Spiral Flower Machine Quilting on Maggie’s First Dance BOM

My good friend Jacquelynne Steves has been hosting a gorgeous free Block of the Month program she started over the summer, and I finally have a free minute to tell you about it! It’s a 6-part series called Maggie’s First Dance featuring 5 adorable blocks plus border and finishing instructions.

Maggies First Dance

Click here to sign up and get all of the blocks that have been shared so far.

This month’sΒ  design is the setting block, and I thought it would be perfect to showcase one of my favorite free-motion quilting designs: spiral flowers. So I decided to make a cute mini from one of the blocks and take pictures of my process so I can walk you through how I did it. This block uses my no-mark method for free-motion quilting that I teach in both of my machine quilting books.

Aurifil Thread

Step 1 – choose your thread

Look at your beautiful finished block and think about how you want to quilt it. I always like to audition several thread choices to see which one will look the best. In this case I chose to go with a light yellow, 50 weight cotton Aurifil. White or light gray would have looked nice, too. I’m going to quilt it with one color thread only so that I can custom quilt the entire block without starting and stopping.

Quilt Design Sketch

Step 2 – Sketch Your Design

Print out a color copy of your block on paper and sketch out some design ideas. This allows you to plan out how you will move around the block quickly and efficiently before you try it on the real thing. I choseΒ  a large spiral flower in the center of the block surrounded by pebbles.Β  I’ll repeat the flower petal design in the white areas, and add some more pebbles in the corners. This will allow me to quilt the entire design in one pass, traveling (backtracking) in the seams if needed to quilt each section of the design.

I only sketched enough of the design to give me a general idea of what I was going to quilt. Of course, you can draw the design over the whole block if you prefer. Doesn’t it look like I drew right on the block? Don’t worry, it really is just a color printout of the block. πŸ™‚

Free Motion Center Spiral

Step 3 – Start the Center Spiral

Starting in the middle of the block, pull up the bobbin thread to the top and move it out of the way for now. You can go back and tie off the knot later and bury the thread within the batting. Or just start with a series of teeny-tiny stitches to lock your beginning threads in place.

Quilt a small spiral to start and then immediately turn the spiral into a series of small, irregular flower petals. It doesn’t matter which direction to stitch in, or how many petals you quilt as you spiral around. Aim for nice, smooth stitches, but they don’t have to be perfectly uniform in length.

Spiral Flower Quilting

Step 4 -Complete the Center Block

As you echo back out around the center spiral, quilt a series of petals that don’t quite touch each other. Fill in all of the space, backtracking in the seam if needed to get to any areas you missed. Again, notice that each petal is not perfect or uniform. You are aiming for texture over perfection.

Pebble Quilting

Step 5 – Fill in the Rest of the Block

I quilted the area around the flower with pebbles, a dense texture that would allow the floral quilting to really pop. Because I used the same color thread, I was able to easily switch back and forth between quilting motifs as needed. To create interest in the block, I repeated the petal shapes in the outer portion of the block, with an extra pop of pebbles in the corners.

Although I’m only showing one block as an example, you can easily apply this design to all of the setting blocks. I like dense textural motifs that lend themselves well to any size block or quilt!

Ta-Da! Enjoy Your Finish

Machine Quilted Block

If you are new to machine quilting, I recommend making one or two practice blocks like I did to get the hang of it, or to try out different quilting ideas. You can always refer to your practice blocks as a stitch journal of your progress. I turn mine into class samples, so I don’t have to pack up a suitcase full of quilts when I teach. πŸ™‚

Let’s Have a Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of Jacquelynne’s latest BOM installment, 7 other bloggers and I have teamed up to give away a fun prize pack of my PDF patterns, perfect for practicing your machine quilting skills! So that means that 8 people will win, one for each stop on the blog hop below.

Pattern Giveaway

Visit each of these blogs to increase your chances of winning. Leave a comment at each for your chance to win! The giveaway is open to everyone and runs through October 10th.

Farmhouse Quilts

My Go-Go Life

The Crafty Quilter

LilyPad Quilting

Grey Dogwood Studio

The Quilting Nook

EvaPaige Quilt Designs

Christa Quilts – You Are Here!

