21 December 2013

Free Motion Quilting

As a new quilter, there is nothing scarier than the thought of quilting your quilt.
After all those long hours of work........... 
Carefully choosing the fabrics, 
Cutting with precision,
And lovingly piecing your quilt top.

The fear of ruining all that work can prevent us from taking that last step.....
The Quilting.

No wonder there are so many UFO sightings each year!

Free Motion Quilting

You can read all about how to do it.
You can try it on practice sandwiches or your pot holders from the kitchen.
But until you start using it on your projects, you just won't get the experience that you need.

Just like everything - Practice makes perfect.
Or in my case - Perfectly acceptable!

I do love to use my walking foot to quilt.  Even if I intend to do some free motion quilting on certain areas of a quilt, I use the walking foot to do, what is known as, anchor quilting first.  When using the walking foot, I always increase my stitch length setting to 3, 3.5 or 4, depending on the size of the project.

I am limited by the narrow throat space of my current machine.  My little Janome has only 6.5" between the needle and the body of the machine.  But that doesn't prevent me from doing my best.  And gaining experience.

The little advice I can offer, when learning how to free motion quilt, is the following:

Quilting gloves:  Being a frugal sort, I started my experience without gloves.  Then spotted a pair on sale one day and bought a Fons and Porter pair.  I knew right away that I would never again quilt - free motion or with the walking foot - without gloves.  It did not take long to wear that pair out.  And when I searched for a replacement pair, I was fortunate to find some Machingers.  Now those are the cream of the crop!  Reversible even!  Love them!

Photo from Leah Day's shop

Relax and think positive:  If you begin by thinking how terrible your results will be.... That is certainly how they will be.  If you are all worked up and distracted before you sit down to quilt....  Wait until a better time to do it.  If music relaxes you and puts you in a good mood....  Turn up the volume!  Make sure you have good support and are seated comfortably, with shoulders relaxed.

Try different designs.  I find that designs with curves are easier for me to do than sharp cornered designs.  The last project I worked on here, was my first attempt a free motion quilting a much coveted boxy meandering style of free motion quilting.  More experience under the belt on my pajamas!

Try different threads.  I normally use Gutermann polyester thread, in plain white, for all my piecing and quilting.  My Janome likes it.  And white goes with everything.  But then I received a sample spool of Superior Thread's Fanastico multicoloured thread.  And like WOW!  I was so pleased with the easy of free motion quilting using that thread!  I ordered two cones from Superior.  And then quickly sent away again for three more.  I now own five cones of different multicoloured threads!

Try different methods.
My first few experiences free motion quilting involved using my machine's start/stop button.  I quickly realized I needed to use the foot pedal to control stopping, starting and the speed of my machine.  And the needle down function is a must.  Remembering to always put your presser foot lever down after adjusting your quilt will eventually become second nature.  Sometimes stitching sideways does not get good results. You need to get some experience to tell if your machine prefers to stitch along the fabric as it is pulled toward or away from you through the machine.  I now quilt without lowering my feed dogs even though my machine does have this function.  Works just fine with them engaged!  Leah Day said it would.  And she should know.  I also set my stitch length to zero.  I don't know if it makes any difference in the stitching or not!

Get experience.
I used to get all tensed up.  My shoulders hurt.  My head hurt.  My mood plummeted.  I was a miserable free motion quilter.  But gradually, over time and with experience, that has all changed. Positive Thinking, Practice and Experience and the Right Tools are the keys to successful free motion quilting.

Remember to believe in yourself and your abilities!
No one could run before they could walk!

Linking up with the fun lovin' Jessica of Quilty Habit, where she is hosting
the Sewing With Certainty series. This theme for this week is Free Motion Quilting.
Her page showing all the posts in the series is here in case you missed it!
Or click on the pretty picture to visit Jessica!

And now.... A word from our Affiliate - the Incredible Craftsy!

CraftsyUnwrap the savings with Craftsy, for a limited time only!

Enjoy up to 50% off online classes in cooking, photography, sewing, quilting and more. Watch classes anytime, anywhere, on your schedule.

Never taken an online class? Craftsy offers a 100% money-back guarantee, and a variety of free classes you can try. Craftsy classes also make fantastic last-minute holiday gifts (and you don't have to worry about shipping).


Sale ends on Tuesday December 24th.  So don’t wait!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
Keep On Quilting On!


