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Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge - December Tutorial: FMQ Borders, by Patsy Thompson

I am delighted to have Patsy Thompson as our December FMQ Expert, for the 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge.  When I personally set out to learn FMQ, it was Kelly Jackson of I Have A Notion (IHAN) that recommended Patsy's DVDs to me.  Based on Kelly's recommendation, I purchased one of Patsy's DVDs and was so impressed with how much I learned, I've been actively adding her DVDs and books to my library whenever I can.  They are all inspirational, full of tips and easy to follow steps to learn and/or improve your free-motion quilting skills.  SewCalGal gives them all a 5 star rating and views they are a "must have" for any quilter interested in FMQ!

From my first exposure to Patsy, I've been amazed with the beauty of Patsy's free-motion quilting.  Her DVDs give me a feeling of attending a private class with her and I can watch and learn on my schedule, take breaks and repeat any portion as I wish. While I've watched many of her DVDs from start to finish many times, I still enjoy watching them frequently.  And,  I continue to take Patsy's DVDs with me when I travel and I continue to learn from them too! 

Patsy has provided a personal introduction, as well as an excellent tutorial.  Still, I want to share a few more insights with you today about this amazing woman.

Once I was introduced to Patsy's free-motion quilting DVDs and books, I quickly realized what a talented quilter she is.  I set my sights on building a library that contained all of her DVDs and books, but I want to clarify these are not items that sit on the shelf and collect dust.  They are truly my favorite source of free-motion quilting educational tools and items that I always recommend to anyone interested in learning/improving their free-motion quilting skills.  

I'll also confess that I became a stalker of Patsy, eager for her blog posts where she shares tips and inspirational insights, enjoying her newsletter, as well as learning about new products.  And somewhere along the way, I like to think developed a deep and sincere admiration and respect for this woman who has a vibrant and generous soul that radiates in all she does in life, including her quilting.  

Besides teaching through her DVDs and Books, Patsy has also taught through classes on The Quilt Show.  And, Patsy travels to teach a variety of classes. While I feel I have taken her classes, by watching her DVDs, I'm still eager to take a physical class with Patsy.  And, I keep an eye out for where she is teaching, as well as work to do what I can to get her to come teach in my area of So. California. You may want to talk to your Quilt Guild Program Coordinator and/or local Quilt Shop to have them schedule a class with Patsy in your area.  She teaches a variety of classes for free-motion quilting, trapunto, applique' quilts, couching and threadplay, and more!

If you haven't yet seen her free videos on YouTube, I hope you'll find time to watch them soon.  Excellent.

She is also the author of two inspirational free-motion quilting books.

She has produced nine free-motion quilting dvds that are all excellent!

She has a line of "Appli-K-Kutz Fabric Cutting Dies by PTD" that are compatible with  the Sizzix® Big Kick, the Sizzix® Big Shot, and the Sizzix® Big Shot Pro.

This past year, Patsy also launched a line of beautify machine embroidery designs that work well with the applique' shapes cut with the above dies.   

And, Patsy has a great online shop with many other products too.

I hope you see why I'm so delighted to have Patsy as our FMQ Expert this month and that you enjoy the great tutorial she has shared with us too!  I love it!

If you would like to learn more about Patsy and her designs, you can find her at: 

December Free-Motion Quilting Tutorial
by Patsy Thompson 

I have been quilting for 35 years and was a hand quilter for the first 25.  I really loved the peace of mind that came with hand quilting and never had any interest in machine quilting until I started looking closely at quilts in shows and realized there were many cool effects that were possible by machine that could not be done by hand.  This made me decide to learn machine quilting and it was a very difficult and frustrating process for me.  Once I got “over the hump,” though, FMQ became an incredibly fun, exhilarating and relaxing activity for me.  (The irony of exhilarating and relaxing in the same breath is not lost on me, but FMQ really has both effects!)  Teaching others to FMQ brings me a lot of joy; nothing is more thrilling than seeing a student climb over that same “hump” and jump feet first into the exciting world of FMQ!

