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5 essential tips to free motion quilting a table runner


When planning to free motion quilt the table runner, you have so many opportunities to bring the quilt to life. A simple meandering stitch will create a whimsical runner but you can have a bit more fun if you want. By using different colors of threads and different free motion motifs, you can really accentuate the flowers and stems. Read on to see some simple tricks to free motion quilt some beauty into your table runner!


Use a variety of colored threads when free motion quilting.
Use a variety of colored threads when free motion quilting.



I use a pair of gloves with rubber finger tips that help me move the quilt around when free motion quilting. This prevents the quilt from slipping when I have it under my machine in constant motion as I free motion quilt.


When starting to quilt, put the needle down, holding the top thread, and bring back up. Pull the top thread to bring the bobbin thread up to the top. Move it off to the side and begin free motion quilting. It prevents those nasty knotted messes at the back. When you’re done, simply grab a needle and thread those tails to the back and bury them.


Bring the bobbin thread up to the top prior to free motion quilting.
Bring the bobbin thread up to the top prior to free motion quilting.



Audition colors of thread for your quilt. Decide what you want the thread to accomplish. Do you want it to blend into the quilt? If yes, use a thread that matches the color of the fabric you’re quilting on. If you want some pop, use a bright color to show off your quilting.

Let’s use green thread and quilt leaves in the green stems. I did a wavy stem from bottom to top and on my way back down, veered into the printed fabric and created leaves on each side.


Free motion quilt a stem and leaves on each green strip of fabric.
Free motion quilt a stem and leaves on each green strip of fabric.



You are the boss of the free motion quilting! You say what goes, there are no rules to break, do what you like and most importantly, have fun!

You don’t have to do machine applique around each flower, rather do interesting designs in each one with different thread colors. Below I have drawn with thread, petals on the circles to show a flower. Other ones have swirls, or lines running through them. Use your imagination and get creative! Remember there’s no right or wrong way of designing with quilting, have fun and show your style off!

Free motion quilt a flower design in the circles.
Free motion quilt a flower design in the circles.


For the grey background, why not sketch some little flowers in the background with a gray thread? This offers a continuous flow through the table runner and doesn’t take away from the bright colors in the flowers and border.


Free motion quilt flower shapes into grey background.
Free motion quilt flower shapes into grey background.



It takes practice. There’s no trick to free motion perfection. But it does get easier, faster and better the more you do it. If you feel stuck or cramped, take a pencil to a sketch pad and start drawing some free motion ideas without lifting the pencil off the table.

Free motion quilting is so much fun and has endless possibilities! It does take practice but it sure adds to a quilt. This table runner is totally adorable thanks to the free motion quilted flowers and leaves throughout.


Free motion quilted table runner
Free motion quilted table runner


All that’s left is to bind it and get ready for company to be impressed with your adorable table runner!


Free motion quilted flower table runner
Free motion quilted flower table runner


This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2:  Making fused fabric flowers for a quilted table runner

Go to part 4: Create a hand quilted table runner using wool felt and embroidery


I am a quilter who loves quilting outside the box especially when it comes to 3D and embellishments. My work has been published in books and magazines and I currently sit on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Quilters’ Association. When I am not in my studio, I am working as a Social Media Manager.


  1. Margaret Schindler

    I love all these tutorials. They really help

  2. Travis H

    I’m not a quilter. But I am trying to win a great prize for my Auntie

  3. Jennifer

    I’ve only tried FMQ once…so frustrating. Tossed in that towel immediately. I also have to agree with Kathy E to remember tip 2 “game changer”!

  4. Rhonda Desgranges

    Love the tips. I have just started doing FMQ with my machine. Thanks!

  5. Beth B

    Thanks for the good ideas. Will give this a try.

  6. Kathy E.

    Tip #2 is one I need to remember. Having those knots on the back side are so ugly and not so easy to fix. I didn’t realize there was a way to avoid them…but I do now!

  7. Rolanda Tovey

    I like the no rules to break comment.

  8. Linda Webster

    Thanks for the great tips. I’m improving with my free motion quilting and love it.

  9. Sandy Allen

    Thanks for the tips! I haven’t tried free motion quilting yet on my machine, so I may just give it a try now!

    • Sandy, to get the hang of it, start small – a placemat or the runner, then move to larger items. Good Luck!

  10. Cathie Scanlon

    Love these ideas for quilting this runner. I tend to over quilt, this looks much better with a light quilting hand. Now I just need to remember that!

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