Leah Day Logo

Section Quilting Style Free Motion Quilting

Learn how to quilt multiple quilting designs over your quilts!

Do you have a special quilt needing an extra special quilting design? When you look at it, do you fear the design could be ruined if you covered it with All Over Quilting?

It's time to learn how to Section Quilt your special quilts so that each area is covered with beautiful, rich quilting texture. This style of quilting is more time consuming to complete, but the results are absolutely worth it!

Of course, in order to be able Section Quilt your next quilt, you first need to understand what designs will work best for each area of your quilt. Most quilts can be broken down into the following sections:

1. Quilt Blocks - This is the main area of the quilt and usually the focus of your quilt. If you've taken a long time to piece or applique special blocks for your quilt, you want to make sure they get to shine!

2. Sashing - This is the fabric that holds the blocks together and adds a bit of space between the blocks and the borders. This is a great area to play with many beautiful quilting designs!

3. Borders - This final area doesn't seem large, but it's often the biggest area of the quilt to fill. Learn how to quilt this area quickly so your quilt can go from a UFO to a finished masterpiece!

section quilting

Quilt Blocks

First let's learn what designs will work best in the blocks of your quilts:

Branching Designs - These designs are all based on McTavishing and provide a beautiful texture that can't be beat. They might be a bit more complex, but the texture they make is absolutely worth it!

Independent Designs - These designs are based off of Stippling. These designs work great in all areas of your quilt and are the easiest to wiggle around complex applique motifs.

Pivoting Designs - These designs are based off of Paisley. These designs also work well in most areas of your quilt, and look great when quilted inside pieced or applique blocks.

Echoing Designs - These designs are based off of Echo Shell. These simple echoed shapes look great when stitched on a smaller scale inside your quilt blocks.

Stacking Designs - These designs are based on Pebbling. Small shapes stack together, filling your blocks with beautiful, dense texture. This is a great choice for quilted motifs where you want the design to stand out.

Here are some great designs to try quilting in the Quilt Blocks of your next quilt:

Section Quilting Your Quilt Blocks

1. The first step to Section Quilting is to Stitch in the Ditch around your quilt blocks and any applique or pieced elements you'd like to quilt around.

Note: if there are any areas of your quilt blocks, any seams, or applique shapes you'd like to ignore, don't stitch them in the ditch. Simply quilt over theses areas with your filler design and pretend they were not there. This is a great way to make complexly piece blocks, like log cabin blocks, much easier to quilt!

2. Next, select a filler design for your block. Choose one of the designs above and practice quilting it on a scrap sandwich so you have some practice stitching it before using it on your quilt.

3. Once you're comfortable stitching your selected design, start in the center of your quilt, and begin filling with a design stitched on a medium to small scale. The tighter your filler design, the easier it will fit into complex areas, but also the stiffer your quilt will be.

4. Remember that your stitched in the ditch lines allow you to travel stitch along the edges of the block and around the applique or pieced lines, so if you ever work yourself into a corner, you can always travel stitch your way back out to a different area of the block.

Here's what Lollipop Chain looks like when quilted within this flower applique block:

quilting desgin

Wandering Clover is also a beautiful design that looks great when quilted in an applique block:

quilting a quilt

Here's what Pointy Paisley and Trippy Triangles look like in quilt blocks:
quilting design
quilting design

Quilt Sashing
Now let's learn how to fill your sashing with beautiful designs and flowing texture!

Center Fill Designs - These work great in small Cornerstone blocks! Most of these designs are flowers and fill by starting in the center, then radiating out to fill the entire block. Try Super Daisy, Sunflower, or Layered Flower first.

Edge to Edge Designs - These designs are worked from one edge of your quilting space to the other, basically in a line, so they fit perfectly into the sashing of your quilts. Some great Edge to Edge designs to start with are Shadow Waves, Spiral Chain, and Mario Vine.

Edge to Center Designs - This group of designs are worked from one edge into the center of your quilt, making them perfect designs to fit into your sashing. Good designs to start with are Flowing Glass, Modern Art, and Monster Teeth

If you piece Cornerstones into the sashing of your quilt, don't leave these areas empty!

Here are some great designs to try quilting in the Sashing or Cornerstones of your next quilt:

Section Quilting Your Quilt Sashing

Since you've already stitched your quilt in the ditch, Section Quilting your sashing should be very easy! Start in the center of your quilt and fill the sashing area with one of the designs above.

Here's Spiral Chain used in the center sashing:

quilting sashing

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

quilting sashing

Here is Modern Art used in the outer sashing.

First you quilt along one side of the blocks, stitching triangles of various sizes into the center of the sashing.

Once you complete the entire area, then break thread and move to the opposite side, stitching more triangles so they meet up with and interlock with the first set.

Just imagine how beautiful your quilt sashing will now be when they are quilted with designs that work easily in this area. Quilt Sashing is the #1 place quilters leave empty, which is a shame because it could easily be filled with fun designs!

Quilt Borders

Learn how to fill the borders of your quilts with beautiful designs!

What designs work best when quilted in borders?

There's a big difference between a plain border, and a border that has pieced or applique elements. First let's learn about the designs that will work great in a plain border:

Edge to Edge Designs

Edge to Center Designs

For borders with pieced or applique designs, stick with the same designs you used within Quilt Blocks that can easily be quilted around complex areas:

Independent Designs

Pivoting Designs

Echoing Designs

Stacking Designs

Branching Designs

Section Quilting Your Quilt Borders

The great thing about borders is they are very easy to quilt! Being on the outer edge of your quilt, this section will be the least difficult to fill because you will be fighting less bulk and weight of the quilt in your machine.

The quilt being quilted in the videos has a very complexly applique border. There are lots of circles and flower shapes to be quilted around.

So to save time, instead of stitching in the ditch around each applique separately, I instead quilted and filled the border with Basic Spiral while also stitching in the ditch around each applique as I reached them.

I would fill the background and whenever I reached an applique, I'd stitch in the ditch around it, then surround that shape with more background filler.

Basic Spiral is a great design for this area. It's an Interlocking Design which means the spirals interlock together to create a fluid texture. It's a great design to learn how to estimate your space visually so you know how to get into and back out of any area of your quilt.
quilting design
border quilting design

Here's what our Section Quilted Quilt looks like before and after quilting:
quilting a quilt
quilting a quilt

Always remember - there is no WRONG way to quilt your quilts!

Section Quilting is a great way to finish a special quilt in a super special way. By picking different designs for each area of your quilt, you can highlight each area with its own unique texture. This is a great choice for quilts that need a little extra texture, and when you don't mind going the extra mile to make the quilt finish beautifully.

This isn't the only way to quilt your quilts! Learn about the other methods and styles of quilting by clicking the links below:

All Over Quilting
all over quilting

Section Quilting
quilting a quilt

Back to the Quilt Gallery