Free-Motion Quilting in Borders

Hello quilting friends!  I’m so honored that SewCalGal asked me to be part of the Free Motion Quilting Challenge.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this incredible free motion quilting journey as much as I have!   You’ve had 11 months of incredible lessons from other teachers and I don’t want to be repetitious, so I will limit myself to some basic principles of machine quilting the border areas on your quilts.  This tutorial has 2 parts.  Part I is a summary of basic border principles coupled with some drawing/stitching exercises to inspire you to play with border design ideas.  Part II is a video tutorial that will teach you how to create one type of feather border that appears very complex and sophisticated, but is actually one of the simplest feather border designs one can create.  I want you to walk away from this posting overflowing with excitement and a sense that border design ideas are limitless!  I’ve got a lot I want to share, so let’s get to it!

Part I

As you begin Part I, please print at least one copy of the Border Design Worksheet pdf and have a sharp pencil with an eraser available.

 If there is any part of you that is groaning and thinking “But I can’t draw,” banish the thought!  Really… banish that thought!   I can’t draw very well, either (you’ll soon see evidence of that), but doodling is key to developing your free motion work, so buck up and get used to it!

The border zones of quilts are special areas in that these act as frames for whatever is inside them.  You have the ability to accentuate the “power” of the frame by quilting some type of interesting design inside the border zone.  Sometimes, you will have multiple border areas on a given quilt.  When border zones are directly next to one another, know that you will get extra bang from your buck by stitching very different designs on adjacent border zones as this will create a more complex appearing frame.  You won’t be able to appreciate it until all the borders on a given quilt have been stitched, but the visual impact of how different border designs interact with one another creates a secondary design that will add a new level of richness to your quilt.  As an example, in the photo below:

we see a feathered wreath surrounded by feathers in the center block, and a simple feather/swirl border design in the narrow border that surrounds the main block.  If we expand our view as shown in this photo,

we now have some interesting frame lines created by the 8 freeform feathers that surround that narrow border.  We are already beginning to appreciate the visual interplay created by the interaction of all these flowing lines.  If we expand our view even further as in this photo,

we can really appreciate that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Think about it…this is really a very basic (maybe even humdrum) Amish quilt, but the secondary design created by these lovely flowing curvaceous lines has added a depth and richness to this quilt.  The take-home message here is that your free motion quilting can really make your quilts far more interesting!  This current example used feather designs, but we’ll now move to different types of border designs, and you’ll see that this same principle will hold true here as well.

Let’s begin by creating a very simple border design.  On your worksheet, you’ll notice there are 6 empty border spaces ranging from ½ inches wide to 1 ½ inches wide.  I’m going to fill one of the ½ inch wide borders with a basic design I’ll call worms:

click here to download pdf1  {optional download, as you may want to just download the first worksheet, which is blank and 5A & 5b}

This design is created by merely stitching an undulating line back and forth between the edges of the border, curving the line as you reach either extreme.  Know that this design looks better if the worms are on the skinnier side.   The 4 corners of your border will generally need to be treated somewhat differently than the primary border design, but don’t let that challenge throw you.  Your goal here will often be to merely come up with some design you can angle along the miter line, and I have merely thrown in a seashell motif in this example.

click here to download pdf2  {optional download, as you may want to just download the first worksheet, which is blank and 5A & 5b}

In our 2nd example, the design is actually created in 2 runs of stitching.  The first run is done exactly as in the first example, except that I stitched my worms as fatter worms.  In the second run of stitching, a second round of worms were stitched, but in the opposite orientation, and this is how these ovals are formed. Take care to keep your ovals tightly snugged up against one another or you won’t like the way this design turns out!   I filled my corner zone with pebbling, and I hope this gives you a sense of how easy it is to add some unexpected punch to your borders.  Sometimes, throwing a background fill design into a corner can really jazz things up!  And one more tip…these last 2 designs are both good examples of the fact that oftentimes, your design will be more striking if you deliberately don’t carry your stitching line all the way to touch the threads that have been stitched in the ditch.  This move will make your border design stand out more distinctively.

click here to download pdf3  {optional download, as you may want to just download the first worksheet, which is blank and 5A & 5b}

In our next example, I’m again going to use a background fill design as a border design.  Here, I’ve stitched a line of swirls inside the border zone, and notice that I’ve cleared the corner by stitching a swirl inside it. Sometimes this will work out and other times, it won’t and you’ll just need to be flexible.  Remember from the preceding example, you can get very creative with what you use to fill that corner space.  That’s part of the reason to play with border design ideas on paper-there are no stitches to be ripped out when a design idea doesn’t work out well!  We’ve only gone through 3 border designs so far, but can you already see how these designs interplay with one another in a way that makes them all look even better?  Pretty cool stuff!

