Stitch Freely With Creative Quilting Background Filler Designs

Free-motion background filler quilting designs add interesting texture to your quilts, playing a “supporting actor” role. But how do you decide which filler to use? One consideration is the size and shape of the area you need to cover.

Follow along to see how to apply free-motion quilting backgrounds!

Background Filler Quilting Designs

Central Park via Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

For a small to medium background, one of my favorite background filler quilting designs is often known as seashell.

You see it on the left side of my Central Park quilt above. Seashell is an easy free-motion background filler design to use because it can fit into many different size spaces and can be scaled up or down depending on the space you need to fill.

Seashell Background Filler Design

Start with a simple loop

To create the seashell pattern, start with a gentle loop, but instead of coming all the way down and closing the loop, reverse your stitching and echo the line you just stitched. You can echo the loop two, three or even more times before going off in a different direction with another loop. The loops can be different sizes and shapes, and if you make them go in several different directions, the texture will be more interesting.

Seashells and Flames Background Filler Designs

Make the loop pointed

Another way to add interest to this background filler is to change the shape of the loop slightly, so it resembles a flame. Add a pointed end to the loop, and echo it two or three times. I like to throw in at least three of these in a grouping before going back to the round seashell loop.

Detail of Flame Stitch

Detail of Sand Dune via Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

You can see the flame groupings mixed in with the seashells in the detail of the top section of my Sand Dune quilt above. The pebbles design at the bottom of the detail is another free-motion background filler design that adds great texture to an open space, but I like to use it in small areas because it’s quite time consuming to stitch.

Background Fillers Seashell and Peacock

Add more interest with a peacock feather

A related free-motion filler design is similar to a peacock feather. You can use this stitch with seashells or on its own. First stitch a gentle curve, then add a small “hook” and echo back around to the beginning. Just like you did with the seashell, echo the stitch two or three times. These echoes can have gentle curves of their own if you like. Again, remember not to close the loop and reverse into another echo.

Peacock background filler

Detail of Green Totem II via Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Another thing to keep in mind with this free-motion stitch pattern is to vary the direction of the “hook” so that sometimes it goes to the left and sometimes it goes to the right. You can see the texture created in the detail of my Green Totem II quilt above when the hooks go in different directions.


It takes practice to get proficient at free motion quilting. Start out with small projects like pillows or placemats to improve your skills, or make a baby quilt for charity. If you’d like more in-depth instruction and more ideas for background filler designs, check out classes with Craftsy instructor Leah Day — Free Motion Fillers Vol. 1 and Free Motion Fillers Vol. 2.

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