Monday, September 10, 2012

Orange Peel quilting with a walking foot

This post explains how to do orange peel (also called cathedral window) quilting using your walking foot.  I used this quilting on my Gingham Patchwork quilt:

I like using my walking foot because the result is a little smoother for me than using a free motion foot.  I recommend using this method if your individual petals are going to be 1.5" or larger, i.e. one full motif is 3" or larger.  For smaller designs, the curves are too tight to be done easily with a walking foot, but you can try Elizabeth Hartman's excellent tutorial for doing orange peel with a free motion foot instead. 

Let's do this!

Mark your quilt with circles.   I'm using a jar lid that happened to be a good size, but if you need a specific measurement, you can also create your own circle template in the size you need - just print a circle & transfer it to something you can trace around, like plastic or cardstock.  For marking quilts I have had good success using crayola markers - the ones labeled "super washable" and with the blue water erase pens from Joann's.  Since I love Clover products, I was shocked when I had problems with the yellow color Clover chalk pencil, which I spent days get out of blue fabric after I accidentally ironed it in).

Measure the width of your circle and mark a line 1/2 of the circle width from the edge of your quilt. Draw circles in a grid, first tangent to the line and then to each other:

As you can see, I have good taste in tea...

Draw circles in the other direction, 1/2 width to the right and 1/2 width down:

Over a large area or if you have design elements in your quilt that you would like to line up precisely with the quilting, I draw additional grid lines every 3-4 sets of circles, to prevent them from migrating away from a straight and even grid.

Time to quilt!  Work your way through the pattern on the diagonal.  This minimizes the amount of turning that is required, definitely important when you are working with a walking foot!  Quilt down one direction in a wave (you could also do scallops, but the waves are easier because you don't have to stop to turn constantly):

At the far edge, continue off the edge of your quilt and then cut your threads before starting again at the starting point and filling in the other half of the diagonal.  Now you have a 2D representation of a DNA strand:

Woops I forgot to take a picture before starting the next step... ignore that extra line to the upper right, please!

Now you are ready to get a little bit fancy.  Quilt down the diagonal, and at the end, turn the quilt 90° and quilt down the diagonal again, then turn, quilt, turn, quilt twice more to get back to your starting point... then you are ready to travel that route again and fill in the second half of the "DNA strand".

Hey look, we made two flowers already!  On my tiny "quilt" I just need one more round and then to fill in the last diagonal:

And we're done!

When you are feeling more lazy and don't want do to as much marking work, or when your quilt already has a grid, you can mark instead with a simple grid and judge by eye where to place your curve.  Here's an example:

You can see that the result is (lots) less precise, but when the quilt is finished it won't be terribly obvious, especially if you are better than me at eyeballing.  It just depends on how important the perfect circular look is to you, and how confident you feel about winging it. 

Either way you wanna do it... go forth and quilt, my friends.


  1. Great tute Ruth! I think I'm going to try this on my granny square quilt. It's almost done and ready to be quilted. Thank you!! : )

  2. yep. i need to try this. thanks for the tutorial!

  3. Awesome... thanks for a great tutorial!

  4. Thank you. Will try this on a donation quilt this week.

  5. On the diagonal! That's so smart!

  6. Thanks for the great tutorial. I think I would actually be able to do that!!!!

  7. This is great! Thank you. What do you use to mark your fabric?

  8. amasing, you have broke it done so it is doable I am so impressed

  9. just finishing the digital heart pattern 5"x5" squares this will be perfect quilting pattern..

  10. Over a hundred years ago my grandmother used this quilt stitch to join three ply fabric to make a bonnet visor, soft enough to fold back when indoors and stiff enough to fold forward against the Texas sun. The pattern is the four intersecting circles with no evidence of stopping or starting, in other words no knots evident. The circles are perfectly round done using one of the original Singer sewing machines with a walking foot. They are so perfectly shaped that I felt that she must have anchored the circle center with a pin and let the machine turn the arcs. I am still mystified about how she could have done it.