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!

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