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Machine Quilting: Decorative Stitches, Free Motion AND Ruler Quilting!

Have you ever wondered how machine quilting works when you combine sewing machine decorative stitches and free motion quilting? I've been curious about this too and since creating the Decorative Stitch Swatcher, I'm actually using the decorative stitches on my sewing machines!

Decorative Stitch Quilting Mini Series

In this Decorative Stitch Quilting Mini Series we're going to learn multiple machine quilting techniques: quilting with decorative stitches, quilting around them with free motion quilting designs, and how to add extra borders and boundaries using ruler quilting.

Make sure to bookmark this page as it will be updated frequently over the next few weeks as new videos are published. If you'd like to help support our free quilting tutorials, please shop for the tools I'm using in our quilt shop:

Decorative Stitches with Walking Foot Quilting

Let's kick off with a super short video with a tip on quilting your sewing machine's built-in decorative stitches with a walking foot:

You might be wondering what I prepared for this quilt, and you may like to follow along. Here's what I'm using:

  • 25-inch square of cotton batik fabric - quilt top - This was marked with straight lines 6 inches apart to create a 9 x 9 grid using a Ceramic Marking Pencil

  • 27-inch square of fluffy polyester batting

  • 30-inch square of solid cotton fabric - quilt back

I layered these materials and loosely basted, then quilted the decorative stitches with a walking foot on my Eversewn Celine. This felt very easy as the walking foot does all the work - it feeds the quilt evenly through the sewing machine.

The biggest tip when using decorative stitches with quilting is to not push the quilt. Let it feed through one stitch at a time, otherwise you may distort the decorative stitch design.

I adjusted my decorative stitches generally to be longer and wider than their default setting. Don't forget to swatch and test your designs with your quilt materials to see what settings will work best!

Here's what my mini quilt looks like with the decorative stitches quilted in rows. Now we have nine spaces to machine quilt together with different free motion quilting patterns and ruler quilting too.

Decorative Stitch Quilting Mini Series

Machine Quilting Around Decorative Stitches

Now let's stitch this quilt up a notch and see what free motion quilting filler designs look like in these squares. First up, let's learn how to quilt Light Spiral:

This quilting pattern worked great around the decorative stitches because I could wiggle the little Light Spiral swirls into the block without touching the edges. 

We can quilt many designs just like this by changing a small thing about the design to create a new texture. See what I mean as we free motion quilt Dew Drops together:

Ruler Quilting Around Decorative Stitches

But what if we need an edge? What if we need a line to travel stitch along so we can quilt our design?

Let's try quilting some lines with Ruler Quilting and see if this will give us the lines we need for travel stitching!

Just in case you're short on time, here's a super quick version of this video:

Free Motion Quilting within the Ruler Work Quilted Block

After Ruler Quilting a square within my decorative stitches, I could fill that space with any free motion quilting pattern. That includes designs that need a stitched outline for travel stitching. See what I mean in this machine quilting video for Peace Paisley:

What is another design we can quilt into a ruler quilted space? New Phone Cord!

Make sure to bookmark this page and check back often as I update this Decorative Stitch Quilting Mini Series!


Eliza – No, with a walking foot, you need the feed dogs to work. So not only leave the feed dogs alone (as in, make sure they are feeding like normal!), also play with your stitch length to see what size you like your stitches.

Leah Day,

When using the walking foot, do you still lower feed dogs to quilt using machine stitches? I love you are doing this and am eager to get going!

Eliza Payne,

looking forward to learning walking foot decorative stitching.


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