Vicki said...

You are so right about the relaxing thing. I appreciate your honesty. After all...it is not the perfection in the quilt, but the love!

Kay said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have only made 2 quilts so far and the quilting part saw me in tears.

Melissa at My Fabric Relish said...

Such sound advice! I agree with the "perfectly acceptible" for me approach! Thanks, Lorna! I've recently used Supieror thread and it was amazing! Where do you buy yours?

Missy Shay said...

Before buying quilting gloves, my hands and shoulders would hurt from trying to "grip" the quilt. I love my gloves! I loved this post, thank you for sharing!

Georgi said...

Thanks, Lorna ~ I needed this!

Beth said...

Agreed with everything! Great post!

ChristaQuilts said...

I love your thoughts on this, Lorna!

Kitchener Quilter said...

So well written, Lorna. Yes, I agree, the quilting part holds people back from turning quilt tops into quilts. I like how Leah Day also says to set up three or four "not important" quilts, so the pressure is off to do a perfect job. I did that, and got over the initial fear. Still working on getting better, though. Probably always will! Thanks for posting about this.

Susan at TheBoredZombie.com said...

Nice tips! I think the thing that makes me really sad is when people show me something they quilted and immediately start pointing at all the spots they find substandard. It's almost like they dont celebrate the good parts! :)

Paula@TheSassyQuilter said...

I believe! Good tips.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for all the great advice. I think maybe after Christmas, when I'm done with gifts, I just might give fmq a whirl. I don't have any quilt tops ready, but I really should start practicing.

Jessica Hadden said...

Working to cure my fmq fear!

jan said...

Hoping to put your advice to good use soon. Happy Holidays!
xo jan

Anne said...

What great tips!! 2014 is the year of FMQ for me. I'm so going to tackle this thing!

I got to try out a Juki recently, and I was just fooling around and managed to make the best stipple I've ever done (not saying much here, but still!) and I think part of it was lack of pressure so I wasn't all stressed.

I'll definitely be heading back to this post multiple times in the new year!

kathyinozarks said...

excellent post thank you-I have a just my regular machine too, and still don't have the confidence to do a large quilt-I have had so many problems-will keep trying though

Marelize Ries said...

Great post Lorna!! I am still intimidated to learn new designs, but I find that if I just relax and allow myself to not be too hard on myself that the result surprises me in the end. I love to FMQ and this post is great encouragement for any quilter, new or experienced!

Sarah @ mila+cuatro said...

Great info, Lorna. I tried FMG for the first time on the weekend, and remembered some advice about quilting you gave me a while ago which is to use a fresh needle, which helped resolve some of the problems I was having.

Sarah @ Berry Barn Designs said...

Just what I needed to read before I FMQ tomorrow! I have a Janome, so I'll try your tip about feed dogs and stitch length and see how it goes : )

kathyinozarks said...

Oh I hope this finds you this morning with your electric back on. we still have ours on thank goodness-very cold here and lots of ice weighing down the tree limbs and lines. Kathy

Val's Quilting Studio said...

I use Superiour thread and love it too! Thanks for a humorous...but inofrmaitvie post! Happy Holidays!

Val's Quilting Studio said...

I use Superiour thread and love it too! Thanks for a humorous...but inofrmaitvie post! Happy Holidays!

Eunique said...

Well said, and nicely done Lorna. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Sakae Yoshihara said...

Merry Christmas!
May the joy of Christmas fill your heart. :)

Shannon @ Modern Tradition Quilts said...

Love your post! There is a lot of great information here. I also appreciate you stopping by and sharing your link with Modern Tradition Quilts on my first linky party. Thanks!

Elita@Busy Needle Quilting said...

This is yet another great post Lorna! You have a wonderful way of putting people at ease. I'm sure this will be very helpful for alot of people, beginners or experienced quilters!


Zenia Rene said...

I always begin thinking how terrible it's going to look...maybe that's my darn problem!! I'll try to be more positive next time...if there is a next time. Just the thought of FMQ stresses me out!

Follow me Everywhere!

Follow on Bloglovin'

Follow by Email HERE...

To have new posts delivered to your inbox, enter your email address, and click on Sign Up! FeedBurner will send a confirmation message. Click the verify link within that message to start your subscription.

Visit my Pattern Shop...

Wholesale printed patterns?
Contact me at

Join Our Sew Along on Facebook

Back to Top