Mar 01 15

The March 2015 Free Motion Quilting Challenge!


If you haven’t been following it already, Darlene of Quiltshopgal blog has a new free motion quilting challenge going this year.  She hosted an incredible free motion quilting challenge a few years ago and thousands of quilters really honed their FMQ skills by participating.  This year, she is a hosting a new monthly FMQ challenge where participants make a pillow that showcases various FMQ skills/techniques.  For the month of March, the challenge relates to some of my favorite techniques and you can read all the details on her blog by clicking right here.  I’m going to hopefully inspire you with a couple of ideas in my blog post today.


Darlene has 3 different options for quilters to explore in the March FMQ challenge.  I have a quick class where we learn the basics of trapunto and it’s a popular class so I’ve needed to make many, many samples for it over the last several months.  I’m going to post how I recently made 2 different pillow samples and each of these will incorporate all of the options included in Darlene’s challenge.  We’re going to use:


1.  Cool border design work using principles from my 2012 FMQ Challenge.  (Click here to go to that original posting.)

2.  Trapunto and hyperquilting from my Craftsy class.  ( Click here for a link for $25 off of my Craftsy class…that’s MORE than 50% off!)

3.  Cool background free motion quilting from my instructional DVDs on free motion quilting.  (Click here to see our instructional DVDs.)


For my pillows, I started with an 18 inch square fabric block.  The fabric was deliberately solid so that the stitching would be obvious.  (A gently mottled fabric would also work great for this.)  For this trapunto class, we begin with an elaborate feathered wreath that has already been stitched in the center of the block (I provide this wreath block to the students and I make these quickly on my embroidery machine using one of our Majestic Feathered Wreath Designs.)  If you do this on an embroidery machine, you can either throw a piece of scrap batting underneath the fabric block or pin it underneath the hooped stabilizer.  If you are stitching the wreath yourself, just pin a piece of batting underneath the block before you begin stitching.  (I’ve posted about how to do this a million times in my blog, so surf through the posts under “trapunto” if this part seems foreign to you.)  Once the wreath has been stitched, you will cut away all the excess batting/stabilizer that falls outside the wreath.  Take care to avoid accidentally cutting into that top fabric! The backside of your block will look something like this when you’re done:


Once done, place that square into a quilt sandwich with batting and backing fabric.  I spray baste, but you can baste however you’d like.  The first thing you’ll do is to outline the various “zones” of the wreath w/invisible thread. For the wreath I’m using on pillow 1, this means outlining the inside and outside of the wide spine zone and then outlining each plume.  You do not want to outline any of the detail stitching inside the spine or inside the plumes because that will kind of flatten the trapunto.  At this stage, you will begin to see your trapuntoed feathered wreath protruding out somewhat. To make my wreath really pop, I then echo outline the perimeter of the entire wreath with a highly contrasting color of thread.  This will add a halo of color around the wreath and will also make the trapunto more prominent.   Once you’re done w/the outlining, switch to whatever thread you are going to use for your quilting.  I chose a green that was just a tad darker than the background fabric and created a series of empty borders that lie on the diagonal from each corner of the square block:


You can do this with your walking foot or you can do this as ruler work.  If you look at the bottom right corner, you’ll see that I messed up on the width of a border, but I just kept going!  In this tangential shot, you can get a better sense of the trapuntoed wreath protruding out a bit:



(Can you see all the shiney invisible thread across the plumes?  Those are my “jump stitches” from when I was outlining and they will all be trimmed away before the pillow is finished.)  I then began filling in some of my empty channels.  I stitched small feathers inside the corner triangles and a row of pearls inside a narrow channel:


(If you look at the corner, you’ll see a faint soap line at 1/2 inch from the edge.  I don’t stitch anything in there as it will ultimately be a seam.)  In this larger view, you can see the borders are beginning to take shape as a formal frame around the wreath:


Next up, I added the ribbon candy design inside another border zone:


In this wider shot, you can see how having different textures inside border zones really adds an element of intricacy.


Notice also that every other border is an empty channel.  This really creates texture and interest, so never underestimate the importance of “empty space” when you’re doing work like this.  The last part of quilting this pillow front is adding some background quilting.  For this pillow, I stitched the rudimentary version of the “Plumify It” design:


NOW we’ve got some real texture going!  And here is the final pillow using straight borders to frame the trapuntoed feathered wreath:


For my next sample, I again utilized the series of borders on a diagonal concept, except this time, I made my border zones curved instead of straight.  Here’s a shot of the pillow top after I’d stitched my initial curved border zones.  I used my Quilters Groove Pro Echo 5 and 8 inch rulers for the borders on this quilt:


…and then I stitched my cornermost circle lines:


And then I began filling in zones.  First up were pearls:


And then I used the inchworm filler which is always a great one if you’re filling  a space whose dimensions are changing:


And then I added a small feather design at the base:


I liked it and figured more border zones would look better so I just kept adding them.  Here’s a completed corner section:


I filled in the remaining “empty space” with the irregular swirl design and here’s a shot of the final pillow from the bottom:


…and here’s a more “upright version” of that same pillow:


I think I like the curved borders better than the straight ones but they were both fun to make!  To celebrate Shopcalgal’s March FMQ Challenge, all retail sales of free motion quilting instructional  DVDs by PTD are 30% off from 3/1/15 through 3/31/15.  To get the discount, just write FMQChall30 in the discount code box during checkout.

And one more thing!  If you’re in the King of Prussia, PA area and want to learn how to do trapunto like this or you’re interested in learning how to free motion quilt, please join me at Steve’s Sew and Vac on 3/27 and 3/28!   You can read about it by clicking here and I promise it will be FUN!!


  1. Cala Says:

    SJOE!!! Dit is fantasties mooi gedoen!! Ek hou BAIE daarvan!!!

  2. 2015 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge – March Challenge with Patsy Thompson | QuiltShopGal Says:

    […] For this particular challenge, while I did not ask FMQ experts to provide tutorials, Patsy has been working on stitching some FMQ Pillow samples. I hope you’ll click thru to check out Patsy’s samples for this challenge, as well as other inspirational FMQ… […]

  3. QuiltShopGal Says:

    What a inspirational post, packed with #CreativeGoodness of tips and inspiration. Your pillows have such gorgeous free-motion quilting and stunning designs. What a fun way to show off beautiful FMQ for your home or a gift. Absolutely Yummy.


  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Hello! I have been really looking forward to your month on the FMQ challenge! I’m super excited to get started. I do want to buy your crafty class but the link above for the discounted class isn’t working….

  5. QuiltShopGal Says:

    The link to Patsy’s class on Craftsy worked fine for me. Maybe you can try a different internet browser, or at least clarify if you are using a MC vs PC and what internet browser you are using. But I do want to clarify the link for the discounted class worked fine for me.

    Thanks Patsy.

  6. Kay Says:

    Always love to see Patsy ‘s work. Thanks for all the inspiration you share with us.

  7. leanne Says:

    so amazing – I’m so happy that you have a craftsy class so I can watch you over and over again !!

  8. Connie Campbell Says:

    Beautiful work Patsy! Thanks also for the link and discount for your class, I just signed up!