Machine Quilting Practice #3: Orange Peel

We are three weeks into our summer machine quilting practice sessions. Are you making some progress? The first session was a straight line grid quilted with a walking foot; the second was the classic clamshell design quilted free motion. This session, we will build on the half-circle shape from last week and practice the orange peel design.

For an individual practice sandwich, you will need an 8″ square of fabric for the top and a slightly larger square of batting and backing fabric. Mark the Orange Peel design on the 8″ square of fabric, layer and baste.

For a nine-block sampler quilt, you will need a 20″ square of fabric for the top and a 22″-24″ square of batting and backing fabric. Please read the Instructions for Preparing a Machine Quilting Sampler for more information about marking the quilt top.

Set up your machine for free motion stitching by lowering (or covering) the feed dogs and installing a darning or free motion presser foot.

Begin the orange peel design at one end of a row of circles. Pull up the bobbin thread as described in Beginning and Ending Machine Quilted Stitches and take the first small stitches by moving the quilt slowly under the needle. Continue moving the quilt under the needle, following the outside row of half-circles. This is the same shape you practiced last week! Again, you can work horizontally along the row from left to right (or right to left)…

… or vertically from top to bottom (or bottom to top).

Remember to keep the quilt in the same orientation for the entire row. Practice stitching right and left, up and down. When you get to the end of the row, reverse direction and stitch back along the inside row of half circles – vertically …

… or horizontally.

Reverse direction again, and stitch along the next inside row of half-circles.

Reverse direction one final time to complete the outside row of half-circles. Secure the end of the row with small stitches and clip the threads.

Repeat these four passes to complete each of the remaining rows of circles. Well done! Hopefully you have become comfortable stitching this half-circle shape over these last two practice sessions. Next week, we will move on to a star motif and practice stitching it free motion – four times!

Back to main


  1. Hi Jeannette,
    So glad to hear that you have been finding the machine quilting practice sessions helpful! When choosing the size of the orange peel (or any other design for that matter), consider the scale of the other motifs in the quilt and the size of the area that needs to be filled. On a one-inch border, for example, you could choose one row of 1″ orange peels or two rows of 1/2″. On a four-inch border, do you want two rows of 2″ orange peels or four rows of 1″? If you’re not sure, draft a few options on tracing paper or clear plastic sheet protectors and audition them on your quilt.

    Good luck!

  2. Jeannette Millar says:

    Hi Kathy: Congratulations on your sewing room design. It’s a beauty!! Once again have been learning so-o-o (or should I say sew-w-w) much from your generous lessons. I have been considering using an orange peel design on a border and would appreciate some guidance as to how you determine the size/scale to use. Obviously it has to fit the space but is there more that I need to consider? Please keep up the good work.

Leave a comment