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Quilting Motif 10 - Pebbles

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Hi friends! I hope you are ready to take off the free motion training wheels - haha! Today's motif is PEBBLES - which is basically a bunch of circles or rounded squares squished together. This motif can be very dense (which squishes down your batting) so it can be a fun addition to a quilt for adding texture and highlighting elements in your quilt.

I like pebbles in their "free-motion style" meaning that they are NOT all uniform or perfect circles/squares. Instead of doing just one version, I chose to show you some options to challenge various levels of creativity and quilting skills. On your block (if you choose to try pebbles) you can focus on one version.

You may notice that I did some crosshatch quilting in the center, and I may do more in the corners to really make the hearts POP! But most important is the bubbly texture created by the pebbles!

Pebbles are typically a filler design because they are usually smallish in size and can fill in shapes and gaps created by combining with other motifs. They can be somewhat labor-intensive, so it would be tiring to cover a whole quilt edge-to-edge unless you enlarge them greatly.

New Notion Promo

I've mentioned this before, but here are some pictures and details about the deck cover I put on my sewing machine. It is a slippery (teflon?) cover that adheres to your machine with static attraction not actual glue. As you see in the bottom photo, it covers everything but your feed dogs. The other name I've heard tossed around is "Super Slider".

Don't forget to set up your machine for free-motion quilting - change your foot, lower your feed dogs, lengthen your stitch, change your threads and tension if needed, and have your quilting gloves ready.

Pebble Practice

So for this design I practiced on paper. It really does help get in your mind how to travel from one circle to the next and across the area that you are quilting.

Things to keep in mind as you practice are:

  1. It's ok to go over the same lines to get to the jumping off point for your next circle - it actually looks better.

  2. Different sizes and imperfect shapes look more natural.

  3. I drew arrows to show you how I move my hands - sometimes in a figure 8, but other times I don't switch directions so it's more like a bounce.

  4. And it's ok if you do it differently when you quilt then when you draw.

I drew 4 options and I will provide details for each variety. You can try any and all varieties on your entire block or a portion as you like.

It does tie your quilt blocks together when you add some of your other quilting designs in which is why I added a little crosshatch quilting.

Pebbles - the Original

In this drawing I started my first pebble drawing counterclockwise. When I got to the start position I had to go over my stitches a little bit to get to a place to start my next pebble. And then I switched to clockwise to make that one, it's just how my hands flow. It is perfectly fine if you go over your pebble once or twice or whatever until you are ready to make your next pebble, and you can go in the same direction if that is more comfortable to you. I tried to demonstrate how I changed directions to make the pebbles with all the internal arrows (I hope it's not too confusing).

Most importantly I hope you see that the finished pebble quilting looks very similar to the drawing, and it has a lovely bubbly texture. All the stitching to make the circles really makes the batting pop in the empty spaces!

Squarish Pebbles = Cobblestones

In this second drawing I basically stitched in the same fashion although the direction was less important to me than the shape since I needed more squarish shapes. I don't usually do this motif but I wanted to give you options. I find it was not as smooth a flow to stitch cobblestones, but I do think they look pretty. Also it was slightly harder to differentiate the size and shape for me - it may be easier just to stitch similar blocks in a row.

Fancy Pebbles & Cobblestones

In these two examples, I added embellishments to the center areas. I tried to show with the arrows in little corner samples how I achieved this, but let me explain also.

To make a cross or X, I make the entire shape and then stitch one diagonal, go up the adjacent side, and then stitch the opposite diagonal.

To stitch more of a star or asterisk, I make the entire shape and then stitch all the way across, then stitch back along the same line to the "middle", and then stitch forward and backward to make additional spokes.

This is fun to do and adds a little something extra, but I do think it makes the shape too flat for my taste, and the plain shapes look extra puffy - to me it translates as slightly out of balance. But as a whole it looks perfectly great!

On the second sample I also mixed circle shapes in with the squarish shapes, but I don't think it really stands out in this variegated setting. I think if you really wanted to highlight that aspect of your quilting, you should make a row(s) of squares and then a row(s) of circles so it's a more linear design.

Ready, Set, Sew

Now you've seen all the options and it's time to choose a design and get stitchin'. Decide where you are going to put your pebbles to highlight the piecing of your block.

If you need a little warm-up, use a practice quilt sandwich or practice on the edges of your block where it is just batting and backing.

Make sure that you have basted the edges and the center of your block or you could make your seams less straight.

When you are ready, put your needle down manually at the edge of the block preferably (so you don't have to tie a knot) and start making your shapes. Slow and steady will help you get nice smooth shapes. If you start in the middle of your block, make sure you leave long tails for tying off later.

Have fun filling your desired space with pebbles or cobblestones!

Here is a little video showing me stitching pebbles - fancy & regular - in regular time. And a few last tips:

  • Going around your shape multiple times will make it more defined,

  • You can make your shapes as big or small as you like just keep them similar and consistent,

  • For smoother curves with no tension issues, make sure your foot and hands are moving at the same speed,

  • If your bobbin has issues and you have to break thread, try to leave a long enough tail to tie a knot and bury it.

  • You can sew in any direction when your feed dogs are lowered.

I hope you have fun playing with your various "rocks" and give your quilt some fabulous texture!

If you are reading this and following along with the Nothing but Love Quilt-Along see below for more details.

If you are just joining in, here are the links to all the quilting designs we've covered so far in the Nothing but Love Quilt Along:

January 24 – Affection/GRIDS Quilting Motif 1 - Grids (

February 7 – Refuge/OUTLINING Quilting Motif 2 - Outlines (

February 21 – Joyful/SQUIGGLES Quilting Motif 3 - Squiggles (

March 21 – Devotion/PUMPKIN SEEDS Quilting Motif 5 - Pumpkin Seeds (

April 4 – Inspiration/WAVY LINES Quilting Motif #6 - Wavy Lines (

May 2 – Admiration/FRACTURED SPIRAL Quilting Motif 8 - Fractured Spiral (

May 16 – Admiration/SCALLOPS Quilting Motif 9 - Scallops (

I hope you're learning something new and having a good time doing it! Don't forget to share your progress and quilt pictures here or on social media with any of these tags #nothingbutloveqal #quiltingpebbles or tag me @polkadotpeepquiltsetc on Facebook or Instagram.

Have questions or comments? Please leave them below.

Until next time, I'm wishing you fun times in your sewing area and I'll see you next week with a new block!

Be blessed,



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