Churning it over.

Sometimes you make a quilt for someone who just NEEDS it. Need in the sense of object to keep that person warm, need in the sense of the act of caring for that person.


This is one of those quilts.

Earthy warm colors combined with blacks.

A bit of vintage floral ’70s fabric that I had saved for something special.

The quilt needed to be bigger… so I added the plum Moda Marble between the rows of churn dashes.

These dark colors were actually way out of my comfort zone. I had to keep myself motivated to keep going.

I doubted myself at this moment.

Luckily my cat spurred me on by letting me know that the quilt was really comfy! 🙂

With all of the last bits of fabric, I added a kind of piano key border on the top and bottom. The quilt had to get to the largest size possible.

Basting on the floor!

With a large piece of plexiglass on top of the basted quilt, I started drawing on some design ideas for the quilting (with an dry erase marker). Goals was to create a new pattern for each churn dash.

The design pictures were taken late at night and ar blurry because of that… whoops!

For marking the design on the quilt top I used longarm rulers, chalk pens and the blue water soluable pens.

The quilted look.

And part of that design quilted seen from the back:

Oh, how I adore that floral fabric!

Another design from the front and the back:

And some more:

I also came up with several ideas for each of the border strips between the churn dashes.

From the front all looked gorgeous!


From the back it was clear that there were large parts of the quilt that were still unquilted.

This was going to be a problem! I didn’t want the batting to sag or rip in these places after a few washings. It needed to be quilted the same density all over!

Back in I went!

(It really is all the same color blue on this backing fabric, but the lighting makes it look so different in each picture.)

See all the different colors of thread? I matched to the color on the quilt top. It created a lovely effect on the back.

Even though my machine did create some puckers… bleh!

Finally done!


The quilt did shrink considerably due to all the dense quilting and the washing. It just fits a bed.

Bound with a black fabric with a playful little white stripe.

What I learned:

  • I adore dense quilting.
  • I adore coming up with new FMQ designs.
  • The plexi glass sheet was really helpful during the design process.
  • My shoulders really can’t handle large projects like this on a tight time schedule. Don’t try to do this again….
  • Even though I really was insecure about the color scheme, I am happy the final result. It worked!
  • I should do more calculations before I start cutting into fabric. I should have gotten some more fabric and made the quilt larger.
  • I should take into account more that dense quilting REALLY shrinks the quilt.


  • This quilt was given and received with lots of joy. Quilts are not just objects… they are gifts of the heart.



P.s. Linking up with Finish it Up Friday at Crazymomquilts.


32 thoughts on “Churning it over.

  1. You really are making up for your absence: 2 in one day! This is a beautiful quilt; I thought there must be some mistake when I saw the colours – could this really be a post of Esther’s? – but I can see it is made in the colours someone else loves. What a love big quilty hug for someone who needs it, and as always, beautiful, beautiful quilting.

    • This colour scheme was indeed created with someone in mind, but I was really insecure about it. Wasn’t it too dark, too earthy, maybe a bit too grown-up??? It went through my mind time and time again. In the end I need not have worried. The recipient was really happy and surprised. The quilt will be treasured.
      Bye bye

  2. The photos of the back give me an “Is that dress white and gold or black and blue?” impression. I really thought the backing was white in many of the pictures. Your quilting is incredible!

    • Ha ha, yes the camera had a hard time catching that blue colour. It had a bit of grey and lavender in it too. It was a backing fabric but could be used for sheets. Loved the feeling of that fabric, nice and crisp.
      Bye bye

  3. The print and the orangish solid are just the ticket to enliven the darker colors; and the darker colors give those two a chance to shine. Like others, I’m in awe of the quilting.

    • Thank you very much. I went over all my fabric to find the right colours to go with that floral. If it would have been a quilt for me, I would have added teal or turquoise. Anyway, it is done and gifted! Glad it is finished and glad it was received with joy.

  4. Hi Esther! I think this quilt is fantastic! Perhaps after so much happy colours, I’m looking now often ‘autumn’ colours – just realized that yesterday in the fabric shop. I also really like this pattern and the border you made. Fortunately you have the best helper to keep you going on! x Teje

    • Hi Teje,
      The quilt grew on me once I started quilting. I liked it better once it was finished. I came to the conclusion I like brighter colours in my quilts and autumn colors for my clothing!

  5. Thanks for sharing this quilt. Esther. I appreciate you sharing the quilt motifs you designed for these blocks. My favorite part of this process is designing the motifs and seeing the design come to life on the blocks. Great job!

    • Hello Laura!
      Whenever possible I love to share the design process of a quilt. I love to read quilt design blog posts by other quilters too as I learn a lot through following their thoughts. I hope that by writing posts like these, I help other quilters with their designs too!
      Have a lovely day!

