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Boost your free motion quilting skills with these 3 nature-inspired designs

by Robin Bogaert

This week, I started out with simple fill stitches and tips for success with Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).  Yesterday, we looked at 3 different spiral designs. Today, I want to discuss organic looking leaves, feathers, and plumes to add some very beautiful texture to quilts. I continue to work with Gütermann Sew-All Threads, Metallic Threads and Cotton Threads as well as Fabric Creations – Grey Textured fabric, and of course the very versatile UNIQUE Sewing Wash-out Marker.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to draw the designs ahead of time and practice the brain to get ready for FMQ.  Below are the drawings I’ll be discussing today: FMQ continuous leaves, leaf borders, feathers and combining feathers, swirls, leaves and plumes.

Drawing leaves, feathers and plumes for free motion quilting.

Pre-drawing leaves, leaf borders, feathers, combining leaves, feathers, plumes and swirl designs to get ready for FMQ

Design 1 Continuous leaves

The continuous leaf design is drawn out as shown below.

 How to draw a leaf free motion quilting design, continuous free motion quilted leaf design

How to draw the continuous leaf design before quilting it

How to draw a continuous leaf design for Free Motion Quilting

Full continuous leaf design; follow the numbers to see how the leaves are drawn out

Continuous leaf free motion design on gray fabric with a spool of green thread on top; UNIQUE Quilting Therm Fleece, Fabric Creations Textured Grey fabric, Gütermann Thread, Gütermann Cotton Thread

Continuous leaf practice sample with Gütermann Cotton Thread in green, an organic design that looks great in green thread!

Design 2 Borders

The leaf borders and feathers are drawn out as shown below.

Designs of leaf and feather borders drawn on white paper

Leaf border designs and feather designs

Drawing a leaf free motion quilting design with a black marker.

How to draw the leaf border design

As you can see, the stem is drawn continuously as you move to the next leaf. Follow the numbers to design the leaf.

Leaf border design in black ink on white paper.

Continuing to draw the leaf border design

With the feather borders, draw the vein through the middle, first starting at the top moving downwards. When you reach the bottom, draw the first thumb almost like half a heart, and then move your way up the center vein.

Drawing a feather Free Motion Quilting design in black ink on white paper.

Drawing a feather border design

Drawing a feather free motion quilting design in black ink on white paper.

The right side is complete

Draw the other side of the feather continuously from the top down as shown.

Completed feather quilting design drawn in black ink on white paper.

Feather design completed

The straight feather is done in the exact same manner except using a straight center vein, and I tried to omit the gaps between the feathers (a personal choice).

Feather and leaf free motion quilting Designs on grey fabric with a spool of black thread lying on top; Gütermann Thread

Finished leaf and feather FMQ design with black Gütermann thread

Design 3 Combining leaves, feathers, plumes and swirls

Swirls are really just an elongated leaf without veins.  Below is the drawing practice.

Leaf, feather and plume free motion quilting designs drawn with black ink on white paper.

Drawing practice for leaf, feathers and plumes

This design is pretty self-explanatory if you’ve practiced the feathers. As shown, the plumes are elongated leaves in shape, and then swirls are added in between randomly.

Drawing of a design that combines feathers and spirals, in black ink and on white paper.

How to draw feathers and spirals

Drawing a plume and swirl free motion quilting design with black ink on white paper

Finishing the design

A spool of black Gütermann thread lies on top of a piece of gray fabric quilted with leaves, feathers, plumes and swirls in black thread.

Feathers, leaves, plumes combined with swirls and stitched with black Gütermann thread

3 potholders made with quilted samples showing leaf, plume and swirl free motion quilting designs; Fabric Creations

Completed designs as potholders

Join me tomorrow for a discussion about some exciting Sew Easy Monster and Circle templates. I’ll discuss how templates and Sew Easy Freezer Paper can help with quilt marking and the design process. I’ll also share my process for making these quilt practice samples into easy, practical potholders, ready for gift giving.

This is part 4 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 3: How to free motion spirals on your quilt: 3 dynamic designs

Go to part 5: 2 great template sets you need for impressive free motion quilting


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