top of page

Ten Best FMQ Patterns for Beginners

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Are you searching for beginner-friendly free-motion quilting patterns to kickstart your machine quilting journey? If I had to start learning free motion quilting again, I'd begin with these ten carefully curated designs. They're designed to help you develop your quilting skills step by step, starting with easy patterns and progressing to more challenging ones. Our goal is to make your learning experience stress-free and to steadily enhance your quilting abilities.

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored, the sewing machine here is what I use in free motion quilting.

1. Sine Wave

You can just call this as a wavy line, but I like to call it a Sine Wave, as it's the same shape of an electromagnetic wave. With this design, you'll learn to move the quilt up and down during quilting. You can set your direction, from left to right or vice versa. This pattern looks simple but it's very versatile, and can be improvised depending how you apply it.

2. Ribbon Curly Curves

After you get comfortable with the sine wave, you can transition to this pattern by just adding curves while moving up and down. It has a flattering affect with a beautiful texture that easily captures the eyes.

Start with small lean curves, then transition to fuller curves. It’s great for borders and elongated spaces that need a flare.

3. Wishbones

Once you get better with Ribbon Curly Curves, it's time to transition to Wishbones by adding a curly twist while moving up and down. First you practice drawing on paper and get comfortable with the movement of your hand. It will help you have better muscle control during free motion quilting. Again start with leaner curves then transition to fuller curves.

4. Looping

Loops are very popular design and are usually used in meandering. But here let's start from one direction and get our movement smooth. This pattern can be used in different ways like borders and fillers.

5. Pebbles

After you get comfortable with the looping movement, you're ready to transition to a more structured shape, which is circle. But since it's difficult to achieve perfect circles all the time, we'll make random organic circular shapes that may resemble pebbles or bubbles. Depending on your style, you can make lots of variations or mix this with other patterns. This works well as a filler on a wide space or even on small borders.

6. Serpentine Lines

This may look simple and easy to quilt, but the skewed direction of the line makes it tricky to be consistent. Basically it's an elongated S line drawn in diagonal paths. But this design creates a clean, structured pattern that flows and is easy to the eyes. I suggest to practice first on paper and then mark the quilt with lines until you get the right movement going.

7. Teardrops or Paisley

As with Serpentine Lines, you learn how to make curves in an intentional way. And with this design you'll make the same curve line and should able to close it to form a teardrop. Again practice drawing on paper and get the muscle memory on making closed loop curves.

8. Swirls

This design is a real knock out, it gives a lot of interests on the quilt. It easily captivates the eyes and drives curiosity. For starters it's quite intimidating because of the uniform curves that needs to be achieved. But after you get better with pebbles and serpentine lines, you'll have better chance of succeeding after fewer attempts. My tips here is to look ahead of the needle, to the direction where you're going and aim for the curves not much with the spacing. It will look fabulous after you finish the quilt even with few mistakes.

9. Stippling or Meandering

It's ninth on my list because it takes a high level of skill making curves and deciding the direction while quilting. After many hours of using this design, I noticed that the curves are the same with Ribbon Curly Curves but done in many directions, creating that puzzle-shaped effect. This is very versatile design that can be scaled based on the effect you like to make on the quilt.

For example, if you prefer your quilt to be soft and comfortable, like a baby quilt, then you can space out the quilting stitches farther to attain that softness. On the other hand, if you like to highlight a quilt block, monogram, or a motif, then you can quilt it small to flatten the area.

10. Feathers

Yes, finally the fabulous feathers, save the best for last. It's definitely the queen of all free motion quilting designs I believe, do you agree? After learning 9 designs, I think you'll be ready to tackle feathers with more confidence. If you've done well with teardrops then definitely you can do this. Again practicing on paper will help you achieve better results when doing it on the sewing machine.


These ten FMQ designs are structured based on the level of difficulty according to my experience in free motion quilting. And I hope you'll find this helpful and encouraging. But please bare in mind that each of our brain works differently. My method may not work for you, if so consider experimenting based on your comfort level. I'm sure with patience and practice, you'll be able to free motion quilt in your own pace.

If you find this helpful, please share it to your quilting friends. Or if you have questions or other FMQ design ideas not included on my list, then please share it in the comments.


Download PDF • 10.27MB

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Sandi Chapman
Sandi Chapman
Jul 25, 2022

Beautiful work and love the feathers that when done like Butterflies 🦋 I love ❤️ that the best.


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I’m Judith from Osaka, Japan. I’m a machine quilter and I love free-motion quilting using my domestic sewing machine. I like learning new quilting  patterns, designs, and techniques, which I would love to share with other quilters. If you’re looking for quilt ideas and inspirations, or you're new to free-motion quilting, then this place is for you. You can find my original works in the Gallery.

Subscribe to Newsletter!

Thanks for subscribing!

Get in Touch

Check out JDreamQuilts in social media

  • Youtube
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page