New Around Here? Everyone’s a Winner!

Puzzle Box Pattern

Click here to get my free Puzzle Box quilt pattern.

As an extra bonus for anyone new to my blog, be sure to check out Friendly Threads, my weekly email and get this free PDF pattern instantly. My Puzzle Box pattern uses two Jelly Rolls and goes together super quick!

Check out the Bee Hive – A Fun, Free Year Long Block of the Month

I love it when my quilty, bloggy friends do cool stuff. Have you visited my friend Alyce from Blossom Heart Quilts? Not only is she a recurring writer for Make Modern Magazine and awesome pattern writer, she’s a generous designer as well.


For all of 2015, she’s put together a fun, free BOM (Block of the Month) program that anyone can follow along with. It’s called The Bee Hive and she’s featuring not just one, but two block tutorials each and every month!


January’s first block of the month features this awesome tic-tac-toe block!

Here’s how it will work:

The first block of the month will feature a unique 12″ finished block design by Alyce, that when laid out side by side forms a secondary design. Then, the second block of each month will be designed by a host of talented guest designers. Alyce’s blog will be the place to go to keep up with all of the tutorials.

20150110_beehive_tictactoeI love the modern, graphic look of these tic-tac-toe blocks set together!

I will be the guest designer for April and I’ve included the complete schedule below. Just think, if you follow along all year, you’ll have 24 finished blocks! As with any quilt along, you are welcome to work at your own pace and join in anytime. πŸ™‚

The Schedule

January 12 – Tic Tac Toe
January 26 – Kristy from Quiet Play

February 9 – Chainlink
February 23 – Janice from Better Off Thread

March 9 – Houndstooth
March 23 – Jane aka Quiltjane

April 6 – Spinwheel
April 20 – Christa from Christa Quilts

May 4 – Busy
May 18 – Angie from Gnome Angel

June 1 – Bunting
June 15 – Anne from Play Crafts

July 13 – Abacus
July 27 – Jess from Elven Garden Quilts

August 10 – Homebase
August 24 – Joshua from Molli Sparkles

September 7 – In The Middle
September 21 – Jennie from Clover and Violet

October 5 – Magic 8 Ball
October 19 – Diane from From Blank Pages

November 2 – Alpine
November 16 – Melissa from Ms Midge

December 14 – Treasure Hunt
December 28 – Finale

When you do join the fun, Alyce has created a hashtag so you can share your blocks on social media: #thebeehivequilts. I can’t wait to see what everyone makes!

WIP – Skillbuilder Pieced Blocks February and March

I am slowly catching up on my Skillbuilder Block of the Month blocks. I sewed together two month’s worth of blocks last month during my family getaway. From left to the right, the blocks are called Em Dash, The Mood, Woven Star, and Woven Chevrons.

Skillbulder BOMI chose to go with Kona Solids in all of the blocks since we will be quilting as you go. I chose Coal grey as the background, then I sold out of it and had to order more just for me LOL!!

I think solids really let the quilting stand out. Here are pictures of the first two month’s blocks that I quilted previously. They are called Sound Wave and Magnum.

Skillbuilder Blocks Quilted

(I just got a new camera and am learning how to take better pictures with it – but the lighting is still a little off.)

I am using the same grey for the front of all of the blocks but am toying around with using different shades of greys for the back of each pair of blocks. I think that will give a patchwork look to the backing and break it up somewhat so it’s not just a sea of grey.

Fabric LayoutFabric Layout

To keep everything organized, I took pictures of each set of fabrics I would use for each block. Then, when sewing the pieces together I worked on one block at a time. I kept my pieces right next to my sewing machine and constantly referred to the layout diagram. I also pressed all of the seam open which helped the blocks lie really flat.

BOM Pieces

I am pleased with how they turned out and now I’m excited to quilt them – which for me, is the most fun part!

Skillbulder BOM

BOM and WIP Blocks

I am adding to my list of UFO’s with my BOM and WIP! What in the heck does all that mean?

