How to Begin Learning Free Motion Quilting

Preparation First


1)  Print Practice Designs

To get started, print some of the sample practice designs (see Free Motion Quilting Links in the “Pages” section) and trace the design with your finger, stiletto or pen. Draw the designs on plain paper. Tracing imprints the design in your brain.


2)  Create a quilt sandwich 12 – 18 inches square. Larger sandwiches are easier to hold onto. Layer the top fabric, batting and the bottom fabric. Spray layers with quilting basting spray to hold the layers together. Quilters safety pins also will hold the sandwich together but you need to remove them as you sew.


3)  Adjust Top Tension

Some professionals tell us to lower the top tension by two numbers, you may need to raise the tension by two or more numbers to prevent eyelashes or birds nests on the back of the quilt sandwich.


4)  Needle

Use a 90/14 topstitch needle, a quilting needle or a needle that matches the size of the thread you are using.


5)  Thread

Use two different colors of thread so you can see them easily. This is practice so they don’t have to match. This also helps you to check your stitches by making it easier to see the stitches.


6)  Feed Dogs

Drop the feed dogs. If you cannot drop the feed dogs on your machine, try setting the stitch length to zero, or purchase a “Supreme Slider”. (see “Recommended Products for Free Motion Quilting”) in the “Pages” section.


7)  Foot pedal

Your foot pedal should not move or slide around when sewing. Place a rubber shelf liner under the pedal on carpet or wooden floors to prevent slippage.


8)  Sewing Speed

Sew at a slower to medium speed to get the hang of moving the fabric. Sewing curves and loops too fast can cause eyelashes, birds nest and tension problems.


To help control speed

 - Use the ball of your foot on the foot pedal.

 - Place a phone book at the base of the pedal then put the heal of your foot onto the book.

 - Use your left foot instead of the right.


9)  Stitch Length

Set the stitch length to “0” or the smallest your machine will sew.


10)  Rhythm

Strive for a continuous flow of stitching. Rhythm is important for smooth lines.






Practice Designs


1)  Small cursive "e’s and l's"

Practice small cursive "e’s and l's" then loops. You can also practice "e and l's" then loops, by drawing some lines on paper similar to when we were in the first grade and learning to print. This way you can learn how your machine handles the free motion. This leads to meandering, vines and leaves.


2) Sew Your Name

I started writing my name. Why? Because this is something you do everyday. Just your first name -I did. Over and over again. That really helped me and gave me confidence because I could actually see good results.


3)  Start with loops, and cursive “e and l’s”, practicing until you can stitch them evenly. These designs lead into meandering, vines, leaves and “c’s”.


4)  Break up the Design

Break up the design into smaller sections. To sew a cursive “l”, count “1, 2”, sew the stitches leading into the “l”, count “1, 2, 3, 4” sewing upwards forming the right side of the loop, count “1, 2, 3, 4”, sewing the left side of the loop, count “1, 2”, sewing the ending “l” stitches.


15)  Straight Line

Free motion quilting straight lines helps you learn how to control the machine with the coordination of your eyes, hands and the foot pedal. Many people however, prefer using a walking foot with the feed dogs up for quilting straight lines rather than the free motion.


16)  Practice Daily

Practice thirty minutes daily. If time is limited, try fifteen minutes twice a day.

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Posted Feb 28 2011, 02:03 PM by Sharon
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