click here to download pdf4  {optional download, as you may want to just download the first worksheet, which is blank and 5A & 5b}

Ok, this next design looks very complicated, but you can do this!  The secret to creating complex-appearing designs is to break them down into manageable parts.  To start, mark small tick marks all along the lower edge of the border at ½ inch increments.  You’ll create this design by starting to stitch a seashell (that’s my term for a teardrop with one or more smaller teardrops inside it) with the tip of each seashell hitting the tick mark.  In between each seashell, you’ll stitch a tiny loop and then travel to the next tick mark to begin the next seashell.  In the corner, I’ve stitched a small splay with a skinny teardrop at the tip, but you could stitch all kinds of things here.  Notice, though, that it’s kind of nice to have some variety in what designs are stitched in the corners, especially when you have multiple borders adjacent to one another.  Before you leave this design, take a moment to analyze it.  Do you see how easy it might be to alter it just a bit to create a different border design?  For example, what would happen if we converted the curve at the top of the seashells to points?  This kind of thinking will enable you to keep generating new quilting design ideas.

Now that you’ve proven to yourself that you can create a complex border design (I’m applauding for you but you can’t hear it!), I’m going to throw in a real ringer!  For this next border we’re going to stitch the basic feather wave border shown above.  This feather border is different than most feather borders you see and it’s all because of the way the spine guideline is drawn.  For most feather borders, the spine guideline (or the curve of the feather), is oriented such that there is space on both sides of the spine to stitch plumes.  This is not the case for feather wave borders.  In these borders, the spine is stitched such that there is room for plumes on only one side of the spine or curve of the feather.  This is what creates the very dramatic ebb and flow of feather wave borders.  So, the first step in creating this type of border is to draw a spine guideline that literally curves from one extreme of the border edge to the opposite border edge, as shown below:

(I created this guideline by bending a flexible curve ruler and then tracing alongside it.  You’ll learn more about how to use flexible curve rulers in the video that follows.)  When working on your quilt, you’d next go and stitch this entire spine line as it meandered across all four sides of the quilt.  Once done, you’d stitch your plumes, deliberately carrying your stitching line so that each plume tip actually touched the edges of the border.  This is a feather wave border in its purest form, but know that there are many variations of this type of border design!

If you stand back and look at these border designs as a group, can you see that the feather wave border and the swirl border have a property the other designs do not?  Those 2 designs leave you with a sense of movement while the other border designs are static.  Coupling static designs and flowing designs closely together has a very dramatic impact.

I was going to show you one more design until I realized this has already become way too long of a post, and you haven’t even gotten to the video yet!  So, that last border zone is for you to try out some design idea of your own.  My challenge to you is:

  1. Using a pencil and a blank worksheet, allow yourself the freedom to play with border design ideas.  Drawing designs in pencil will help you learn the roadmap to stitch them in thread, so this is not wasted time.  Avoid falling into the trap of feeling you can’t do this because you can’t draw.  Trust me, the only way anyone learns to draw is by doing it repeatedly!  
  2. Create a 20-24 inch square quilt sandwich and trace a 4 inch square in the center. (Tip:  Use a solid fabric or a gently mottled fabric so you'll be able to easily see your stitching.).   Trace a few ½ inch, ¾ inch, 1 inch and 1 ½ inch border zones.  Stitch all these traced lines such that true border zones have been created. Don’t feel pressured to fill them all right away, but take your time with this exercise.  Try stitching out some designs that we’ve discussed here and stitch some of your own.  You’ll be amazed how much fun you’ll have doing this! 
  3. If you have a quilt with a border zone that needs to be filled, stitch the centered feather border design that’s taught in the following video.  This is another example of a complex appearing design that is surprisingly easy to stitch once you break it down into its parts.

If you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, I hope you’ll stop by my blog to see what I’m up to and also stop by my web site.  There are free downloadable line drawings for free motion quilting designs, free video tutorials, an online store for quilting supplies, and all kinds of inspiration!  You can find me at:

Now go watch the video and while you’re at it, have a wonderful holiday season!

For those using a MAC or want to watch this video directly from YouTube vs embedded in this post, here is the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKlMTl4XwSY

Thank you Patsy for providing us with the above tutorial!

