How To Combine Free Motion Texture Quilting with Custom Quilting on Kimbra’s Quilt

For our first How Would You Quilt It? of 2023 we looked at Kimbra’s beautiful, dramatic quilt top. Each month during our monthly Quilted Joy Clubhouse Livestream folks submit a photo of an unquilted top and I pick one to show how I would quilt it. 

There are so many different patterns in the fabrics Kimbra chose for her quilt. They range from hexagons, polka dots, chevrons, and stripes. It’s an absolute FEAST for the eyes. However, with quilts that have this much going on it can be challenging to decide what quilting would best enhance the quilt top.

The problem is that if you use an edge-to-edge pantograph with a definitive motif, for example, a detailed feather pattern like this one that I love, it runs the risk of being too busy or being simply too much against the dramatic colors and patterns. A detailed pantograph would run the risk of adding another design layer that could overpower the quilt instead of just complimenting it with texture.

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The January Quilted Joy Clubhouse livestream was all about adding texture through free motion designs, and Kimbra’s quilt is the perfect example of how these designs can really make a quilt sing. Be sure to watch the replay as I step out my thought process on her quilt.

Where to Start

In Kimbra’s quilt, the individual units are composed of two 2″ strips. Each unit alternates orientation. So, one unit’s strips run North to South, then the neighboring unit’s strips run East to West. I use those seams to align my loops! Don’t you love it when the seams do all the hard work so you don’t have to mark anything during the quilting process? Her seams break down the space and give me targets which assist with aligning the repeats of my quilting motif.  I’m using a lower case cursive letter “L” shape. It adds a repetitive texture, which allows the fabric to do all the talking while the quilting plays a supporting role. 

Here’s what it would look like with an all over texture without stopping for her corner blocks or the center star. It is nice but it diminished the star power of her butterfly blocks. I wanted to encourage the eye to drink them in a bit more by changing the quilting in those areas. 

See what I mean? The texture is nice but we can make this quilt sing by adding some custom quilting.

Enhancing the Center Star

Take a close look at how the piecing makes a central medallion in her quilt. The challenge was how to accentuate it and draw the eye to the star formed by those center blocks.

First, to add structure, I stitched in the ditch all around the fussy cut focal butterfly squares and the star. My next consideration was keeping the center from melting into the background. The light grey fabric around the star is where I can accomplish a couple of things. 

This area is a great super highway I can use to travel around the background to dip in and out of areas without drawing the eye. But, it is also a great place to put dense, small meanderings and stippling to define the large star better. Simple chevrons around the triangles are an easy way to complement the star’s angles.

Mirroring the stippling on the outer portion of the block, I added stippling around the butterfly focal squares on point to give me an easy hidden pathway to travel around the block and it also frames out her beautiful butterflies.  

Next I wanted to replicate the chevron shapes used in the grey stars in the yellow fabric around the butterflies. Repeating motifs and calling back to other portions of a quilt bring its voice into harmony. I love how the simple quilting lines in the central star brings attention to the medallion those blocks create.

Let's Take a Look at the Corner Blocks:

In thinking about the corner block my goal was to find a way to accentuate them against the background. We talk about magic portals during our time at the Clubhouse and how find them so we can dip into and out of spaces as needed to eliminate as many stops and starts as possible.  Corners are always great places to pass through to a new space. In this case I knew I wanted to enter in the top of the central square in square so I could stitch a simple arc to travel around the middle of the block easily. 

To get there, I used a simple curve down to the middle flying geese unit on the top row,  I repeated the cursive letter “l” shape used before so I can get to the top of the large triangle of her goose. I know my goal is to get to the top seam intersection of the central square in square. So, a simple diamond will get me there. That gets me ready to drop down into the square in square unit in the middle of her block.  

After finishing the middle square in square, I exit out the top of the triangle of her goose and continue my way around the block. Be sure to watch the video and you’ll be able to see my path. 

The Finished Quilt Design:

What do you think? By adding texture through a free motion loopy design in the background, I can push that area away from the eye. The custom quilting in the corner blocks and central mediallion come forward to the eye to great it and welcome the viewer into the quilt. 

Of course, Kimbra can quilt her quilt how ever she likes! I’m looking forward to seeing what she chooses. Let me know what you thought about this quilting plan down in the comments!

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Angela Huffman- Triplet Momma. Quilter. Teacher. Thread Bimbo

I’m Angela- Co-host of the Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting PBS show. APQS Long arm Dealer and Educator. Triplet Momma. Designer. Thread Bimbo.

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