Longarm Quilting Skill Builder

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Small Whole Cloth Quilting Skill Builder

I love to look at whole cloth quilts, but I’d need some serious skills to be able to make one! I decided I should make a skill builder design for myself to practice my longarm quilting. Specifically, I wanted to practice:

  • Filling in shapes with different designs
  • Consistency in the filling motifs
  • Ruler work
  • Speed & Confidence

First steps in Adobe Illustrator.

The design I’m sharing with you today will finish at?38″ square. I figured this way it would be a small enough piece to not agonize over, but larger enough to apply to quadrants of a quilt if I wanted to make a bed size quilt. (Well, it’d have to have borders to really be bed-size, but that is neither here nor there.) Ok- page set up 38″ square. In a nutshell- draw a line this way, pull a curve that way, rotate around a center mark…. Ta’dah! Well, it wasn’t THAT easy, I made a rough draft, tested it, tweaked it and then TA’DAH – the image below.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

That is pretty neat, right? Then I realized that there’s no way I wanted to print a bunch of pages, tape them together and have a 38″ piece of paper. Designing just a quadrant solved the problem. Hooray! It prints on only 6 pages. Click here to download the quadrant pdf for yourself.

If you make a wholecloth skill builder like this one and share it, please use the hashtag #FMFWQ. Why you ask? This concept has grown into a full-on book, Free-Motion Framework, shipping May of 2018. Pre-order it on AMAZON.

Free-Motion Framework Machine Quilting Skill Builder Book | Wholecloth book | Jen Eskridge | C&T Publishing

Updated to add: See all the Free-Motion Framework details, workshops, projects, and samples here.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Let me show you how I used my whole cloth skill builder design:

((I was working from the rough draft illustrator design so the design lines vary slightly. ))

Print the quadrant and choose to “tile pages” to print 6 pieces of paper on a pc or do this for a mac.

First, I found a piece of fabric roughly 1-1/4″ x 42″ (width of fabric). Fold it in half lengthwise and width-wise to find the center and mark the exact vertical and horizontal guide lines. Press.

Tape or pin the printed design quadrant to a wall (or use window to act as a light board).

Align the pressed vertical and horizontal lines with the edges of the quadrant. My fabric is light yellow, so I can still see the lines though the weave.

Trace all the design lines onto the fabric using a?water soluble marker.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Remove the fabric. Turn it 90 degrees and trace the quadrant again. Repeat this step to finish out the design.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Deciding to Quilt

In hindsight, I probably should have added 2″ basting stitches across the entire quilt before beginning. Having skipped that step, I’ll say – What the heck, it turned out ok for a first try!!! =)

I started in the middle of the design by tracing four shapes that joined in the center. If you are planning on doing this on your own- it doesn’t matter which shapes you start with.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Using rulers to guide me, stitched directly on the blue marked lines first. I tested the ole skills by trying to stitch 1/4″ away from the original line. Then I decided I’d pick something fun and curvy to fill in my first four shapes.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Ok. That wasn’t so bad. By the 4th shape, the lines were really starting to fall where I wanted them…. as opposed to the first shape.

Next, I wanted to try to make super straight ruled lines as a fill. Ok, just gotta find a shape and outline it first.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Little chunks like this with no real big commitment or plan really helped me out. For example: The space I chose to add ruled lines, well, there were 8 symmetrical spaces for a total of probably 12 square inches. I can handle 12 square inches, right??

I continued on in this fashion: Which little line cluster can I outline and fill? Ok. Next. Ok, which little line cluster can I outline and fill?

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Here’s a fun fact: Yes, that IS a Creative Memories Circle Cutter from 10 years ago! I do all my family photobooks digitally, nowadays.?I happen to still have this perfect-size circle and oval cutting system. Turns out the plastic is the ideal height for round longarm rulers. You are welcome.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

You’ll notice that I didn’t stitch on every blue line. I was really trying to just isolate “shapes I wanted to fill” and that was the plan.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

If one of the skills you are trying to build is speed, do not choose pebbles. bwhahahaha. Stinkin’ pebbles.

Here’s a view from under the machine.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

Oh man. There are some lumpy parts (noticeable only to me), but I don’t even care. I love this thing!

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

After three days of hopping on the longarm intermittently to fill a few shapes at a time, it was finally time to take off the water soluble ink.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

And here’s the craziest part that I didn’t anticipate- Since this was fill-this-on-a-whim type quilting, I had no idea what it would really look like when it was done. It was a total HGTV reveal moment for me! “Oh my gosh, I cannot believe this is the same fabric.” -kind of reveal. Unlike HGTV, I didn’t cry or cut to commercial break with a suspenseful sentence.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

One of the coolest parts about the skill builder quadrant is it will be different each time anyone makes it. Pick and choose whatever lines you want to follow. Fill with whatever designs you are working on at the time. Go as detailed or as loose as you feel comfortable. I just love it. It is a choose your own adventure book for longarm quilting.

Free Motion Quilting | Longarm Quilting | Whole Cloth Quilt Design by Jen Eskridge

If you give it a go, I’d love to see it!

If you make a wholecloth skill builder like this one and share it, please use the hashtag #FMFW. Why you ask? This concept has grown into a full-on book, Free-Motion Framework, shipping May of 2018. Pre-order it on AMAZON.

Free-Motion Framework Machine Quilting Skill Builder Book | Wholecloth book | Jen Eskridge | C&T Publishing