Keep it Simple: Machine Quilting Single Motifs

Sometimes, machine quilting takes a back seat to color, fabric, and surface design on a quilt. Other times, free-motion quilting is the star.

bird branch mini quilt with free-motion quilting candy glendening
Think spring: Mini quilt with free-motion machine
sketching techniques, by Candy Glendening.

Even simple quilting motifs can pack a punch when they stand alone.

Fiber artist Candy Glendening is a master at creating these quilt motifs and using them as a focal point for her fiber art projects. She calls her technique "free-motion machine sketching."

"What I call free-motion machine sketching is very similar to free-motion machine quilting: the feed dogs are down, you use a darning foot, and the needle goes fast while your hands move slowly," says Candy.

"The difference is that when I'm sketching, I am purposefully retracing my steps and trying to miss; this took some practice after years of trying to follow lines exactly. What I'm trying to emphasize here is that although I'm using a machine, the process is still created by my hands. I love the beautiful imperfection of a strong line that is created by drawing over and over- it's just that my pencil is an electric sewing machine."

Candy often takes her free-motion stitching designs from nature: herbs, leaves, flowers, and-my favorite-birds.

Here is a little how-to from Candy on how to appliqué bird motifs with her free-motion machine sketching technique, taken from a tutorial on mini quilts.

1. Freehand cut 1 or 2 birds for each mini quilt varying the pre-fused fabric colors. (I freehand cut all my birds; they're just 2 S-curved lines connected at both ends. A small change in the inflection point of the curve can make a bird with an entirely different personality.)

2. Move them around the different squares until you've created several squares that each combine a few of the hues in your palette in a different way.

3. When you're happy with the placement of the birds, fuse the top only of each bird in place.

4. Free-motion sketch the legs, beginning and ending under the bottom of each bird. Fuse the rest of the bird in place, then free-motion sketch an outline and eye for each bird.

5. Freehand cut a wing for each bird. It's amazing how a small change in the angle of the wing can make a sitting bird fly, so play around with the placement a bit before fusing. Fuse the wings in place. Free-motion sketch an outline around each wing.

Candy teaches her free-motion stitching techniques in her new Quilting Arts Workshop, Free-Motion Machine Sketching: Drawing with Thread from Birds to Botanicals. What a wonderful way to welcome spring!

P.S. What are your quilting signs of spring? Color choices? Fabrics? Quilting motifs? Leave your comment below.

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Machine Stitching, Quilting Daily Blog