And, Patsy has generously offered a special discount to participants in the 2012 FMQ Challenge on  any PTD product in her online store (e.g. PTD books, PTD DVDs, PTD patterns, and PTD fabric cutting dies), exluding bundles, through December 31st and receive a 15% discount.  Use the discount code:  FMQchallenge (code is case sensitive).


While this challenge is focused on learning and/or improving our free-motion quilting skills, you also have the opportunity to win prizes. To be eligible to win a monthly prize, simply complete the current months' tutorial in the month it is released and get your entry submitted via the
But do remember this challenge is more about learning and improving your FMQ skills, so don't rush thru the exercise just to enter. Take time to practice and embed this design to your muscle memory, before you enter. To clarify, DO NOT just add a link to your blog, but to your post that shows that you have completed this tutorial. You get one link, so keep practicing until you feel you are finished with this tutorial.

For bloggers:

Please post your entry on your blog. To clarify, you can include as many photos of this tutorial exercise in your post, but you can only add one link to the linky tool below. You may also want to include insights in your post about your past FMQ experience and thoughts about this tutorial. Totally, optional, but you may also want to let everyone know that you have taken the Pledge and you did this exercise to enter the the challenge this month, where randomly selected winners will win a prize. You may inspire others to want to join this challenge too!

For non-Bloggers:

1) You will need to have a Flickr account (www.flickr.com). 
2) Upload your photos for this month's challenge to Flickr, batch organize, send your photos to groups, select "2012 FMQ Challenge". While Flickr, limits the amount of text you can share in your description, feel free to share your perspective on this exercise and/or your past FMQ experience, if you wish.
3) After your photos have successfully been loaded to the "2012 FMQ Challenge" group, click on your best photo in that group, ideally one that shows the stencil and how you quilted using that stencil. Copy the URL link to your particular photo entry. Add that link to the linky tool above, to officially enter this show.

Remember only one link (entry) per person that has taken the pledge to learn and/or improve their Free Motion Quilting Skills, on a home sewing machine, in 2012.

For those that may need help to link up the link to their tutorial project, to the linky for this challenge, Dana (Stormy Days) has also written an excellent tutorial for using linkies, so please take time to read her tutorial if you are not familiar with linkys or have any questions about linkys, in general. Please read the rules above, before you enter by way of adding a link below.   And, Only add one link after you have practiced the tutorial to master the design. No rush, you have all month to practice and enter. Please follow the rules on this tutorial post, before you add a link.

Participants of SewCalGal's 2012 FMQ Challenge can link here, during December, to enter to win a monthly!  There will be six lucky winners this month.  One will receive the monthly prize bundle.  And, thanks to Patsy, five winners will receive a copy of her DVD "4th Volume of Free Motion Fun With Feathers".  This DVD is a 2-volume set that covers all kinds of feather border and feather frame designs.  The retail price of this DVD set is $44.95  Winners of this wonderful DVD set will need to pay for shipping, regardless if the winner is a US or International resident.


To officially be entered in the 2012 FMQ Challenge please take time to fill out the Pledge Form" .

There are two "optional" groups that you may also want to join to network with others participating in this challenge:
Those on Facebook, may also want to join the 2012 Free Motion Quilting group.
There is also a free forum hosted by AQS that has been setup for participants in this challenge.   Simply visit My Quilt Place, create an account or log in, click on groups and join the group "Free Motion Quilting on a Domestic Sewing Machine".

If you have not yet completed the previous tutorials, here are the links:

"Bonus" tutorials will be released, this summer, that will also be options for those needing to complete 12 FMQ tutorials anytime in 2012 to be eligible to enter to win a Grand Prize. 

And, don't forget you can find Patsy at:
Patsy Thompson Designs: http://www.patsythompsondesigns.com/
          Blog:  http://www.patsythompsondesigns.com/blog/ 

I'm also interested in hearing what you might like to see Patsy create in the future.  Would you like to see a DVD for sale with more insights on doing FMQ on borders or wholecloth quilts, a DVD on machine applique beyond the blanket stitch?, more PTD fabric dies, more PTD patterns, more PTD machine embroidery designs?  Feel free to leave a comment or email SewCalGal.  Maybe if their are enough of us interested in a common product, the talented Patsy will create it.  

Copyright Reminder:  This site is copyright protected.  You are certainly authorized to print and use this tutorial for your own use. Please DO NOT print and share any part of this tutorial post, nor share electronically, without written permission from Patsy Thompson and SewCalGal.



