When I bought my sewing machine,11 years ago, I wanted that someone be able to show me all the secrets so I can stitch easily. But no one could do that for me because one of the secrets is PRACTICE.
In my first years of quilting, I did not have major problems with piecing or straight line quilting (with a walking foot) but free motion quilting was a real challenge to me.
So here are a few things about free motion quilting I have learned over the years, I hope some of them will make your quilting life easier.
Please read the older tutorial I wrote a few years ago. I don’t repeat here what I wrote there.
Pay attention to the position of hands- in my opinion, this is the thing that helps me most! Actually, it is the most important thing to me!
Adjusting the tension of the threads for free motion quilting was the hardest thing I had to do. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I spent even 2 -3 hours trying to achieve the best stitching.
If you are a beginner quilter, DO NOT BOTHER so much with the thread tension. You may know very well what theory says about the perfect stitching but still, you might not be so happy with the quality of your stitches. Perfect stitching comes with practice!
The same thing for the length of the stitches – try to keep some consistency in stitches but it won’t be the end of the world if not all your stitches have the same length.
Here is a little help with thread tension.
In the picture below:
– the top thread could be too tight, you have to loosen the thread tension;
– or the bottom thread could be too loose, then you have to tighten it.
In the picture below the stitching is too loose, you have to tighten the top thread.
Don’t be afraid to modify the tension setting; just do it in small increments.
One more example in the picture below: top thread too tight and bobbin thread too loose.
Straight versus Curved
Stitching curves is easier than stitching straight lines!
Straight lines will be more straight if you stitch them on small spaces; you could stitch a perfectly straight line on 3 inches but not so straight if you want to stitch it on 10 inches.
A good option for big blocks/patches is to stitch slightly curved lines rather than straight lines(see below).
Beautiful texture can be achieved using the same pattern for stitching, just stitching it in different directions.
This is an example.
Using short straight lines you can stitch many beautiful and easy patterns.
These patterns are stitched in a continuous line, from left to right then from right to left.
And here are a few examples of easy curved stitching.
There are many voices that say the stippling is overused. I will never be bored by stippling. A busy pattern made with busy fabric doesn’t need a fancy quilting.
Free motion quilt following the fabric’s pattern.
See a few examples here.
A few more thoughts:
1. Start with small quilts
Practice on small sandwiches, no larger than a letter/A4 page. If you don’t have major problem in stitching them, there is no reason you could not quilt a queen/king size quilt.
– A quality thread for free motion quilting is a must. But every machine is different and you have to find that thread. If something doesn’t work (the thread keeps breaking) try another one.
– If you can choose between a thin and thick thread to work with in the bobbin, choose the thin one. You will have less bobbins to wind.
-Usually I use the same color thread for an entire quilt, a light neutral color thread- white, cream, beige, light gray; the main reason is that it looks great on light fabric as well as on dark fabric ( I hate quilting with dark color thread on light color fabric- it seems the mistakes are more evident).
Be sure you use a quality needle too. The only needles I use for free motion quilting are Topstitch #90/14/ #100/16. They have a double-size elongated eye, providing more room for the thread to move through with much less friction, meaning less chances for the thread to break.
Quilt with flat cotton batting rather polyester batting. It helps a lot – the quilting fabric sticks nicely to it, leaving no room (almost) for creases.
– I baste most of my quilts on the floor and I found it is fast and easy.
– Starch your backing if it is flimsy. Starch also your finished top, it helps too.
For large quilts I usually like to buy wide fabric for backing instead of piecing the backing; It is cheaper and faster.
7. Binding: see this tutorial.
8. A few thoughts about sewing machines
If you want to buy a sewing machine for quilting, here are a few things to think of:
– the space under the arm is the most important thing; the bigger the better.
– I have 2 machines (a domestic one and an industrial one): one for piecing, one for free motion quilting.-I love that I don’t waste time to change feet, needles or adjusting thread tension. More about it here.
– the knee lift of my sewing machine is invaluable because it frees up both of my hands to hold the quilt sandwich during the quilting.
Happy Free Motion Quilting!