If you’ve been one of the readers that has told me you’re afraid of free-motion quilting this post is for you! I, too used to be afraid, but am no longer! This is me quilting on a small quilt sandwich (2 layers of fabric with batting in between).
Excuse the Michael Jackson look. Although my sewing area is surprisingly clean, I can’t find my other quilting glove!
If you’ve never done this before, here are some simple steps to get you going. There are a ton of words here, but if you’d like to print off the instructions, I’ve put them on a handy dandy PDF file for you to print off an take with you to the sewing machine.
- Make a mini quilt sandwich ~ 10” x 10” using scrap pieces of fabric and batting: Layer batting between 2 pieces of pressed fabric. Spread top and bottom fabrics out flat with hands. Pin if necessary to keep layers in place.
- Attach a darning foot to your machine.
- Set presser foot pressure to zero.
- Lower the feed dogs (consult your machine’s manual on how to do this if necessary).
- Put on quilting gloves, if available (rubber gloves are a good substitute).
- Starting in the center, make one stitch, ending with needle up. Using the top thread, pull the bobbin thread all the way up through the top of the quilt (a pin may be helpful in pulling up the bobbin thread). Stitch in place over the ends of the thread for 3 stitches. Snip thread tails.
- Place both hands on fabric with thumbs pointing toward each other forming a three-sided box around the needle. Remember that the quilt sandwich should not rotate. It will simply glide up, down, side to side and diagonally.
- Start sewing, moving your quilt sandwich left, right, up and down. Practice diagonals and loops. Practice writing your name or drawing stars.
- Practice meandering stitches as shown above. Note: The diagram above is meant only to be a guide. Meandering stitches are meant to be random.
- Listen to the rhythm of the machine and try to move your fabric at a consistent speed. Pay attention to your stitches. Are they longer than you’d like? Try decreasing the stitch length by moving the fabric more slowly. Are they shorter than you’d like? Try moving the fabric more quickly under the machine, increasing the stitch length. As you become more used to stitching this way, you’ll find your rhythm and refine your technique.
- Pay attention to your posture. It’s easy to hunch over in concentration but quilting this way for any length of time can strain your back and neck.
- Consider winding up several bobbins before free-motion quilting an entire quilt. Free-motion quilting uses a lot of thread and having several bobbins filled prevents the sewer from having to stop to refill a fresh bobbin.
I have to admit that my sewing machine has a special stitch regulator that makes free-motion quilting (FMQ) much less intimidating. But when I wrote the Tree and Bird Baby Quilt pattern, I turned that feature off and learned to do it without the stitch regulator so I could write the instructions I’m giving to you now. I can honestly say that it isn’t much harder and am not using the stitch regulator in the video above.
Seasoned quilters, feel free to add your 2 cents, keeping in mind that there will be variations based on preferences.
New to FMQ? Feel free to ask anything that I forgot to cover!