Quilting spirals – a gentle learning curve!

I am so excited to have completed the quilting of my puzzle quilt in just one day!  It was a complete learning experience – using a walking foot to quilt a spiral of stitching from the centre of the quilt outwards.


The centre circle and first couple of loops of the spiral.  This is a Pfaff sewing machine with an integrated ‘IDT’ walking foot (the black piece behind the foot) rather than the boxy walking foot attachment other makes of machine use.  See also the metal quilting guide helping me to keep an equal distance between the swirls of the spiral.

I have the post I found at Crazy Mom Quilts to thank for giving me the confidence to give it a try. Amanda Jean’s tutorial had spirals spaced just the width of the machine foot, about ½” apart.  She advised using free-motion quilting to produce a small centre circle and the first few tight turns of the spiral but as I planned to leave a 2″ space between the lines of stitching I decided to take a chance and use the walking foot with a very short stitch length to stitch a larger centre circle.  It’s a bit of a jerky circle but I’m happy with it, so it has stayed.


The first few ‘spins’ of the spiral were a bit tricky with half of the quilt to squeeze through the throat of my sewing machine whilst I tackled the ‘unnatural’ motion of making a tight curve with straight stitches. After these early spins though it quickly became easier to manipulate the quilt and to maintain a curve even after I’d increased the stitch length from 1.0 to 2.5.   The technique did require stitching very slowly and constantly stopping to adjust the position of the quilt under the stitching foot.

The standard stitching foot on the left and the open toe applique foot that I used for quilting on the right.

Several gadgets helped make quilting more straightforward for me.  I used an open-toe applique foot which gave much better vision of the position of the needle than I get from the standard stitching foot (this has a clear plastic panel which I find distorts the view of the needle as it makes contact with the fabric); a quilting guide (the metal rod sticking out the left hand side of the needle in the photo above) helped me maintain an even distance between stitching lines; and I wore Machingers gloves with rubber finger tips that helped me grip the fabric without having to apply a lot of pressure through my arms and wrists (that could have been really uncomfortable as the hours of stitching mounted!).


I thoroughly enjoyed this method of quilting. The walking foot kept the stitch size very even.  My circles did flatten out in a few places as the spirals got bigger but I’m happy to include such imperfections among the charms of a handmade quilt and be satisfied with the result!  Definitely a learning experience to add to my list of learning for the year.

The back of the puzzle quilt.  The fabric is called 'Odyssey Medallion' for Benartex.
The back of the puzzle quilt. The fabric is called ‘Odyssey Medallion’ for Benartex.


0 thoughts on “Quilting spirals – a gentle learning curve!

  1. Thanks again, Colleen! Hum, having had a week off from a lot of my routine commitments I’m amazed to find out just how long it has taken me to push this quilt to the finishing stage. I really must adjust my expectations to fit with the reality of my usual time constraints – there is no way I’m going to be completing more than one quilt every 1 or even 2 months. This week has certainly proved that to me! My aim this year has to be to finish more quilt projects than I start!

    • yes, well… I have good intentions but I think I am easily distracted. LOL – you’ll see what I mean when I get around to my paper piecing post.
      I really don’t know how some of the women bloggers bang off a quilt every week ! I am patting you on the back for getting that quilt done – it looks really nice. Go ahead and give yourself a pat too ! Savour the feeling 🙂

  2. This is a great post. I have a mini quilt that I am working on and I plan to do a spiral quilting pattern on it…. I think I will practice a bit before tackling the mini since it is for a swap and I really want a good result. I did a lot of spirals on a quilt a few years ago but I didn’t really know what I was doing, used FMQ the whole time, and it is a bit wobbly. Hoping for a better result with this next project. I LOVE Crazy Mom Quilts and the lovely tutorials she posts.

    • Thanks for your encouraging comment – I’m so glad you found the post useful. I hope your quilting goes well – I’m still really happy with the way mine turned out! I’m planning to do the same on a log cabin quilt. There are some really helpful tutorials around – Crazy Mom is definitely one I go to when I’m trying something new.


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