The Mystery Quilt-a-Long…Early Clues

Marking a Grid for QuiltingGood Morning, Quilters!

Welcome to Week 2 of The Inbox Jaunt’s Mystery Free Motion Quilt-a-Long!

Last week, we chose and pressed our fabrics.

We also cut our batting and made a quilt sandwich.

Read the first week directions HERE.

Today, we will begin stitching our quilt!

(NOTE-Do not be intimidated by the “wordiness” of these directions–the stitching is very simple and logical.)

First…a little marking.

Marking a Grid for Quilting


Use your favorite fabric marking tool (Read about marking tools HERE and HERE.)

On the long side of the fabric (22 inch edge), draw a line one inch in from the edge.

Draw five more lines, three inches apart.   

For future reference, number these lines 1-6.

Next, rotate the fabric and draw a straight line one inch in from the short edge.

Draw five more lines, four inches apart.

Label these lines A-F.

The grid is 5 boxes by 5 boxes:   Each block in the grid is three inches wide and four inches long.

Marking a Grid for Quilting


We will frequently discuss thread as we move forward with this project.

For the stitching today, choose any thread that complements your quilt fabric in a 40 or 50 wt.  High contrast for this step is best.  (I will be using white Sulky Rayon 40 wt on top and Aurifil 50 wt cotton in the bobbin with a Size 90 Topstitch needle.)

Stitching the Grid


Using the  plain Zig Zag free motion quilt tutorial  (Scroll down the Operation Zig Zag tutorial to find the plain zig zag), stitch over each drawn line.  (In the tutorial, The Zig Zag is stitched between two this project, simply zig and zag over one drawn line.)

Stitching the Grid


Each line of the grid is stitched from top to bottom then echo-stitched back from bottom to top.  Tie off every row before beginning the next.

The long lines are all stitched first, beginning with a middle row and continuing with all the rows right of center.  The quilt is rotated 180 degrees and beginning in the center, the rest of the long lines are stitched.

The short lines are stitched next, beginning with the middle row and working all the short rows right of center.  The quilt is rotated 180 degrees and the rest of the short lines are stitched from the center to the sidelines.

Stitching the Grid

The Long Lines 1-6

Stitch the long lines first.

Start on the top of the middle line –Line 4…

Stitching from top to bottom, zig and zag over the line.  At the bottom, echo stitch back to the top.  Knot off.

Stitch Line 5 then Line 6 in the same way.

Next, Rotate the fabric so the bottom is now the top.

Stitch Line 3 from (the new) top to the bottom.   Echo stitch back up and knot off.

Stitch Line 2 and then Line 1 in the same way.

Stitching the Grid

The Short Lines A-F

Stitch the short lines in the same way.

Stitch Line D from top to bottom, echo back to the top and knot off.

Stitch Line E then Line F, the same way.

Stitching the Grid

Rotate the quilt so the top is now the bottom.

Begin quilting Line C from (the new) top to the bottom, echo back and tie off.

Stitch Line B, then Line A in the same way.

Voila! Done with the Grid!

Stitching the Grid


I’m so glad you asked…

This is the first step in quilting EVERY quilt–

STABILIZE the long and short axes to prevent distortion.

In large quilts, stabilizing can be done using a straight stitch and a regular foot– “In-the-ditch”

or with a small zig zag or curvy line and a free motion technique.

This sewing order minimizes quilt distortion and will keep any size quilt square.  


A grid is the most common composition in quilting design.  The balanced elements provide unity to the composition and are always pleasing to the eye.  A Grid is a great place to begin any new design.


  • Quilt Marking
  • Free Motion Quilting including The Rick Rack Stitch and echo stitching.
  • Stabilizing a Quilt
  • Design:  Composing with a Grid


Practice the Zig Zag on one of the practice sandwiches before stitching on your Mystery Quilt.  This will get you warmed up for stitching and allows you to make tension adjustments.


  • Draw the grid.
  • Quilt the grid.
  • Begin looking through your thread…Open Line Friday is about Thread Organization.
  • Also, if you haven’t already done so…clean and oil your machine and put in a new needle…Topstitch needles are my FMQ Favorite.


I will answer all the questions at the end of the day. 

The intrigue continues…


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 share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!

68 thoughts on “The Mystery Quilt-a-Long…Early Clues

  1. Good morning Lori! Thanks for doing this for us. I’ve only read your instructions/tutorial and won’t get to sewing until the weekend probably, but what do you do to make sure the zig-zag’s match up to echo and not cross over? Also, are you changing the stitch length or witdth?

