Beyond Stippling-Five Tips for Better Quiltmaking


Meander No More, FMQ, Lori KennedyGood Morning, Quilters!

Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses to yesterday’s post, How to Ruin Your Quilt with Stippling.  It was  meant to be provocative.  I want to nudge everyone to spend a little more time thinking about the quilting design.  Quilting should not be an afterthought. Quilting should be considered during every phase of the quilt-making process, from pattern and fabric selection onward. Continually ask yourself questions like:  “How will I quilt this?  What color thread will I use?   What motifs will look best?

Long winter shadows on free motion quilted stencil


It is obvious from your responses that we need to go beyond the step-by-step Tuesday Tutorials.  We need to see the motifs in action.  Choosing “the right motif” is a challenge for everyone.  I don’t have a quick answer for you, but I am formulating some ideas on how to best teach this important skill.  Stay tuned…


Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Threads, Sewing Room

Choose the Right Thread for Stippling

If you have chosen an allover motif–an Edge to Edge pattern as the long-armers call it- I assume your quilting goal is to create a light texture.  You don’t want to see the quilted line.  In this case, use a light weight thread (60wt or finer) in a low-contrast color.  This will provide the effect you seek.  If you choose a heavy thread, in a contrasting color, the stippling will be very obvious and will fight the piecework or appliqué below.  (More coming soon-in How to Ruin a Quilt with Thread)

Quilt Stencil

Choose a Motif with Character or Personality

If you plan to use an allover or edge-to-edge motif, choose one that matches the quilt, the recipient, or is personal to you.  For example, stitch Flower Power (it’s’s easier than stippling) on any floral or girl’s quilt.   Or try the more sophisticated, Nora’s Rose on the quilt for your Grandmother.  Need a boy’s motif or stitching a Halloween quilt?  Starry Night  is a perfect motif and easier than stippling!  Again, be sure to use the right thread for the job–lightweight and low-contrast for a texture-only effect.

Nora's Rose Quilt, FMQ

Walking Foot Quilting

If you’re not ready for free motion quilting, use a walking foot to stitch straight lines, wavy lines or concentric circles.  This type of quilting adds interesting geometric patterns and has a Modern flair. Stitch converging lines to create focal points and highlight areas of the quilt.  Grids are another example of walking foot quilting and are often used on Traditional quilts including appliqué quilts.

For more on these techniques, try Jacquie Gering’s Craftsy video:  Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot.  (50% off – for a limited time for readers of The Inbox Jaunt) Jacquie is a phenomenal quilter and a great teacher.  She covers everything from the parts of the walking foot to how to manage a large quilt on a small machine.

Free Motion Quilted Dragonfly

Machine Tying

Tied quilts conjures up images of polyester quilts with acrylic yarn ties…(Don’t, laugh–I bet a few of YOU made one too!)

Let’s set that image aside for a moment and consider how we might quickly machine tie a baby quilt.  Stabilize the blocks with stitch-in-the-ditch quilting or free motion quilted wavy lines over the seam lines.  Stitch from border to border horizontally and vertically.  Then add a small motif in the center of each block to act as the “tie”. Use one design in the center of every block or stitch a variety of motifs like The Butterfly, The Dragonfly and The Bumblebee. in alternate blocks.   Charming!

For a boy, try a single Fish, Star, Sailboat, Anchor, , or a Football.


Two Motifs

If you are ready for something slightly more adventurous, try combining just two motifs-one curvy and one linear and fill the blocks with variations of the two motifs.  Try The Picket Fence with any of the flower motifs like Faye’s Flower  Or Triangle lines with The Feathered Leaf or Spirals.  By choosing only two motifs, you will be assured the quilt will look cohesive and you won’t be overwhelmed by too many choices.  By choosing one curvy motif and one linear or geometric motif, you will be assured there is enough contrast between the motifs–necessary for good quilt design.

Straight Line Triangles, LKennedy, FMQ

For even more ideas…

Machine guided quilting and big-stitch hand quilting, try Susan Cleveland’s Creative Quilting:  Alternatives to Free Motion.  Use my affiliate link — 50% off for a limited time.  Thank you, Craftsy!  Susan is an award-winning quilter and a perfectionist.  She share loads of tips and techniques for beginners and advanced quilters alike!Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 9.08.06 PM

Beyond Stippling…

The key is to keep it simple.

Quilting does not have to be complicated to be beautiful.

But if you are going to make the effort…

Small, personal touches can make all the difference!

What about YOU?  How do YOU choose the quilting for YOUR quilts?  Do you have any tips you can share?

We’d LOVE to hear!



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 re-blog, pin or share with  attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks.

