It is such a frustration when you are having fun quilting away and suddenly you realized that you’ve actually quilted folds and pleats on the backing.

Or even more frustrating: you suddenly come across an area with a bubbly puffy surface on the quilt top with no way to ease the puff away except to just quilt it down.

Which resulted in some unintended folds of fabrics, which is pretty annoying (mostly this annoys only the maker, sometimes enough to discourage a maker to just stop and stall.)

This problem may only happen to those quilting on their domestic machine as the quilt is not stretched flat like the long arm frame (makes us wish we had a long arm or the frame – right?) but no sweat, I have the solution for it.

Honestly, I have been there. Many, many times. But now I’ve discovered a technique that works well for me on how to avoid it from happening.

I’ll share this very technique with you in this post. I hope that’ll you find it helpful the next time you are attempting free motion quilt on your domestic machine.

There are affiliate links in this post for your convenience. Please refer to my full disclosure here.


Before we go into the solution, here are some of my favorite must-have tools for Free Motion Quilting:


1. ☑ Superior Threads.I literally changed my mind about threads when I started using this thread. Just read what others hav to say about it too ☑ HERE. They come in big cones, which means they don’t need to be replaced that often as they last a lot longer. I use an embroidery thread stand for it. You can get cheap thread stands like this one here.

2. ☑ Superior Threads Top Stitch Needles. I use this for all of my sewing and FMQ. Literally. In fact, I kind of find it a bit odd when I have to use a needle that is not coloured gold as these needles are. Try out different sizes with ☑ this pack.

3. My trusty sticky Glove. Any brand works for me, but I personally love the ones made of breathable cotton like this one ☑. If I don’t feel like wearing gloves, I make sure I have my ☑ Supreme Slider on the machine. Works like a charm.

4. ☑ Spray Baste. I am not a fan of taking off safety pins. This makes it so much quicker and allows me to cruise without fear of getting onto a pin. I personally love ☑ 505 Spray baste.

5.  My large throat Janome Horizon machine ☑ of course!

However, you don’t actually need all of these tools to start. I myself started with a very basic sewing machine and just a regular free motion quilting foot. Yet, I still managed to quilt a queen-sized quilt. So just upgrade gradually as you feel more confident and based on your needs and wants accordingly. 

If you are looking for a generic free-motion quilting foot that suits a regular domestic machine, HERE is one with a great 5-Star review ☑ . 

Free Motion Quilting on a domestic machine


How to avoid unintended pleats and folds while free-motion quilting on a domestic machine.


The solution is pretty simple.

First, baste well and baste as flat as possible.

and secondly, always, always quilt it from the inside out.

I did mention this in one of the top TLMC favorite posts HERE, but I would like to elaborate further on second point.

Besides, I have just come across this problem recently and I thought I’d do a quick video on it too to show you how I fixed it.

Free motion quilting mistake

So, what does it mean to quilt it from the inside out?


Quilting from the inside out

I have tried many ways and strategies on how to tackle quilting a big quilt on a domestic machine and this is the method that I find works best especially for large quilts.

[Related: See some of the large quilts that I made on my domestic machine HERE, HERE and HERE.]

FMQ on domestic machine


From the moment I first discovered this method, I started practicing it in all of my quilting. Be it for small or large quilt.

I would plan carefully before making a move in each section and this has definitely paid through. Using this method, I was able to avoid unintended pleats and folds. Also, the best part is; even if I do make some mistakes, they are fixable!


Why does it work?

Because, even if you form a bubble surface, there are always areas to ease it out. Since you are quilting from the inside, the outside and edges are still left unquilted. So, you can always flatten the bubble by pushing it away towards the edges.

If you don’t quilt from the inside out, you are likely to get into a situation where bubbles or puff are bounded by quilted areas. When that happens, there is no way the bubble can be eased out and you will have to just push the fabric down and simply quilt on it. Or, make a lot of unpicking to correct it.

See the example diagram below.

Free motion quilting on a domestic machine tips


How to quilt from the inside out:


In order to quilt it from the inside out, you will most likely have to plan your way in sections.

Here is how I do that:

A. I would first divide my quilt into quarters, tackle it quarter by quarter in a systematic way.

B. In each quarter, I would quilt radiating out, starting from the centre moving towards the edges of the quilt.

C. After a couple of shift under the machine, usually about a bobbin or so, I would take it out and plan my way again, taking notes on how I would want to move from one area to another. I will need to make sure that I always have the edges free and unquilted so that I am able to ease out any scrunched up areas. (I will likely need a break anyway, so I take the break session as a time to evaluate my plan.)

D. As I reach close to the edges, I would decide on whether I should continue quilting the areas around there or make my way all the way to the edges and restart again from the centre. This step is important because you may start forming boundaries by continuing to quilt around the edges; creating an unquilted centre (refer the diagram below). Once you start quilting from the outer edge, you may be dragging fabric in which creates these puff and bubbles. 

I would do this to cover all areas in quarters.

Here are the above steps in a visual format.

