March 06, 2020

I love teaching at Empty Spools Seminars. I have wonderful students who are excited to spend a week going deep on a technique, and the beach is right there to inspire us. In past years I've taught the spiral mandalas technique from my book Magnificent Spiral Mandala Quilts, but this year I got to teach a Free-Motion Mastery in a Month class, but instead of in a month, we did it in a week.

My students were skeptical and even a little worried when I told them "We have 30 hours of class time, so we're going to do 30 days in 30 hours." Some had never done free-motion quilting at all and wondered what they had gotten themselves into! But in less than a week, using the FMM30 step-by-step process of "quilting yoga," tracing, drawing and quilting one block at a time, they progressed far beyond their expectations and produced beautiful work. 

On Day 1 we practiced the first three of the 6 Basic Shapes - straight lines, C-curves and circles. Then Day 2 we did teardrops, S-curves and spirals. The morning of Day 3 we dived into feathers. Then they were ready for design!

After lunch on Day 3, we went to the beach and I challenged them to find the 6 Basic Shapes in nature. Here is some of what we saw:


A mix of spirals and other shapes




When we returned to the studio I gave them the challenge to take an empty block and, using the inspiration they found at the beach, quilt that block in an original design. It was so much fun to see the nature- and beach-inspired blocks that they created. Here is some of their work to inspire you!

Gloria G.

Bobbi H.



Peggy D

 By Day 4, most of the class had all 16 blocks quilted and were beginning the process of cutting and assembling them to create their finished quilt. 

Peggy (who happened to perfectly march her quilt)


Peggy (#2)


This was one of the most enjoyable classes I have ever taught! (And the thing that made it even more enjoyable was sitting by a real fire the fireplace in my hotel room every night.)

Thank you ladies, for joining me this year. I hope I see more of your beautiful quilting when I teach at Empty Spools in February 2021.

If you are thinking of coming next year get on the Empty Spools mailing list now, so you can sign up as soon as registration opens in early May.  

Even if you can't make it to Empty Spools, you can still join me to do FMM30 by taking a class at a local shop, or joining the Free-Motion Mastery in a Month Facebook group.  You can purchase FMM30 products at

Happy quilting!

RaNae Merrill

If you would like to use this in a newsletter or on your own website, please link back to


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Get my free Getting Started Guide and newsletter with quilting tips and more!