Free-motion quilting around appliqués: Pat’s got your back! (video) 📹

Perhaps you mastered stitch-in-the-ditch machine quilting . . .

Then you moved on to walking-foot curves . . .

And now you’re playing with your free-motion foot: loops and curves are looking good!

So, what’s next?

In her book Pat Sloan’s Teach Me to Machine Quilt, Pat’s mapped out how beginners can start machine quilting with straight lines and a walking foot—super doable—and how quilters who’ve had some practice can take their skills to the next level. And if you’ve started free-motion quilting, you’ve got to try the gosh-darn cutest motif Pat shares in her book: bubbles!

Dresden Candy Dish quilt
Dresden Candy Dish quilt (pattern included in Pat’s book)

Free-motion bubbles (also known as pebbles) are an especially great motif for machine quilting around appliqués. Here’s Pat’s 1-2-3 process:

  1. Outline stitch around all the appliqué shapes, including stems, leaves, flowers, and other shapes, stitching as close to the edge of the appliqué as you can to help emphasize the appliqué. Then echo quilt around the shapes so you won’t have to quilt the bubbles in really narrow spaces.
  2. Quilt a background fill to flatten the background and give it texture, such as bubbles—this allows the appliqué to pop off the surface.

Free-motion bubbles
Outline quilting + bubbles

  1. Accent larger appliqué shapes with additional quilting. Add a vein to a leaf, stitch a design in a basket, make roof tiles on a house, and so on. Quilting in the shapes adds texture to the motifs and your quilt.

Free-motion quilting appliques
Quilting inside larger appliqué shapes

Now that you know what to quilt around and on your appliqué motifs, you’ve got to know how to quilt them. Again, it’s Pat to the rescue! In the video below, Pat demonstrates how to freehand draw and then free-motion quilt bubbles:

Viewing this post in email? Click here to watch the video.

Think you can quilt bubbles like Pat? If you’re not so sure, Pat has a little advice just for you:

“Take a deep breath. Free-motion quilting is not scary, but
you’ll probably make some scary-looking stitches before you
figure it all out. Accept that you won’t be an expert at the
beginning, and it will be much easier to learn.”  –Pat Sloan

Practice makes progress!

Of course, Pat’s got a lot more than bubbles in her best-selling book—even if you are a straight-up newbie, she’s got you covered. She knows you gotta start somewhere! So in Pat Sloan’s Teach Me to Machine Quilt, she takes you through a progression.

First, you’ll learn to quilt with a walking foot—straight lines, large curves, and decorative stitches to start:

Strippy Table Runners
Strippy Table Runners

Then, you’ll try simple Xs and echo quilting:

Checkerboard Hearts quilt
Checkerboard Hearts quilt

Next, you’ll move on to loops, swirls, and curls:

Mexican Rose quilt
Mexican Rose quilt

And finally, you’ll combine different techniques in a single quilt:

Cherry Pie quilt
Cherry Pie quilt: Pat stitched walking-foot waves in the sashing; meandering, loops, bubbles, and echoes in the block backgrounds; and horizontal straight lines in the plus signs at the center of each block

You’ll also find oodles of tips for how to set up your home sewing machine in the book, so when the time comes, you can skip all those hassles that new machine quilters face without Pat at their side. There are nine quilt projects included to practice on too! See them all here.

Pat Sloan's Teach Me to Machine QuiltHere’s what quilters like you are saying about Pat’s book:

“This book has everything you need to know to machine quilt. Pat offers many helpful details and tips for someone doing this for the first time. I successfully quilted my first project . . . I have planned several new projects using the patterns provided!”

“Pat Sloan is a very good teacher. This book is for all who are just starting quilting. You will learn everything you need to know to make your first quilt.”

“A great book on machine quilting! Pat Sloan explains everything simply, and I would buy her books unseen just because she wrote them!”

You can order Pat Sloan’s Teach Me to Machine Quilt at and we’ll send you a link to download the eBook instantly for free.

How far along are you on your machine-quilting path?

  • I’ve taken all the curves, loops, and swirls you can take!
  • I’m on the path and excited for what I see ahead.
  • Thinking about stepping onto the path soon!

Tell us in the comments!

26 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I prefer to do straight line quilting! I tried one meandering quilting and was not impressed! Lol! Thankfully it’s dark thread on dark fabric and you can’t see it! Lol! I love the shadow quilting look! I use that a lot or some of the stitches in my machine, a big zigzag, or a rick rack stitch. Quite nice!

