Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Free-Motion Swirls: A Tutorial

A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.

Last month {has it been that long already?} I guest posted over at Sew Inspired for her Focus On Free-Motion. One of the things I really love to quilt are swirls, especially in 1" sashing. They just seem to go together really well. There were a couple of questions in the comments on how I quilt my favorite swirls. I finally got my act together and have written up some basic instructions. Click here for a downloadable, printable PDF of this tutorial.

First, I've broken down the design into steps. I alternate the direction that the swirls go, which I think makes for a very pretty effect. The illustration below moves from left to right, but when I quilt, I don't rotate the quilt. North always faces north, east faces east, etc., so I've learned to do swirls up and down and left and right. As you follow the illustration, you'll see that you have to backtrack a little bit, but the swirls are made in one continuous line of quilting, with no stops or starts on a row.

I love to quilt this design in 1” sashing. I think it makes a lovely border. So, I mark my quilt at 1” intervals so that I have a framework that will keep the swirls even.

I always sketch out this design beforehand to make sure I know which way to go to make corners and intersections look seamless. I usually start in the bottom left corner and quilt all the way around the outer edge of the quilt first. I start at the very center of the swirl {step 2 in the diagram above} because this is not only the starting place, but the stopping place and it makes it easier to join the last swirl with the first if you start in the center.

Then I start quilting up the left side, alternating directions as I go.

When I reach the top left corner, I move left to right across the top. This is where sketching the design out really helps, because you know which way to go at the corner. Depending on the size of your blocks, the direction of the swirl may be different. If you are working with odd sized blocks {3”, 5”, 7”, etc.} then you will start and end the same at each corner {swirls will both be up or both be down}. If you are working with even sized blocks {4”, 6”, 8”, etc.} then the corners will be opposite {one swirl will be up and one will be down}.

Once you reach the top right corner, move down the right side of the quilt.

From the bottom left corner move back to the bottom right corner and join the last swirl with the first. I have to work this out on paper every time I do a quilt to make sure that I get it right when I quilt it.

After I have finished the “frame” around the quilt, I go back and fill in any rows or columns. Again, sketching it out beforehand is helpful to know which way to join a new row onto an existing column {or new column onto an existing row}.

Here is the completed sketch.

Here is an example on a quilt. You can see where I marked the sashing to help keep the swirls even.

On this quilt the swirls intersect at every block and run throughout the entire quilt.

And here's another example of the swirls used only as an outside border for this block.


mom said...

That is a very infomative set of instructions. Giving each step by step picture and word helps a lot. and such beautiful examples!
I'm not sure I'll ever get to it but I sure do understand it.

Karens Quilts, Crows and Cardinals said...

Liz -- Thank You ! The instructions are perfect -- and the quilt is as beautiful as the first time I saw it!! Makes me want to put sashing's on all my quilts !!

Hope to try the method out soon.
Thanks again,


Barb said...

Your swirls look awesome, thanks for the tutorial!

Unknown said...

I think I asked you this before, but what machine do you use? I'm still beating my head into the wall.... using my 'antique' Pfaff Creative 1471. I did cough up the dough to get a new presser foot. I find that I have to really yank the fabric sandwich thru the machine. Please just pack up your bags and come to Ohio to help me. Problem solved that way.

Shay said...

OK I read it , loved the instructions and now just have to get up the guts to do it !

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I really like that border. I is versatile and looks great.

Paulette said...

Thanks for doing such a thorough tute! Do you really quilt backwards up that first leg of the square? Not sure I could do that...maybe with lots of practice. I can't see where I'm going so well in that direction, so I'd probably flip it and go top to bottom. Well, I guess one of these days I need to get the party started on that B&W quilt, don't I? ;)

Michelle said...

Awesome-ness! I am bookmarking this for future reference. Thanks so much!

QuiltNut Creations said...

Thanx for sharing, will be trying these.