It means I am starting some more quilts that are quickly becoming Unfinished Fabric Objects. My newest quilt is a Block Of the Month project where I make a couple of quilt blocks each month until it is done. As long as I work on my quilts on a regular basis, they become my Works-In-Progress.

Sound Wave

Sound Wave



Here are my two blocks that I just finished, following along with the Skillbuilder Block of the Month at PileOFabric.com.

I absolutely love these blocks. I think they are turning out very modern and I am gaining more color confidence in working with solids.Β  I am using Kona Coal Grey as the background and am very pleased with how it looks against the solids.

Modern Block - Not!

Modern Block – Not!

A few months ago I tried to make my first “modern” quilt block by adding grey to a paper pieced block I was making from brightΒ  mottled fabrics.

The block design was awesome, but it just didn’t work with the grey!Β  I think my blocks above are much better.

In these last few months I have learned that it takes a lot more than simply adding grey to your quilt to make it modern. πŸ™‚

While sewing my BOM blocks, I used lots of starch to keep the skinny strips nice and straight. I also cut the strips on the grain parallel to the selvedge (instead of cutting them WOF – the Width of Fabric). This grain has less stretch and give to it. While sewing, I also flipped my sewing direction on each successive strip so as not to distort the fabric.

Block Piecing

It’s amazing how much this block shrinks up due to the seam allowances!

I pressed all of my seams open first with a wooden seam roller (loving this tool!) and then with a dry iron. They are nice and flat!

Seam Roller Pressing

You can read my previous BOM post about picking fabrics. If you would like to join me, my friend Alyssa and a few (hundred) others making these fabulous blocks, just go to PileOFabric.com and check out her Skillbuilder Block of the Month.

Christa’s Show and Tell – Sewing Every Day

One of the quilting goals I set for myself was to sew every day. To make this goal actually happen, I had to make sure it was realistic. In order to do that, I set a minimum time limit of just 10 minutes a day of sewing. I also broadened my definition of “sewing” to include designing quilts, reading quilt magazines and watching online quilting classes.

So far so good. Here is what I have been able to accomplish “sew” far this month:

I’ve signed up forΒ  several Craftsy quilting classes. I just finished watching Elizabeth Hartman’s free “Creative Quilt Backs Class” and am currently viewing Cindy Needham’s “Design It, Quilt It” class. They are both excellent!

Creative Quilt BacksDesign It Quilt It

I pulled these lovely fabrics to participate in the Skillbuilder Block of the Month over at PileOFabrics.com. I decided to go with all Kona Solids for this quilt. I haven’t decided on my background fabric yet. I’ll probably choose a shade of Grey.

Skillbuilder Fabrics

I used the color wheel when choosing colors and went with an “accented analagous” color scheme. That means I chose red, orange and yellow which are next to each other on the color wheel, then threw in a bit of complementary teal just for fun. I can’t wait to get started!

Today, I paper-pieced this sewing themed block as part of Quiet Play’s And Sew On year-long block-of-the-month series. January’s block is called “Measure Twice” and is available as a free download this month.

Measure Twice

Measure Twice, Cut Once!

I also made this block designed by Amy Friend of During Quiet Time. I love the sewing theme so I may have to incorporate it into the same quilt!

Sewing Machine Block

Next, I designed this quilt in EQ7 which will be the basis for my next quilt-along as soon as the current one finishes. I found out how to download Moda’s fabric swatches directly into the design program so I can design quilts using the actual fabrics from the quilt. Very cool!

Hugs and Kisses

Hugs and Kisses

When I don’t feel up to sewing, or when I’m traveling, and bringing along sewing supplies is impractical,Β  I have a stack of quilting magazines that I am thoroughly enjoying reading.

My favorite magazines are Machine Quilting Unlimited, along with their brand new sister publication Modern Quilts Unlimited. I’ve also been a long-time subscriber of Quilter’s Newsletter, the best source of news for what’s hot and happening in the quilting world.

Machine Quilting UnlimtedModern Quilts UnlimitedQuilter's Newsletter

I think that’s a great start for January! How about you? How are you coming along with your quilting goals?