Baptist Fans — freehand by machine

I’ve had lots of questions about the fans including one from Elaine that had specific questions so I’m going to answer it here for everyone.

First, my inspiration for quilting freehand fans comes from two places. I’ve always LOVED Tanya‘s hand quilted fans but as you know, I don’t do much hand quilting. One day, Helen shared some fan quilting she’d done based on a DVD by Patsy Thompson. I HIGHLY recommend this DVD and even bought one for my Mom for her birthday in December. Patsy quilts on a domestic machine but just like Dawn’s Pajama Quilter DVD that I also love, it doesn’t matter which machine you quilt on — these will work for either.

Patsy has a free handout on her site — but again — I highly recommend you consider buying her DVD. She shows a lot of variations but my favorite and the one I used on this last quilt is the first one shown on the handout.

So, now the answers to Elaine’s questions.

Do they always flow from the same direction?

  • No they don’t! In this quilt, I did them in rows but each row goes in a different direction — I worked my way across the quilt in one direction, and back to the other side. If I’d wanted them to go in one direction, I would have started all my rows from the same side.
  • I’ve also quilted them so that they’re completely random and just filled the space like on Patsy’s handout.
How many ‘swings’ or ‘arcs’ do you usually do? Are they always an odd number?

  • I tend to use 5- 7 arcs. When I’m quilting in a row like on this quilt — an even number is needed to keep you in a row – in this case mostly 6 – 8 arcs. When I’m quilting randomly, I’ll use however many I need to fill the space — using an odd number will take you off in a different direction.
  • The more arcs you use, the harder it is to keep them smooth so consider that when you’re first trying this out.
Any right or wrong as to how far apart?

  • Personal preference maybe?? I made mine pleasing to the eye and had to measured this quilt to answer your question. I found that the majority are 1 inch apart but they do vary from 0.75 inches to as big as 1.25 inches but again most are 1 inch.
Do you use any guidelines for your free-form?

  • Nope, absolutely NONE. This is a great pattern for a string quilt or other free pieced type of project where the randomness or wonkiness of the quilting *goes* with the randomness of the piecing.
Could you show a really close up? See the photos below
Where do you backtrack or ??

  • Backtracking is along the edge of the arc of the next fan. I come about 1/4 of an inch or closer but don’t try to backtrack on the line. You can see that really well in Patsy’s handout linked above and the photo below.

All the photos should enlarge when you click on them.

This set of arcs seems to be particularly wonky – notice the narrower and wider areas in the same arc.

In this quilt I worked my way from left to right and then then next row was worked from right to left. I didn’t really plan that beforehand but was trying to minimize how much I had to roll the quilt back and forth on the longarm. I was able to quilt two rows of fans before having to roll.

Any questions? If so, please make sure you include your email address if you want an answer!

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  1. I’ve always loved the Baptist Fan quilting pattern but I was put off by the thought of following a template or marking. Now that I see you’ve done it free-hand, I can’t wait to try! Thanks for the excellent instructions.Martha

  2. I know Tonya’s Fantabulous Fans vary a lot to machine quilted ones. I’m doing some at the moment and am not marking them. Well just the first arc and after that guessing with the length of the needle.

  3. Thank you (!) for this follow up post ~ I have a Bernina 440 but have been ‘afraid’ to tackle free motion quilting on my smaller pieces – but what you’ve shown here has finally nudged me over the edge (Chris has been encouraging pushing for a long time)… I’m ordering my dvd today.

  4. OH Mary – BIG TIME THANK YOU! This helps a LOT and your photo almost gave me goodbumps with antiicpation and pleasure! (we’re all wierd!) 😎

  5. Thanks for the information…I’d love to try this sometime. It would have to be a quilt that I could practise on…I think I have the perfect UFO for it…I’ll have to search my boxes and see if it surfaces!

  6. Thanks, Mary! I’ve been thinking about about doing a Baptist fan on my wonky stars top and here you have the info. I’m gonna give it a try.Love how the fans turned out on your quilt!

  7. OH MARY! Thanks for your fine directions! Ill try first freehand on the tissuepaper and hope to get it go better after excercising. I did one freehand earlier : a climber with leaves. Have been very bad with these things, made with embroidery designs partly.Enjoy your blog always,thank you. Have my own exhibition at our library now 4 weeks. Only simply things. Aune

  8. beautiful — a friend wanted them, and instructions seemed to call for 4 templates (!!!) moved every second (!!!!!) — she does primative quilts, so looser quilting is called for. thank you so much!!!

  9. Hi Mary! Thanks again for sharing this post with us today. I have PINned it back to your website, and I can’t wait to give it a try myself. ~smile~ Roseanne

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