    • Liz, Echo stitching the zig zag just takes practice. It is an excellent way to develop your eye and your coordination.
      Because the feed dogs are not engaged, the stitch length is determined by how fast YOU move the fabric. (This is for stitching on a domestic sewing machine.)

      • Silly me–I thought you were using the zig-zag stitch on your machine! I’ve done that with straight line quilting. Now I realize that you did all that zigging and zagging yourself! WOW!! I’m going to have to do a lot of practicing!

  2. Oh Lori, this is going to be a challenge!! I am getting better at the free FMQ.. Where we swoop around but the controlled FM, that is another story!! It will increase my skill exponentially. :).

    • Because our goal is to improve our FMQ—you are NOT allowed to use a programmed stitch. If you like, don’t echo stitch back. Just zig zag down, tie off, and then start at the top again.

  3. I’m already behind! I haven’t prewashed or pressed my fabrics yet. Hope to get caught up by next Wednesday.

  4. Okay, so the zig zag stitch is beyond my skills (just starting to feel good about stippling and pebbles) so I stitched straight lines and am doing the zig zag between them. I did practice zig-zagging between marked lines on my practice sandwich too and got better as I went but nowhere near as small as you’re showing. What’s the width and length of the zig zags? Also…I just set up a quilting blog (because if I’m doing it, I might as well write about it) and was wondering if I can write about your class there? I would just do a brief plug about what you’re asking people to do this week, share an image credited to you, and then share a couple snapshots of my progress.

    • Hi Kylie,
      First of all, mastering stippling and pebbles is quite an accomplishment–both are advanced quilting motifs. Your way of stitching between two lines sounds great! Make it work for YOU!….My stitches are just over 1/4 inch wide. You are welcome to link this project to your blog.

  5. I’m eating a real sandwich and pondering this….lol! I think it’s going to be fun…I love the echoed ziggeties! Going to give it a shot.

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  7. I have zig zagged all the long lines and the result is not to bad but my zig zag width is about 1/2 an inch , shall I keep this consistent with the the next 6 or shall I try and do them smaller? Not sure what you have planned for the middles of the blocks bit worried I won’t have room. But I have already learned a lot so thank you

  8. Hi Lori! I followed the zig zag tutorial and practiced a bit. I can do the zig zag alright…not beautiful, but w/ more practice I’ll get there. My issue is that when I echo(which for me is on the right side back up) I am no longer centered on the line, I feel like it is more to the right. Is that ok? on one of my practices I tried to go more to the left of the line for the first zig zag, but that did not make much difference. Any advice?

  9. I got behind after picking and pressing my fabrics…..BECAUSE I’M A NEW GRANDMA…YEAH……had to go see my daughter and her new daughter. But I’m catching up….my zigzagging good and consistent but only if I turn quilt at bottom of line and echo down from top again. When I try to echo “up” it’s not as consistent. Some fatter zigs and zags. So—should I do what works for me or MAKE myself work on sewing the opposite way? Plus my machine seems to prefer sewing down as opposed to up. I’m so excited, Lori….this is gonna be FUN! Thank you so much.

  10. This is so much harder than it looks. My zig zags are so not consistent. I will keep practicing though, who knows maybe it will start looking better. I do hope so. Thank you again.

  11. OK, so I free motioned the zig zags and put a pic on the Flickr page. Though it’s not a pretty sight, I imagine that no one will look that closely when it’s all done.

  12. Help! I keep pulling bobbin thread at my peaks. Any tips for not having my zig zags look like they have straight lines coming out of the peaks?

  13. Lori, will we be using different color threads from the zig zag color? Can we consider a varigated thread? Is a really darker contrast better than medium contrast? I seem to have color choice issues.

  14. Ok now I don’t feel so bad. :). I saw the echo zig zag and thought you must have a special stitch. But noooo you did it all by hand with a straight stitch??!! I tried it and ughh it was so bad when I tried to echo on the way back up. If i do just a single, it’s much better. Can’t wait for next weeks challenge.

    • Cindy, a single row is a great idea. It will look fabulous. Later in the project, if you want to give it a go-there will still be time. This should be fun, not stressful so I LOVE your solution!

  15. I’m “not” sure how to “knot” off. Do you pull the top and bobin threads to the back and tie them together? Thanks for your help.

  16. Oops, it didn’t register in my brain that the stitching was supposed to be FMQ. Using the programmed zig-zag stitch with a walking foot didn’t work out well at all. But, at least the grid is made even though it is really wonky. I’m not going back to make a new sandwich. My machine won’t be available for your next two Wednesday’s but I will view your lessons and try to practice doodling the the images.