Free motion quilting on a domestic machine tips



How to fix unintended pleats and folds 


Even if you quilt it from the inside out, sometimes you are bound to come to this situation.

Partly because you may get carried away with FMQ-ing a certain area that you got lost from the initial path plan. It happens. FMQ can be quite fun and sometimes when we are eager to finish quilting certain area we forget the bigger picture.

This is why steps C & D mentioned above is important. Stop for a while and think of where you should be heading to and covering next.

If you skipped the steps or misjudged your plan, mistakes are still fixable.

If you have from the very beginning followed the technique of quilting from the inside out, you should not be far from the unquilted edges. Therefore, you won’t have much to unpick till you can fix it.

Since I have recently solved this problem, I thought, I’ll show you how I did it in this short two-minute video.


This is the seam ripper I used. I love the rubber end to remove the threads easily. You can also use an eraser to do this.

If you can’t or don’t want to fix it?

It is totally A-okay.

Having to sit down and remove free motion quilting stitches is a hard and boring work. I agree.

I chose not to do so in a few of my earlier quilts,

ONE reason is because I did not follow the “quilt from the inside out” rule which means there was too much to unpick to fix it,

Secondly, i thought “if ripping out these stitches will give me a hard time, I would rather accept it as it is”.

Learn to move on.

Once washed and used, it may actually go unnoticed anyway.


Make mistake rather than not trying at all


[related: briar rose quilt – the pic above is a quilt where I practiced lots of pebble and swirl quilting, no, I do not have pleats in this quilt – I quilted it from the inside out; using the stars as a reference for the centre and moving outwards from each of them.

Make mistakes and learn from them to improve on your future projects. That way you are not building bad habits, but learning from mistakes.

Don’t fret too much about it.  I have been there. I have grown out of those mistakes and learned.

I would not have learned if I didn’t try; if I was too afraid to do those quilts by myself, on my own domestic machines.

There are lessons in each practice you do; in each quilt you make. So, embrace it. 

Take this as a challenge if you have been fearing free-motion quilting your quilt tops. I know you can do it!

If you like this post, care to share it. Click the pin button on the top left of the photos. Or share it on other social media by clicking the share button below this post.

Make sure to leave a comment too: I read all of the comments and try to reply each of them. If you like this kind of post, I will be sure to share more in the future. But I need to know how I can help – leave a comment to let me know. Thank you!

Free Motion Quilting on home sewing machine - Important tips to avoid tucks and folds while quilting large quilts. check it out.

How to free motion quilt using a regular sewing machine in section. Step by step to achieving great results for free motion quilting a large quilt
How to free motion quilt using a regular sewing machine in section. Step by step to achieving great results for free motion quilting a large quiltLearn How to Machine Quilt Large quilt by regular sewing machine in section to avoid puckering.

Linked to Linky Tuesday.

Tips for guiding your way to free motion quilting a quilt especially useful for large quilt.-3


35 Comments on FMQ on a domestic machine: Avoiding Folds and Pleats

  1. Great post and tutorial! That is the way I learned to quilt on my domestic vintage Singer sewing machine and it really makes a difference. The only time I usually end up with a pleat is if I jump over an area instead of changing the thread color. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Connie! Thanks for the link up and for commenting here. I had the same issue with you, the only time I will have pleats is when I am doing custom quilting and jumping from one area to another. Definitely a no-no. These days, I rather take breaks between thread swapping or between motifs.

  2. Amira,
    I came to your blog from Connie, and like the both of you, this is exactly how I figured out how to quilt! It works well! I’m glad to have found you! Thank you, and to Connie!

  3. Hello,
    I missed your link last week but Connie featured you this week so I came over to read your post. This is exactly how I am beginning to FMQ all of my larger quilts. It makes sense as this is exactly how you would begin for hand quilting. I hope to get more practice in this year by tackling a queen size quilt I am making for myself. ~smile~ Roseanne

    • Thank You Roseanne for coming over. It was nice to know a lot of others have used the same method, it validates that it does really work! I don’t do it any other way anymore these days. I rather cut the thread and restart from the centre every now and then rather than having those pleats and folds. Good to hear you are challenging yourself to tackle a queen size quilt- it will be satisfying when that is achieved.

  4. Many thanks for these hints and tips. I am just contemplating my first free motion quilt always just having stitched in the ditch or straight lines. This makes logical sense.

    • You are most welcome. That is great that you are going to try FMQ. You’ll love it. If you have any issue or need support, I’ll be happy to help where I can 🙂

      • I have a Janome but wondering what foot do I use to do this quilting? Is it a Janome quilting foot. Bought one but doesn’t fit my machine.

  5. I am so glad I found your blog!! I have FMQ about 10 quilts so far, but all are meandering, or a close facsimile. In fact, I convinced myself (almost) that would ge the best I could do. Not anymore – your work is very motivating!!

    • Hi Kris, yes you can do more than mendearing! I am sure you can- but I am happy to hear that you do mendear yourself- it is a great start. I love mendearing myself, but I always say: if you can mendear, you can also do tons of other motifs. So, have fun and try other motifs too! Let me know how you go.