Jacquelin said...

Excelente tutorial. Gracias a Patsy y a SewCalGal. Estoy impaciente por empezar. Me gustaría profundizar en el diseño de Wholecloth. Gracias de nuevo.

Quilting Babcia said...

What a fantastic finale to our year-long challenge! This tutorial will keep us busy for far more than one month, what with all the possibilities it presents! Thank you Patsy for sharing your expertise and beautiful design work with us! In keeping with SewCalGal's request, I'd love to see more inspiration for applique stitching in both DVD and book form. I'm a book person myself, since it's easily portable for reference at my machine, etc. And, as always my heartfelt thanks to SewCalGal for persevering through the year to bring all these tutorials to us! This has been an outstanding learning experience in every way!

MalinisQuilts said...

I am a great fan of Patsy Thompson's FMQ. I first stumbled up her videos on YouTube trying to learn free motion quilting. Your work is amazing, Patsy! I am so inspired after watching your video for December tutorial. May be I should try a mini quilting with all your features if only time permits.

Thanks again SewCalGal and Patsy for sharing this wonderful tutorial.

teachpany said...

Patsy, thanks so much for this great presentation. The explanation and ideas are excellent. I have watched many of your youtube videos, and hope to get V4 collection. I'm so inspired! I do have a border I need to quilt, and now I'm thinking! Thanks. SewCal Gal, thanks again for all your hard work in this. This was an outstanding project, and very helpful. I'm so grateful that you did this, and challenged us all. Thank you, from the bottom of my feathers! lol

Phyl said...

Patsy, I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Because of you, I became an art quilter and finally gave up stippling as a way of "Just getting the layers together" Now, I create on my quilts with a lot more confidence.

Janet O. said...

I am so excited for this challenge. I have a few of Patsy's DVDs and love them! This month will really be a stretch for me, but I want to do it. Thank you to Patsy and to you for arranging this!

Mary Ann said...

I can't wait to begin!! I'd love to see a DVD on whole cloth quilting from planning to completion. Thank you for a fantastic year. This challenge has truly been a blessing!

jan said...

WOW and douible WOW, thank you SewCalGal for setting us up with Patsy for our Grand Finale. What a wonderful year of inspirations this has been for me, and to have this fantastic one for the final, I am overwhelmed. I have saved all of it will print it out for my own use tomorrow and read until it sinks in my head. WOW. Thank you thank you.

Sheila said...

I've met Patsy and seen her amazing quilts, being lucky enough to live near her. She is as sweet, patient and encouraging as she seems on this video! We are very lucky to have this tutorial....

Newbie Jen said...

Wow! There is a lot of fantastic information packed into this month's tutorial! It is a little intimidating, but I know it will be fun!

I've never seen those bendable rulers before, where do you get them?

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled that Patsy is our instructor this month, I love her work and have watched her videos repeatedly. Thanks for an excellent tutorial, a fantastic end to a really great year!

Barb said...

Patsy is so amazing...I have two of her DVD's, I really need to get them out and watch them. Thanks for this awesome challenge.

Diane Wild said...

My image didn't turn out right. Sorry, I don't know what happened. But, check out my blog everyone and see what I did. Great Challenge.

Sue Halter said...

I so enjoyed these borders challenge. Thank you Patsy, for a wonderful tutorial.

And thanks to SewCalGal for giving me a place where I could learn about free motion from the pros and improve my skills. The past year has been a wonderful experience for me.

Sue in Belton TX

Editfolt said...

Thank you for the opportunity to challenge the whole year. Greetings from Hungary. I wish you good luck!

Editfolt said...

Thank you for the opportunity to challenge the whole year. Greetings from Hungary. I wish you good luck!

Kate C said...

Wonderful tutorial! I especially liked learning how to use the flexible ruler to plan out the borders evenly...thanks so much!

BillieBee (billiemick) said...

I finished December. Great tute! Thanks.

Raewyn said...

Thank you!! I have enjoyed this month's tutorial and challenge as well. I'd love more fmq-ing insights from Patsy in the future - although she seems like a talented lady who can turn her hand to many things!

Kay Lynne said...

Thank you taking the time to put all this information together--Patsy! Hey quilters--if you have an opportunity to take a class from Patsy in person, take it. My mom and I had a wonderful time taking her class. Her quilts even look more beautiful in person.