The Best Kind of Exercise- The Quilting Workout

The Best Kind of Exercise- The Quilting Workout

Posted by Lauren Herberg on Jun 23rd 2020

Ramp up your free-motion quilting skills with Dara Tomasson’s book, Walk, Jog, Run – A Free-Motion Quilting Workout.

From the author, Dara Tomasson:

Think of free-motion quilting (FMQ) as doodling on fabric with thread!

This book is a beginner’s guide to free-motion quilting, with basic foundational information, skill development, stitching tips, design options, and project ideas for a successful start in the process of free-motion quilting.

I call myself “free-motion quilting liberator” because I added a whole new layer of creativity to my finished projects. Don’t be afraid to quilt beyond the lines! With this book, I share with you everything I learned through trial and error; how to choose the correct thread and batting; learning the importance of thread tension; basting the layers; and stitching beyond the lines! I have helped quilters overcome the challenges inherent in free-motion quilting in my classes, both in person and online, through my blog, and now, much to my delight, in this book.

If you are just beginning to explore free-motion quilting or you feel stuck in your free-motion quilting journey, I recommend that you make a conscious decision to learn and expand your creative potential through setting up goals and using the workout exercises to commit and learn this fabulous art form. In each of the Section II chapters, there is a specific design element for you to learn, with step-by-step instructions, to help you build a solid foundation of free-motion quilting skills; workout exercises to help develop and practice your new skills; and a project to showcase your talents. I have had the privilege of teaching hundreds of students this tried-and-true method of learning free-motion quilting.

All that ribbon candy looks good enough to eat! The “running” level project, X’s and O’s Quilt, shows off the quilting design “Ribbon Candy”.

Lauren’s Take:

After reading Dara’s book Walk, Jog, Run, I really enjoy working out now – doing free-motion quilting exercises that is! Walk, Jog, Run is a wonderful book that guides you through every step to become a confident and proficient quilter. Perfect for the beginner who has never basted a quilt sandwich, it also has plenty of nuggets of knowledge and tips for the moderate to more accomplished quilter. A quilter of any skill level will benefit from exercising Dara’s workouts!

Walk, Jog, Run is split into two sections: the first covers everything you need to know to set up your machine and get your quilt top ready for quilting. The second is devoted to teaching new design elements to incorporate into your quilting, the quilting workouts to perfect the design and a fun fabric project to display your new talents.

I have free-motion quilted many quilts both at home on my domestic machine and on a rented longarm quilting machine. After reading Walk, Jog, Run, I immediately wanted to jump right in to “jogging” and make one of the many projects. The computer sleeve was an obvious first project for me because when the coronavirus quarantine sent us all to isolate and work from home, I brought home a work laptop that didn’t have a case. Dara’s project of the computer sleeve is the perfect practical option to protect my work property from the dangers of home living!

Technically Speaking Computer Sleeve

First, I pieced the blocks according to the instructions from some fabric that I had leftover from another quilt project. This small project is the perfect time to use up some leftover batting scraps, so I Frankenstein-ed a couple pieces together. (Frankenstein def. – verb Zigzag stitching multiple pieces of batting together to make one larger, usable piece of batting that looks reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster; see also Frankenbatting noun.) I chose to spray baste as Dara recommended it as her favorite way to baste. Spray basting is fast and it makes quilting easy because there aren’t any pins to get in your way when you’re really getting into your free-motion groove!

Now that I had a quilt sandwich ready to be quilted, I practiced Dara’s exercises for the “Circuit Boards” design to prepare myself for quilting the real thing. Dara’s workouts are devised to train your brain and hands to make the shapes necessary for the quilting design. They will take you from timid to confident by simply dedicating a few minutes to each exercise.

Dara gives several variations of each design element that she teaches as a jumping off point for you to “run” with and make new and creative designs for your quilting projects. I chose to use a design she calls “Connected” as the structured design looked like a little more of a challenge.


Quilting up this small project after working out on Dara’s exercises was a breeze. I love Dara’s tip to use an elastic hair band and button for the case closure so I didn’t have to buy anything special to finish off this project.

I trimmed about 1” from the width and 1.5” from the length to make a snug fit for this 13” MacBook Air.

This poop emoji button was just too cute not to use on my new laptop sleeve!

If you have ever stared blankly at the directions “Quilt as desired”, Walk, Jog, Run is the perfect companion for turning your trepidations into confident stitches. I highly recommend Walk, Jog, Run.

Sawtooth Star Sampler by Dara Tomasson, pieced by Becky Keizer


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