  17. oops…I didn’t realise it was supposed to be fmqed either….I did a wavy serpentine to mark the grid, then realised it was supposed to be FMQ…I compromised/cheated: I am fmqing the echos… felt masochistic initially, but I felt proud by the end…

  18. Got caught up! Now, I wish that I had the original fabric a bit larger than a fat quarter. My favorite quilt shop cut it for me and I only have 1/2 inch on 3 sides outside the FMQ. Is this going to be a problem? Definitely–my zigs are not always zagging symmetrically but it was fun to practice over and over.

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  20. Lori, how can I receive your blogs? My friend “Mary Grass” sent me this and said I should contact you as to how to receive them.

    • Sign up in my side bar. There is a place to enter your email address. If you have any problem let me know. So glad you are joining us!

  21. Is using a BSR (stitch regulator) ok or do you recommend not? I don’t know if I have a food that is non-BSR?

  22. Dear lori, the top and back is 18×22 inches right? Because in 18 inches side does not fits 6 lines 3 inches apart. Am I doing something wrong?

    • Lucimara, You are right! My fabric must have been cut a bit larger than a fat quarter! Sorry about that. Leave a small margin so you can bind the quilt and then move all the lines in slightly as Terry recommended.

    • Terry, Thanks for chiming in here….Do you have enough room on each side to bind the quilt? I thought I was using a fat quarter, but my fabric must have been generously cut. I apologize!

      • Never thought about that. Just checked. I have 2 sandwiches–one machine zigzagged and the other manual. Probably don’t have enough room on the the one done manually because the line wavers too much. I could rip out the last set of zig zags and move them over a bit. The other one might squeak by.

      • Terry, Don’t rip anything out. Stitch a third row to the inside. (This should give you enough room and to add the binding and won’t make a noticeable difference to the design). When the project is complete, you can decide if it requires ripping the extra stitches out, but I don’t think you’ll need to.

      • Terry and Lucimara—I just went back to give my quilt a look–It IS cut 18 inches wide–the grid is 5 by 5 and the width of each block is 3 inches—that totals 15 inches. I wonder if you added and additional line-making 6 blocks wide?

      • It’s not the 18″ side that’s a tight fit. It’s the 22″ fabric is 21″ not 22″. 4×5= 20. If you have a fat quarter cut from 42″ fabric, you have 1″ to spare. 1/2″ on each side, so I made the lines 1/8″ closer. Have border of 3/4″ on one side, 3/8″ on other.

  23. Hi Lori,
    I finished the first steps and am happy with the results! I can’t wait for next weeks assignment. I tried to upload the picture twice and it seemed to work, but doesn’t appear in flickr. My husband suggested it might go through an audit before it goes up. Do I need to try again if I don’t see it immeadiately after uploading?

  24. When I first saw that we were expected to FMQ an echoed zig zag I almost dropped out of this project. I didn’t think there was any way I could do that. But, I managed to get it done. Is it perfect? No. But, it’s not too bad! I, too, didn’t pay attention to stopping/started at the edge of the grid. So, my zig zags go beyond. I’m hoping that a binding might cover that up…?

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  26. Working on getting my nerve up to stitch the zig-zag on my actual piece. Practiced with black thread on white fabric. Talk about seeing every wobble! I’ve been wanting to build my confidence in the use of a contrasting thread color. This should do the trick! Also, straight lines have always been a challenge . . . thanks for a push in overcoming perfectionism.

  27. Lori, the fat quarter I want to use doesn’t allow 5 boxes of 3″ x 4″. I had to draw the boxes 3″ x 3 3/4″. Will this matter? Not very pleased with the chintzy cut but it’s a pretty color. This a local quilt store I usually don’t go to. Now I remember why.

  28. Would it help to draw in parallel lines to control the FMQ zig zags or some double lines of water soluble thread which could come out wash out later. Just thinking it through!

  29. I actually had better looking zig-zags before I remembered to switch out the presser foot and drop the feed dogs! Here’s to mastering this new art. Ordered a stash of Kona FQ from Craftsy today… Can’t wait for the next post.

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  31. Hi Lori. Thanks for the tutorial. I’m catching up with the zig-zag stitching. Do you have any suggestions for getting the length of the zig-zags uniform?

  32. It’s stitched but the intersections look like a thread battle!! Looking far away it doesn’t look too bad but sure wouldn’t want to be judged on this attempt!!

  33. OK I am not good at following directions but I tried. I could not do the sharp zig zag at all so I did a wiggly line and I did echo it. I also learned why you said to tie off the rows as you go- which of course I did not do until the end but it worked out. Also I have never bought a solid fabric in my life so I have a kind of batikish-I will try to post to flicker- looking forward to more adventures…

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