Doodle to Design, Craftsy, Lori Kennedy






22 thoughts on “Beyond Stippling-Five Tips for Better Quiltmaking

  1. I love all your tutorials and advice. Would you be able to recommend designs for a quilt for an adult single middle age man. The quilt is a combination of log cabin and fence and rail. I did use some of your designs (brick and greek key), but would appreciate more suggestions.

  2. Oh wow, I did that and didn’t know I did it, ha ha. As I assembled the top of my quilt my mind kept thinking of how I would quilt it. I also tried something I had not done before and that is digitized a motif that I can use in certain squares. How fun!

  3. I do all my FMQ with a longarm machine. When the quilt top is ready I lay it across my quilting frame and study it for a bit. Sometimes for days. I look online for different quilt patterns (especially your blogs and tutorials), look at some of the many books on my shelf, browse Pintrest to get fresh ideas, and doddle on my sketch pad. Eventually I find something new and fun that will bring my quilt top to life. I also have a large, lightweight piece or plexiglass that I can lay on a section of my quilt while it’s in the frame. Using wet erase markers, I doddle on the plexiglass to scale and practice the designs and get an idea of how they work on my quilt. I learn a great deal from your blog and your tutorials.
    Thank you.

    • Just a word of advice on the plexiglass….put blue painters tape around the edge, or at least on a corner of the top side, and write “this side up” on it in permanent marker. You don’t want to accidentally put the side with dry erase marker down on your beautiful quilt top. Don’t ask me how I know this….🙀

  4. I never used to think about how I was going to quilt my quilt, but since I have been reading your blog and done a little FMQ, I find myself thinking frequently, “…and (insert motif here) would look perfect here! Unfortunately, I have not yet learned to write these ideas down…I get to the quilting stage and my mind is blank! So I know the solution, just need to put it into practice, I guess. An excuse to buy more sticky notes? If I keep them by the machine, I could add them to my quilt notebook….

  5. I also love the idea of the plexiglass “trial”. That would help me tremendously to see how the motif will look and gain confidence in the decision making. Thank you to the two people – yesterday and today – that mentioned it. I appreciate the sharing in the blog by Lori and all the readers.

  6. Lori, your suggestions and instructions are so helpful! I have just begun free motion quilting on my domestic Bernina 780 and am enjoying it immensely. I look forward to being inspired by your talent.

  7. When I am piecing the top, the completed sections are on my design wall about 8 ft from my sewing machine. I start thinking of quilting designs as I am piecing, and will often use a motif that relates in some way to at least one of the fabrics I have used.

  8. As I am piecing, I begin to think about quilting it. I am thinking about what part of the pieced design I want to highlight and which areas will support the highlights. I think about thread and if I will need to change colors. As I look at the piecing, I note which areas will show quilting the most and which will show it the least or is it a blendy type quilt which will not show much quilting design especially if you choose a thread that blends well with all the fabrics. If it is a more modern design with mostly plain or tone on tone fabrics or has big areas with plain fabrics, then the quilting requires much more thought and planning as most likely, the quilting will take a more leading role in the entire quilt (the fabrics will support and follow the quilting). On this type of quilt, I spend much more time quilting it than piecing it. As I pin, I like to know what my first steps of quilting will be (how I will stabilize the quilt) so that I don’t have to move pins during this process. As I pin, I am doing more studying of the pattern and searching for ideas. If I’m having a particularly difficult time coming up with something, then I start the stabilizing process. Next, I quilt the parts that I’m sure I know what I want to do. Usually, by this time, I’m so deep into the process that the rest just falls into place!

  9. I hear you on the quilting designs, but what if you don’t like a hard starchy quilt? I find that the more delicate and fun the quilting, the harder the fabric gets. I enjoy the feel of less quilted blankets so much more. It’s a dilemma for me because I love to quilt the heck out of a design. What do you do to keep things soft?

  10. I longarm quilt and still love to see all your ideas and fresh approach to quilting.
    That big blank space can be intimidating! Sometimes I know right away what I need to do and others it requires days of staring, thinking and doodling until it works out for a cohesive plan! Thanks for this series you are sharing!

  11. Thank you Lori! I ordered Jackie Gering’s Craftsy video – thanks for the recommendation. I am slowly working and practicing your FMQ designs and motifs. You are the BEST! I need to step up my game on actual quilts though. I have 2 quilts in the piecing stages and both will lend themselves more experimentation. Thank you again for everything you do!

  12. Lori,
    I so appreciate your blog. Question – I made a quilt for someone – using purple, lavender and white cat fabric in a “cat” pattern. I have no idea how to quilt it.
    I would love some suggestions from you and other readers.
    Thank you.

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