Straight Line Quilting Design Ideas

Quilting can be challenging on small domestic machines–which a lot of us are stuck with. The tiny throat space can make getting an awesome quilting design a little more… tight? And while any type of quilting is achievable on most machines, the machine is only half the challenge. I hope to complete six quilts this year. Which means I only get to practice quilting every other month or so. With quilting being a learned skill, that’s not a lot of consistent practice. Enter straight line quilting design.


Quilting doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. You don’t need to feel pressured to do delicate free motion quilting designs. Do what is fun and accessible for you. Straight line quilting design is a simple quilting technique that uses long straight lines across your quilt that are accessible for any sewing machine and skill level. But simple doesn’t have to mean boring! Here are some of my favorite straight line quilting design ideas to spice up your quilting from simple to more dense.


Equal-width Straight lines

Starting off with the most basic design, we have equal-width lines. This means quilting either horizontal or vertical lines at an equal distance down the length or width of the quilt. Sew a lines a half an inch apart or five inches–just check your batting to see how close your quilting needs to be.


Below you can see equal-width lines on the large-sized Sparkle and Shine quilt. This quilt already has well defined color blocks that stretch horizontally across the quilt which makes equal-width quilting a great choice that can give the baby unicorns some horizontal frolicking movement. And every baby unicorn needs to frolic.


Sright Line Quilting: Equal-Width Lines


Cascading density Lines

Just like with equal-width lines, you’ll be sewing a straight line all the way across your quilt. But this time, to give the quilt a little more motion, you’re going to quilt lines that get a little closer to each other as your go down your quilt.


I recommend breaking your quilt down in 4-5 sections (take your quilt height/width and divide by 4 or 5). With in those section, sew lines that are the same distance apart, but each section should get closer together.


For example, if your quilt is 75 inches tall and you want 5 sections (like my Camels in the Desert quilt below), each section will need 15 inches of quilting. The top section will have quilted lines every 5 inches (15″/3 lines = 5″), the next section down will have lines quilted every 3.75 inches (15″/4 lines = 3.75″), then 3 inches (15″/5 lines = 3 inches), then 2.5 inches (15″/6 lines = 2.5″), and finally ~2 inches (15″/7 lines = 2″ and a smudge).


I chose it for my Camels in the Desert quilt because it felt a lot like blowing dust to me. But I think it would also be great for showing elevation in a mountain quilt or depth in an underwater quilt.


Straight line quilting designs : Cascading Density


Diagonal Lines

It’s just like sewing equal-width quilting across your quilt but with your head tilted! This type of quilting is made way easier if you quilt has a bunch of diagonal piecing that you can follow. If not, fear not! Magical disappearing ink sewing pens or even chalk (if you plan to wash your quilt after), will allow you to plan and draw our your lines to easily follow.


See it below on the Milk and Juice quilt. I think the diagonal lines give this quilt more movement then in the lines were vertical or horizontal. Also, this quilt has a lot of piecing of different sizes. If I did horizontal or vertical lines, it can break apart the design. What do you think?


Straight Line Quilting: Diagonal Lines

The 1-2 Dance

1-2 space, 1-2 space… it feels like a princess in a large gown waltzing across the ballroom. Or at least a throwback to ballroom dancing in college! Using the same simple straight lines all the way across your quilt as the steps above, you can make a completely new look for your quilt. You can use it with diagonal, vertical or horizontal piecing.


Check it out with the Princess and Pony pattern below. It touch more texture to the quilt. When I look at it to long, I get a ‘looking through a window’ feel.


Straight Line Quilting: The 1-2 Dance


The Checker Board

I think we all know what the horizontal and vertical lines crossing in a checker board pattern look like. But you don’t need to be old school and boring. Make your quilting highlight or accent your quilt. Check out the HST (half square triangle) quilt below. Slightly off-setting the checkerboard gives the quilt more dimension and movement. It can also help draw the viewer’s eyes to a specific place you want to highlight in the quilt.


Straight line quilting: off-set checker board


You can even *gasp* delete parts of lines to make chevrons. There are no rules here!


Straight line quilting: checker board chevrons


Echo (echo… echo…)

The last straight line quilting design I’ll go over today is echoing. Echoing is a common free motion quilting technique but can also be used with straight lines, especially if your quilt design uses traditional piecing techniques with only straight-line and diagonal quilting. All it is is following your quilt piecing with repeating straight lines.


I used this design for my Space Travel quilt. My lines were spaced at half an inch, so I’ll warn you–to cover an 80″ x 81″ with half in echo took me months of inconsistent work on my domestic machine. Worth it? I think so.


Rye Bread Quilt Co Modern Quilt Patterns Space Travel Quilt

But I also used it for my Whale Shark Love quilt to make a water ripple effect.


Whale Shark Modern Quilt Pattern

The takeaway

Quilting doesn’t need to be hard or frustrating, and straight line quilting doesn’t have to mean boring. A straight line quilting design is a great quilting technique for beginners and advanced quilters alike, because it can be as busy or simple as your skills or tools need. Challenge yourself to straight line quilting and see where your imagination can take your design.

Sew on!

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