.
  • Echo quilt those elements until the background is complete.
  • Add a limited amount of free motion quilting to the appliqué pieces.
  • Quilt the borders–using elements from the body of the quilt and linear patterns if the body of the block is very busy.
  • Finish the quilt and send a photo to lckennedy@hotmail.com or post to Flickr or add a photo to Instagram #theinboxjaunt!

Applique, Free Motion QuiltingNow I’m off to my garden to find some flowers that will match…

This will look great on my kitchen table with a vase of flowers…

On second thought, I have someone special I’d like to send it to…

I’m off to UPS…


NOTE:  This vase quilt was stitched on a Bernina 820 without a stitch regulator.  Topstitch 90 needle.  Aurifil cotton 50 wt in the bobbin and Robison Anton and Sulky Rayon 50 wt on top.  Warm and Natural batting.  Dritz chalk marker.

PS…All images, tutorials and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, Pin, etc. with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at lckennedy@hotmail.com.  Thanks!

38 thoughts on “Eight Steps to Free Motion Quilting on Applique

  1. I smile every time you pop up in my E-mail because I know I will find something useful, beautiful, or uplifting! Thank you Lori, you make my Day!!!

  2. That is the sweetest little quilt!! I have done quite a bit of applique so this will help me a lot. I have never filled in the background completely and I love it…will have to practice my circles. I’ve tried them…they sometimes look like a pile of eggs…LOL! Thanks for the instruction and inspiration! Make it a great day!

  3. Thanks for posting this…how beautiful. I’m in the midst of doing a small piece like this and you have given me some good ideas on how to quilt it. Thanks so much. This is my “go to” site for inspiration.

  4. How lovely! Thanks for giving us your insight on how you decide what to quilt and why. The instructions “quilt as desired” always left me stumped.

  5. I love all the different designs . I liked the minimal quilting on the flowers and leaves….just enough to make a difference.

  6. Beautiful. Thank you for breaking down the process. I want to learn but have a hard time focusing on one area at a time rather than the whole, then I feel overwhelmed at the scope of the project. You make it look so simple, one step at a time. Yours is my favorite site.

  7. Once again, Lori, you have thrilled me with your quilting! This little quilt is so inspirational……..I’m off to my Guild meeting now but I can’t wait to get back home to quilt!

  8. Thank you, Lori, for the step by step process. The intuitive part of the process must come from the experience of “knowing ” all the many choices for design elements. I better get started!
    Do you have several different chalk markers? I need to try them, but don’t know which to start with. 🙂
    You are my favorite teacher!

  9. How timely. I was just wrestling with how I was going to quilt my applique blocks. Wonderful tutorial. AND thank you for sharing all your beautiful quilting tuts. I look forward to each and every one. I hand quilt (for the most part) but am encouraged to do some machine quilting very soon. Again, thank you.

  10. You are the highlight of my morning! Ilove how you make your instructions so clear. Thank you for sharing.

  11. can’t wait for your tutorials to show up in email. Each one gives me a new idea. this is really nice. I don’t applique but might have to try after seeing this.

  12. This was very helpful, Lori. One never knows the thought process of another quilter when and how they decide to FMQ. Thank you.
    I loved your resent addition in the magazine. Great job!
    I, too, look forward to your emails full of information. You are a spark in my quilting day!!

  13. Thanks for sharing Lori. I have a whole quilt worth of orphan blocks that need freemotion quilting. It’s great to see how someone else goes about the task of freemotion quilting individual blocks.

  14. What a timely tutorial Lori! I am just learning to sew appliques using various methods and really love the work you just did. Thank you so much for such a great tutorial. I keep coming back to your pages daily to see what is new. I really enjoy your enthusiasm and your teaching style!

  15. I love the idea to start small and outline designs. Thank you for making it seem easier and for the encouragement we all receive from your blog. We will all get it at some point with practice but for now, thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much for the inspiration. I have finished an applique block that will be a wall hanging. I have been thinking about how I am going to machine quilt it. Your tutorial opened my eyes.

  16. So beautiful. I am still on my training wheels (Bernina stitch regulator). Can I do
    all stitching with the regulator – I am so tense without it. Some say that it hinders the quilting – but without it the whole quilting process hinders me. What is your opinion?
    Thank you for giving us so much!!!!!

  17. Thanks, Lori, for sharing your process. You certainly know just the right stitches that compliment each pattern and shape. How inspiring!

  18. Thank you for your tips, most of all thank you for the details in your “note”. I have a Bernina 820 purchased used 2.5 years back. Using it only 6 months then enbarking on a move, then remodel (total gut). I hope to be back sitting in front of my machine soon (hoping I still remember how to use it).

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