  6. Esther your quilting is amazing on a domestic machine. I’m with you on the effort of steering such a heavy quilt through the machine. For me it’s the worst part, and yet I don’t want to stop either. Once I’m on a roll I feel compelled to keep going, even with sore shoulders. Bad idea – you’re right.

    • Good evening Marly,
      I KNOW what you are saying… wanting to keep on going when you are on a roll. Please stop quilting when your body tells you to! I kept on going too long and now I am paying the price. Tomorrow I will see my physical therapist again to help me get rid of the painful shoulders. He told me to not do any FMQ on my machine until he says I can. I hope all will get back to normal, as I am a bit scared that I have damaged my shoulder in such a way that I will never be able to do any FMQ for longer than one bobbin.
      Take care!

  7. Oh, Esther! I love the quilting. I am not a very good machine quilter, but yours is gorgeous. I need to learn how to do this. I like the overall combination of fabrics, too. It’s a lovely quilt, and much appreciated, I’m sure.

    • Yes yes yes! Learn!!! It is so much fun!
      Take classes, get the books, look at all the youtube videos, draw on paper, draw, draw and draw some more! It is like an obsession, actually. And before you know it, you can do these pretty swirls and feathers too! Don’t give up too soon! It may take a while.
      Good luck and I would love to see your work. Please let me know!

  8. Very creative indeed .. with an abundance of color contrasting.
    Am sure the recipient is very happy and ready to be wrapped up in it.

  9. Beautiful quilt,hope it’s not for the cat. I love my animals. but………………… My miniture schnauzer helps me all the time, coming into my sewing to see if I’ve dropped off the planet.

    • Ha ha Joan,
      No this quilt was not for the cat! 🙂 It was made for a special young person. My cat “owns” my very first quilts that are small enough for the cat bed. Those that I don’t mind throwing in the washing machine and dryer a lot.
      My cat does love everything I make …. she shows it by plunking herself down on every piece of fabric or quilt that is lying around. LOL!
      Bye bye

  10. I’m not surprised this was received with lots of joy and, even though you may have gone out of your comfort zone with the colours, it all came together beautifully.

  11. Great post Esther – thank you for all the fantastic information and lessons learned. and thanks so much for sharing on our Free Motion Quilting Frenzy page on Facebook — so glad you’ve joined…

  12. Pingback: Blogger’s Quilt Festival – Home Machine Quilted | ipatchandquilt

  13. Churn dash happens to be one of my favorites for some unknown reason. I so appreciative all your pictures and explanations. As a beginner I need all the help I can get. Pictures of the back showing that you still needed to go on were so helpful. I wouldn’t have understood without the pictures. How would I quilt without quilting so densely? I want to finish some work, but since I’m new to all this, I feel that I should do much simpler work, partially in order to get it done. I loved all the designs! The designs did flow so well. I also learned about color. I too have smaller pieces of fabric that I need to add more fabric to have enough for a complete quilt. I noticed how you used the solids on the prints and other solids,too. I like that you mark your quilts before you quilt. I just thought every one was that good without marking. Your work is simply amazing! I know the quilt is treadured.

    • Hello Charlotte!
      Thank you for letting me know that the pictures were helpful. I believe that it is important to explain our proces and not just show the end result. Sometimes the end product is not the most interesting thing, but the process of learning about quilting is…

      This particular quilt was quilted very densely, but that is because I just love to do that. You really do not have to follow my lead…. it took forever to finish that quilt. LOL!
      As long as you quilt the same density all over your quilt, all will be fine! I take my fingers as a reference. One or two fingers wide is pretty dense already.

      Indeed start with a simple pattern that you can create variation of. Most of my designs are based on ‘simple’ shapes like a swirl, a droplet, a curl, a flame and then use an echo around those. Focus on those first and then figure out how you want to travel from shape to shape an then from block to block. Don’t expect to be good at them overnight… we all need a lot of practice.

      But most important of all…. learning is fun! Save your practice pieces and look at them from time to time. You will quickly see progress.

      Remember, learning how to freemotion is like learning how to write! The first thing you need to learn is how to put the letters together (curl, swirl, feather etc), then you learn more about holding your pencil (sewing machine), and the you bring the two together! Practice on paper, your computer tablet, whatever you can scribble on. Freemotion is also a bit like driving a bike or car. There need to be a balance between your hand movement and the speed of the machine. At first it will all feel unnatural, but in a while you will be able to HEAR if you are using the right speed on the sewing machine, just like with a car. How many time are you looking at the speedometer while driving along a road, right?!

      About the writing analogy; it may be a good idea to start with practicing letters in freemotion. You already know those letter-patterns because you have practiced them your whole life. With lettering you can focus an understanding your sewing machine. Maybe start with an e or an l. than go on to c and and add a curl here and there. See what happens!

      But again… have fun!!!
      Good luck,

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