Free Motion tips

Here are my tips for Free Motion Quilting. I hope they help!

The 3 P’s to free-motion quilting success: Prepare, Practice, Persevere

Prepare your space
·         Place an additional table in front of your machine and one on your left side to hold the weight of the quilt
·         Sit in a chair that places your arms at a comfortable height
·         Add a light on your left side and in front of your machine

·         Use an  extension table to hold your quilt level with the needle
·         A Single-Hole needle plate keeps the thread centered

Prepare your machine
·         Put in a new needle – I like Sharps and Quilting needles Use good quality thread; select cotton, polyester or silk thread depending on the effect you like.
·         Size of thread will determine size of needle, i.e.: a smaller thread, like silk, needs a smaller needle: 60/8; a standard thread is 40 to 60 weight and needs a larger needle: 90/14, 80/12, or 75/11
·         Wind several bobbins, it is good to match top and bottom threads until you build your confidence!
·         Use your spring-action foot
·         Set stitch length to 0
·         Select “Free Motion” setting
·         Change needle position to “Down”

Prepare your quilt
·         Use patterned fabric for your backing; it will hide small knots and boo-boos that may happen
·         Starch is your friend! Starch both the front and backing of your quilt prior to pinning. Starch makes it slide!
·         Layer and pin, or use spray basting if it is a small quilt.
·         Baste for stability – I use water-soluble thread (top and bobbin) with my even feed foot and baste in a large grid. It does not have to be straight as this is just to hold your layers and prevent folds and puckers. You can also “stitch in the ditch” to stabilize.


Prepare yourself
·         Make sure you have uninterrupted time to practice. You will improve as you relax. Play your favorite music, have a beverage nearby. As you practice and improve, you will have FUN!!!

·         “Machingers” gloves can help grip the fabric
·         Experiment between moving the quilt with your hands flat and moving the fabric by gripping the fabric. Do whichever feels best for you!

  • Grab a quilt sandwich; 18” x 18” is a good size to start.
  • Place the quilt under the needle where you want to begin. Lower the needle, let it come back to the top, then pull your top thread, bringing the bobbin thread up.This will prevent a knot at your starting point. You will weave these thread tails in later.
  • Take it slow and easy, the object is not speed, but control and precision. You want to find the sweet spot between needle speed and how fast you move your fabric. This determines your stitch length. YOU are the stitch regulator!
  • You want to find the speed where you are most comfortable and have control over the size and direction of your stitching, along with having control of the weight and movement of your quilt.
·         Okay, now sew. Sew a line away from you, and then sew towards you. Make loopy doodles, curves are much easier than straight lines and sharp corners. Write your name.
  • Adjust your thread tension as needed.
  • It is good to warm up in this manner every time you quilt.
  • Free-motion quilting uses your sewing muscles in a new way. The more you practice, the better you will get!
  • If you want denser stitching – echo! Echo stitches are made by outlining the stitch you just made. A great way to fill in and add texture!
  • You also need to remember to get up and move around if you begin to feel tension in your back and shoulders.
  • Set aside time to practice. Even 15 minutes a day will help! You will see improvement in your stitching and technique with regular practice.
  • Create several quilt ‘snacks’ from your scraps to doodle and warm up.
  • Find a “quilt stitch design” you like, first trace it. Then draw the design several times. This stimulates your muscle memory. Next, stitch that design, several times. The more you do it, the better you will get.
  • Don’t pick your work apart! A few uneven stitches gives every project your personality!
  • Experiment and develop your own stitch library
  • Create a stitch sample using fabric you like and keep it handy as a resource. Bind the edges, make it for YOU!
  • Practice, then practice some more.