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






How to Choose a Needle for Free Motion Quilting


Needle Choices for Free Motion Quilting

 Are you confused about the myriad of needles available today?  Do you have a system for choosing your needle for each project?  Or, do you use whichever needle is already in your sewing machine?

If you are confused about needle selection, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Today, on Open Line Friday, we will begin our discussion of needles.  We are looking for everyone’s input on this important topic-so please tell us what works (and doesn’t work) for you!

Let’s start with two guidelines:

  1.  Choose the size of the needle by the weight of the thread  A general rule of thumb is 40 wt thread requires a size 75 needle.  If your thread is heavier (smaller number), increase your needle size (larger number)–and vice versa.
  2.  Choose the type of needle by the type of thread and the type of fabric.  Here is where things get a bit more complicated.

First–What type of thread are you using?  If it is a specialty thread of any kind, consider a Topstitch or Embroidery Needle-The both have larger eyes.

Second–Do you want a sharp point or a slightly rounded needle point.  A slightly rounded point allows the needle to stitch between the thread fibers, and doesn’t damage the fiber.  A sharp needle is necessary to penetrate fabrics with high thread counts such as batik, some hand dyed fabrics and fabrics that have any coated design on them–like white on white fabrics.  The downside .. this needle penetrates the fiber causing micro-tears to the textile.

The sharp needles:

  • Topstitch
  • Microtex

The slightly rounded needles: 

  • Universal
  • Embroidery
  • Quilting

Needle Choices for Free Motion Quilting

 My Choice for FMQ and Why

When I free motion quilt, I most frequently use Aurifil 50wt and Sulky 45 wt threads and I have found the Universal 80 to work quite well most of the time.  I like the rounded point of the Universal needle because it does not stitch through the fibers, but rather it  stitches between them.  That means the fibers are not damaged.  I also like the Universal needle because it is the least expensive.  (Though the needle is the least expensive part of any quilting project and we should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish!)

If I am stitching on tightly woven fabrics such as batik or hand dyed or if I am experiencing any problems, I switch to the Topstitch needle.

My two favorite needles are The Universal and The Topstitch (usually size 80).  

Needle Choices for Free Motion Quilting

We will be discussing a lot more about needles in the weeks ahead.  There is a great deal of information available on the web about needles and needle selection.  Schmetz Needles has a great deal of educational information available.  I particularly like their iPhone app which has a trouble shooting guide and a needle type guide--look for that on your smartphone.  Schmetz has a very succinct needle guide  PDF HERE.

Also, Superior Threads offers a great YouTube Video HERE--Thank you to Melody for bringing this to my attention.

Finally, we have a reader that is really struggling with monofilament thread and needles breaking–Can anyone recommend a monofilament thread--and does anyone have trouble with the thread breaking their needles?  I open this up to the group as I have little experience with this thread type.

What are YOUR favorite needles and WHY?  Do you have any needle tips you’d like to share?

Stitching safely,