Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tutorial - Spiral or circular quilting

Spiral quilting gives amazing texture and movement to quilts of all shapes and sizes.  It looks a bit intimidating but it is very easy and fun to do.

To get started, you'll need a couple of things:

  • a circle! I find a small dinner plate or small bowl is the perfect size to get started.  
  • a non permanent fabric marking pen
  • your walking foot
Take your quilt and lay it on a flat surface.   Decide where you want the center of the spiral to be.  This is a design choice so move your circle (i.e plate) around.    I like to do spirals that are not directly in the center of the quilt even if the quilt is square.

This quilt is called Doodle - see how I started the spiral in that gray x just off center?

This quilt is called Sparkle and is clearly a rectangle.  Starting the spiral off center worked great for this one as well.

First step is to baste and baste well.

Once you've decided where you want to start, take your non permanent pen - mine is a water soluble one - and trace a circle almost completely around the plate.  Leave a gap of roughly an inch.

Center your quilt under the needle at the start of your traced circle.  You want your quilt to go clockwise - which means the empty part of your circle is always to the left of your needle.

Sew on the line you drew.  Take your time, this isn't a race.  Don't worry if you don't hit the line exactly.  While you'll notice the imperfections while you sew, they will get lost in the overall design and be hard to ever find again.

Go around the circle and as you approach the one inch gap and your starting point, get started on the spiral by using the edge of your walking foot to go around again and again and again!

You are spiral quilting!!

Take your time though this process.  A bobbin is going to take you about 45 mins to empty.

  Take time to adjust the quilt and remove your basting pins as you go.

At some point in this process - whether you've started in the center or off center - you'll come to a part where your spiral goes off the edge.  Do a happy dance!

  Even though you aren't done, it will feel like suddenly you are making progress.

Each time you come off the edge, cut the threads and then start a new line of stitching continuing the spiral.

Once your spiral is all done, you need to come back and deal with that big empty circle that we left at the start.

And the view from the back

Position the quilt so that you are back at the place where you started.  This time, you will be going counter clockwise and the circle will be squeezed into that spot to the right of your needle.

It will get progressively harder to use your walking foot as you get towards the center.  Your options here are to move very, very slowly or switch to your FMQ foot.  (If you do the later, I'd suggest drawing out your spiral first.)

Other things to consider when you are quilting a large quilt on your domestic machine is to work to always keep the quilt onto the table - folding it over works.  This prevents drag and results in more consistent stitching.

A view from another angle.

I am just in love with my finished quilt Formation.  (The pattern will be available shortly.)

Even the back is fun!

Ready to give it a try?


  1. Fabulous quilts and quilting. I will definitely give this a try sometime in the future thanks to your helpful tutorial!

  2. Thanks so much for the info on how to do the center! I'm going to try this very soon. Love the look of your new blog!

  3. I found this lovely tutorial. One of my goals for this year was to work on my quilting and I haven't tackled it at all. I lost my husband in July a year ago and even though he loved to see me work on quilts, it's been very hard to get back to quilting. Some of the things we enjoyed together are the hardest to do again. I've joined some widow's groups and am doing much better. I'm getting the urge to sew again. So, am I correct that as I finish my first circle, I gently venture out with my walking foot and use it as a guide and go around the circle I just completed and just keep going? I am not good with my FMQ and love to use my walking foot. Right now, I know I need to embrace things that are easier for me to master and then start testing the waters again. I signed up to be the librarian for my quilt guild for each our day and night meetings. I did a small 5 minute education segment this year and made many new friends. Thanks for a great tutorial. This would have made a great education segment. Apparently, no one would volunteer to do the education segment at the day meeting and so for some reason the guild did away with the education segment for next year. If I get tired of the library, I might volunteer for education again the following year. Again, thanks for a wonderful tutorial. I didn't leave a message about your wonderful Cat Crossing posting. That's how I found you. I love the hops and all the inspiration.

  4. I would So love to try this out,but have such a hard time quilting on my machine as the throat is only about 6 inches...maybe a smaller project like a table runner would be a great first project to try on.

  5. WOW! Great tutorial, quilts and quilting. thanks for this info, I'll definitely be doing this sometime in my future.

  6. Thank you for the tutorial! I want to try spiral quilting, but I need to figure out which project to use.

  7. Love your quilts I "sew" what to try this!

  8. All the photos are really helpful as I'm trying to decide whether to do a spiral on my first queen-size quilt. Your quilts are lovely!

  9. Thank you for this great tutorial, I used it to make different sized wheel effects on a car themed quilt.

  10. Love this! Really softens the angles of a quilt.

  11. Very nice, I think I might use this for my Bella Skill Builder quilt. Have been putting off starting the quilting part and this might actually be easier to do with the huge quilt. As the blocks are quite geometric, going in circles for the quilting itself might provide a nice balance ....... am going to visualize circles this weekend!!


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