Machine Quilting Practice

One of my quilting goals for this year is to improve my machine quilting.  I’ve been machine quilting, walking foot and free-motion, for a long time, but I am stuck in a rut and want to learn new designs.

I’ve bought a few books to help me.  I purchased both of Christa Watson’s machine quilting books as well as both of Angela Walters’ Shape by Shape books.  I also found a class from Angela Walters for free, called Machine Quilting Negative Space.  All of these resources have been great.  They have really good ideas, show the techniques well, and give you lots of options.  I’ve really enjoyed the Craftsy class because it is cool to see how something is actually done.

I started to put together a pile of sample sandwiches to use for practice, but then decided to use my zipper bags and sunglass case project as an opportunity to sew on items that will be put to real use.


I did some small scale stippling to warm up.  If left to my own devices I’d just do this all the time.  It’s easy and I’m comfortable with it.



I’ve essentially had to unlearn my swirls.  Mine were way too far apart to get the dense look I was after.  This is some practice I did before doing my ‘Do the Math’ quilt.




I achieved more density, and I like it, though the red one is better than the brown one.  After watching the Craftsy class I learned another way to do spirals in which they are all connected.  I’m going to try that one next.


I’ve used loops before and I always forget about them.  I love them and they look good.  I was trying in these samples to get more density than what I had previously achieved.







I’m not really sure what to call this one, but they look like hooks to me.  They are essentially shortened swirls.  I don’t think I’d do these on an entire quilt, but I do really like how they worked on this smaller piece.



I’m currently working on the new swirl method, combined with more of a wavy, windy-type look (Angela calls them Row Swirls) to use on 2 quilt tops I have ready to go.  I also just discovered that my local Bernina Sewing Machine dealer does a 6-hour long arm class, so I’m trying that out in a few weeks.  I will keep you posted on how these adventures turn out!

Any input from you all about long arms?  Suggestions, brands or features you like?  Please let me know!


7 thoughts on “Machine Quilting Practice”
  1. That’s great! Love to see someone else going through the same process I am. That’s a great you have for finding something to actually use your practice sandwiches for. I think I’m going to try to do make some placemats for my practice. Really looking forward to hearing how your longarm class goes!

  2. Lovely quilting on these – and great to put them to good use. I am a relatively new longarmer and have a HandiQuilter Avante. I got it last July and when I was at Fesitval of Quilts in August I went around and tried all the other brands ….. I was very happy with my decision! Have a great day trying it out.

    1. Thanks for the input. I think my local store has HandiQuilter brands so I hope I’ll get to try those out. I’m afraid I’ll try them out and get hooked!

  3. I am in the same boat. I am really wanting to expand my FMQ skill set. Although, I think my first practice was reaching a bit too far. 🙂 What a great idea to practice on something small like bags. I am just working on squares right now. I might put them all together at some point to make a wall hanging, but we will see how embarrassed I am by them.

    1. Good luck! Let me know how it goes. At some point you just have to drop the feed dogs and go for it, and it does get easier. I’m sure you are doing great!

  4. I love that you are using the practice items for actual projects. Nice job. I am wanting to learn feathers. I would welcome any tips. 🙂

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