AQS Freemotion Workshop Part 4


In Part One of our Freemotion Workshop, we explored design and went through some exercises to expand our design vocabulary, Directed Doodles and Continuous Line Tracing. If you missed it or want a recap visit here: Part One.

In Part Two, we learned to do the freemotion dance and dove right in head first with a quilting project so we could learn firsthand what our unique challenges would be. If you missed it or want a recap visit here: Part Two.

In Part Three, we picked up three great practice skills, ditching, all-over, and grid work. If you missed it or want a recap visit here: Part Three.

In Part Four, we will wrap up our Freemotion Workshop by learning to put a quilt in a quilt. We hope you have enjoyed this journey so far, and invite you to leave any parting thoughts or questions in the comments below. We love to hear from you!


Once you’ve worked through your stash of unfinished tops, it’s time to take things to the next level. Piece a quilt, just to be quilted, one that will show off your quilting.

Planning a quilt design with minimal piecing design elements gives you the opportunity to use the blank areas to create a completely different quilt using the quilting alone. Think of it like two quilts in one. You have the pieced quilt that first grabs your eye with its simple geometry, color, and values, but then the eye stays, mesmerized by the second quilt lingering in the background as whispers of shadows and highlights.

The art of putting a quilt in a quilt is called secondary design quilting. The trick is to create a relationship between the pieced quilt and the quilted background quilt that is different enough so that the two designs complement each other rather than consume each other and blend away.

Let’s give it a try:

Below is a simple chain design laid out on graph paper. Print out a copy and grab a pencil and ruler.

Click the image or here to download a printable pdf.

You can find the Chain Pattern here.

There are two parts to this quilt, the grey pieces and the not grey pieces. Concentrate on the not grey sections.

The goal is to design a quilt as though the grey pieces aren’t there. Draw a quilt design using only the not grey sections. Keep in mind, you aren’t drawing quilting designs, you are drawing a quilt. For example, maybe you layout a Drunkards Path design.

Draw blocks, sashing, appliques, embellishments, flourishes, whatever your heart desires. You can get as detailed as you like because you won’t be piecing the quilt in the not grey sections, rather quilting it.

After you’ve played with the design, print out another copy and try something completely different.

One of the best resources for learning to play with secondary design quilting is the book, Secondary Designs with Judi Madsen. Not only does she provide patterns for piecing patterns for six projects, she also walks you through the process of creating and quilting the secondary design.

Secondary Designs with Judi Madsen

Whether you plan on making the quilt projects and quilting them, it is a great idea to use Secondary Designs as workbook. Using graph paper, follow along with Judi’s design elements and draw them out.

She has some amazing ways to create secondary design and will inspire you to come up with many more!

North Star is a great example of the use of secondary design.

Want to see Judi in action?

Check out Judi’s online class on


Here are two more great resources that showcase secondary design quilting:

Lisa H. Calle’s Divide and Design

Check out Lisa’s online class on 


Applique for Modern Beginners by Eva Birch, Nancy Gano and Jodi Robinson

Check out Jodi’s online class on


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I think the links to the previous segments are missing.

Hi Aleeda, The links are working now. Please try again and we apologize for the inconvenience. ~ Sylvia Thomas, AQS Social Media Manager

Jo Ann Cooper

I missed parts 1 & 2 of the free motion workshop and the links on the page don’t work. Is there a way to access those sessions?

Hi Jo Ann, The links are working now. Please try again. We apologize for the inconvenience. ~ Sylvia Thomas, AQS Social Media Manager


This was a good series with a good approach to quilting. Today’s post was very helpful for a way to determine the quilting.

Elizabeth A. Franck

Recently, I renewed my subscription to AQS. Having just reviewed part of the series, I agree this was a great series. Please include me in future information.