    —Judy on April 6, 2018
  • I have tried machine quilting and I hate it. The thing is it would be nice to know for community quilts and small projects. I probably should get Pat’s book and try it again.

    —Barb W on April 6, 2018
  • I do straight line quilting because that’s the easiest. But I avoid including largish spots of plain fabric in my quilts because I think they look too utilitarian with only straight line, and they beg for some fluidity in quilting. For my charity quilts, I can’t afford the beauties of long arm quilting by a pro, so I’d like to learn to do even simple free motion quilting. I’ve borrowed Pat’s book from the library a couple of times, but I think it could be an important addition to my own library.

    —Carol Johnson on April 6, 2018
  • I am not good at backtracking over my lines. Guess I need to practice.

    —Sylvia on April 6, 2018
  • I’ve done a little free motion quilting, and am not always happy with the results. I know that I just have to keep trying and that "practice does make perfect". I’d even settle for almost perfect!!!

    —Patty on April 6, 2018
  • I’ve started on the path but have a long way to go!

    —Janna Lee on April 6, 2018
  • I have dabbled with free motion, not good, but maybe someday I’ll get the hang of it

    —Judy Thompson on April 6, 2018
  • Definitely thinking about taking that step onto this path – just about to upgrade my machine to give me a wider working ‘throat’ area, and then there will be no stopping me!

    —Jan on April 6, 2018
  • I would love to be able to machine quilt. Just can’t get the hang of it.
    Let’s book looks like it explains machine quilting in an understandable way.

    —Sue Webb on April 6, 2018
  • I have only used the walking foot for stitch in the ditch and a serpentine stitch. I have never tried changing to a FMS foot.

    So I would say I am at the zero beginning stage.

    —carol on April 6, 2018
  • Thinking about stepping onto the path soon!

    —Kaye Walker on April 6, 2018
  • I am quilting one to two lap quilts a day and having fun playing with different tools and shapes for project Linus. It is hard to stop quilting, but my hands and body say enough. I could write a book and do you tubes. I am at the end of life. Hard to picture that.

    —Linda Christianson on April 6, 2018
  • Still trying to get the hang of "being creative" with my walking foot. No confidence yet!

    Kathleen on April 6, 2018
  • I am on the path to free motion quilting. I’m doing mostly large meandering and loops. They seem the easiest for me right now.

    —LillianK on April 6, 2018
  • I’ve tried. I get so tense & my work looks like crap. I would like to be able to do a good job not only for my own satisfaction, but also to save myself some money–at least on small things.

    —Kathy M on April 6, 2018
  • I still do just SID, grid work and walking foot wavy lines. Maybe one of these days I’ll take the plunge and run down the path.

    —Sandy May on April 6, 2018
  • The only thing I can free motion quilt with any confidence is feathers. I’ve handquilted so many of them the shape comes easy to me but these bubbles/pebbles – not so much. I’m definitely on the path and I know I need lots and lots of practice!

    —Janet on April 6, 2018
  • I’ve done some free motion quilting but know there is so much more I could learn.

    —Rilla Burnham on April 6, 2018
  • I haven’t ventured down this path yet….Oh, how I need this book!

    —Gloria on April 6, 2018
  • Definitely a beginner and would benefit from reading this book and putting it into practice.

    —debby on April 6, 2018
  • I’ve done a bit – but never get practiced enough to be good at it! I, too get ‘tensed up’ – have to remind myself to BREATHE, RELAX. ! Need more time/practice!

    —JanG on April 6, 2018
  • I began with FMQ on my domestic – love it. Then my husband surprised me with a longarm about 6 years ago and I have been on that path. Recently a friend asked if I did FMQ on my domestic any more and I said "Yes, I do!", she just wanted a simple meandor on some placemats. Oh how I miss this form of quilting and look forward to walking down this path again!!!

    —Becky Schultz on April 6, 2018
  • I think I need the book, I am still thinking about stepping on the path (and doing so for some time)

    A. Bouwman on April 7, 2018
  • I’m on the path! Somehow the next step keeps getting farther away. The last several quilts I machine quilted turned out well, but one I just started I had to rip out a big pleat on the back already.

    —Linda Towers on April 7, 2018
  • Just took my first machine quilting class – off to practice now!

    —bookboxer on April 7, 2018
  • I am thinking about stepping onto the path of machine quilting soon. I could really use the help of this book!

    —Laurie Devers on April 9, 2018

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