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Free Motion Quilting: Landscape Elements & Modern Quilts


Landscape elements are great for modern quilts!

Sometimes it’s a challenge to decide on the free motion quilting design to use for quilts such as landscapes, art quilts and modern quilts. In these cases, nature designs such as pebbles, water ripples and flames work so much better than hearts, stars or leaves. You can use a single element as an edge to edge, overall design, or use multiple elements together to get the look you want. Using a thicker thread such as Spagetti (12 wt 100% Egyptian cotton, from WonderFil) like I’m using today, makes these quilting designs really stand out!

Loops turn into pebbles, and pebbles turn into bricks

Once you master loops like I showed you yesterday, the next step is to squish them together to make pebbles. You travel from one loop, directly to the one beside and if needed, you can travel over top of stitches that you have already done in order to get where you need to go next. Here’s an example of my pebbles done with Spagetti thread from WonderFil.

Peddles machine quilted with Fruitti thread from WonderFil
Peddles machine quilted with Fruitti thread from WonderFil

Pebbles that are squared off can easily turn into bricks. These can be overlapped regularly or irregularly to achieve the look you desire. As with the pebbles, you can travel over already stitched lines if you need to in order to make the next brick. Here’s my sample of free motion machine quilted bricks.

Bricks machine quilted with Fruitti from WonderFil
Bricks machine quilted with Fruitti from WonderFil

Water ripples – everyone flows their own way

The key to quilting water ripples is to relax and let them flow either from side to side or from top to bottom. When I’m teaching my students, I always find it funny that people can usually quilt the ripples either one way or the other but not both. Personally I find it so much easier to go from side to side in a swaying motion. The trick is to make them random like they would appear in nature. Try it both ways to see which is your favorite way. Here is my water ripple sample:

Free motion water ripples quilted from side to side.
Free motion water ripples quilted from side to side.

Free motion flames can make great tree bark

Being able to quilt flames is a great asset as you can integrate them into other designs so well, but even though they appear simple, sometimes they take a bit of practice to master. Basically the shape is an elongated “S” with pointed ends repeated over and over again. Here is a video of me quilting the flames on my longarm. As you can see, the flames can easily change into tree bark when a quilted knot is inserted randomly between the lines as shown in the photo below the video.

Free motion machine quilting a flame design – YouTube

Christine Baker of Fairfield Road Designs demonstrates how to free motion machine quilt a flame design using Spagetti thread from WonderFil.


Machine quilted "flames" turned into tree bark.
Machine quilted “flames” turned into tree bark.



Stepping out of your free motion “box”

Boxes are great designs for quilting modern quilts or quilts for men and boys. I’m lucky that my longarm machine has a vertical and horizontal lock so I can make perfectly squared-off rectangles and boxes, but even slightly uneven overlapping boxes and rectangles look amazing when used for certain quilts. Here are samples of my freehand boxes and my longarm “assisted” boxes.

Machine quilted boxes and rectangles using Spagetti thread from WonderFil.
Machine quilted boxes and rectangles using Spagetti thread from WonderFil.

Getting that “Modern Look” with free motion quilting

Modern quilts are really taking the quilting world by storm and if you haven’t checked out The Modern Quilt Guild  or other organizations like it online, you really should! If you check out my “Modern Quilts” board on Pinterest you’ll see lots of examples of how quilting designs like I’ve shown you today have been used. So whether you are a traditionalist, and art quilter or a modern quilt lover, now you have a few more free motion quilting designs to add to your repertoire.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2: Free Motion Quilting with Fruitti from WonderFil
Go to part 4: Free Motion Quilting Fun with Flowers


I have been designing and publishing quilt patterns for the last 16 years under the business name Fairfield Road Designs. My patterns range from fusible applique and piecing to felted wool applique and punchneedle. You can see all of patterns on my website


  1. Hi Christine! I love your video showing how you went back and filled in areas. Great tip! Thank you for sharing. Happy Monday to you! ~smile~ Roseanne

  2. Linda

    Very useful Tutorial ! Thank You!

  3. Greta

    Great tips!

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