  6. Love your attitude. It took me a long time to do a big quilt on regular machine. I like when you say that every mistakes is a lesson. Thanks.

    • Thank you Marilyn, I am glad you started! Making mistakes from taking actions is often always better than not.Especially when the risk is low.

  7. Thank you for your clear tips.
    I tried free motion quilting for the first time years ago on a practice piece and never actually finished it because my stippling looked awful. I got so scared I never tried again.
    I want to finish a quillow I’m making for my nephew. I already did all the in the ditch quilting but have been scared to tackle the free motion part. I’ll try following your advice by first doing a few practice pieces.

  8. thanks for this information. i will use this soon as i have several tops from my MIL to finish & this will work great.

  9. So pleased I came across your tutorial, you have given me a lot of useful knowledge that I have not read in any books. Thank you so much. Happy quilting to you.

  10. I am just getting ready to try FMQ I done some practice blocks ,they were really bad .i have done straightlime quilting ,I have a brother machine and the throat is very small ,how can I quilt a large quilt when its so bunched up ?the space is so small I worry I will ruin the quilt with FMQ I want to try stippling on a queen size ,anysuggestions would be so helpful .i have only made small quilts .so what do I do with all the bulky queen quilt when trying to keep it flat and even when stippling?.hope you can help .I love your tutorial.very easy to follow .

    • Hi Beverly,

      Practice blocks are meant to be bad, well at least at first. So don’t worry about it, just keep on practicing. Try doodling first and master that before moving to the sewing machine.
      Regarding the bunched up quilt, I would only work on small area at a time and don’t worry too much the other bits of the quilt, just scrunched them up as flat as you can, and allow them to be off the throat and on the table instead.

      However, I would not recommend going straight to queen size and certainly not before you’ve mastered the stipple motif on the practice pieces. Otherwise, it will be a battle with frustration. So, work on smaller pieces first okay? 🙂 Hope that helps!

    • Hi Beverly,
      I hope you actually see this considering it’s been over a year.
      I have one of those Brother machines with the very small throat. I wasn’t even able to quilt a baby quilt on it, it’s that small, so I understand your problem. I’m guessing the throat on yours is rounded? It’s an excellent machine, but I’ll never know why they designed it that way as it is even smaller than if square. The machine is fine for all other kinds of sewing, but you just can’t get a quilt through it.
      I eventually bought a used Brother VQ3000 on sale from a dealer, which has an 11.25″ wide throat that’s about 7 or 8″ high. I was lucky to find it and to have a generous hubby to buy it for me.
      I’m not suggesting you go out and buy one of these as the new ones are OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive, but I do have some other suggestions.
      1) Ask around with some dealers to see if anyone has a similar machine which they’ve used as a demo unit (that’s what mine was). And if that’s still beyond your pocketbook, 2) check out some of the newer large throat straight-stitch-only machines. Brother makes one, Juki makes on and I think there are others as well. And if that isn’t possible either, 3) Consider a vintage machine. Some of them have a reasonably large throat space and you can get a VERY good one for a reasonable price. Just be careful if you find something interesting on d-Bay; Craig’s list or the like. Ask questions! If the listing says “works fine”, ask the seller exactly what that means. Does the needle move? Does it actually sew? Is the power cord intact? Does the bobbin winder work?. Does it include a manual and/or some accessories. If the photos are fuzzy or insufficient, ask for more. A legitimate seller will happily comply. Lastly, ask them to pack it VERY carefully for shipment.
      And if you want to find the best there is – go to They restore and sell vintage machines and can provide lots of help and guidance. You’d most likely have to pay $400 – $500 but this would buy you a superb machine, restored almost better than new, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
      Again, you posted this a long time ago and may have already solved your problem. But if you know anyone else in a similar situation, perhaps you’d pass this info on to help them out.

      • Thank you for the information,but yes my sweet husband saw my struggles and love of quilting So he bought me a Janome mc .the throat is so much bigger .I love it ,I have made two queen size quilts and currently working on a king ,I’m still learning all kinds of new things and trying to learn FMQ I’m struggling with that But practice practice and I will get it Thanks again for your help .happy quilting ,Bev

        • I’m delighted to hear that and happy for you Beverly! Janome makes excellent machines.

          Struggling to learn FMQ is a common ailment; just try to relax and let yourself have fun with – you’ll improve. I’ve been working on improving for some years and I’m not terribly good at it – just competent perhaps. But I have lots of fun doing it!

          Happy quilting to you too!

  11. I loved reading this article.. really good tips and helped me find solutions to an ongoing problem I keep having.

  12. I did the Mimi free course you had on fmq . It has helped me a lot I’m still practiceimg .its getting better but not ready to put on a quilt just yet Your lesson was so easy to follow and such great information Thank You Your a great teacher and I love all the tips and encouragement.

    • Awww, thank you for the sweet note. i am glad you’ve enjoyed the mini course and practicing! You’ll soon be ready for the quilt, just keep on practicing on little things and you’ll get there

  13. Great tips on quilting. Loved reading it and will save it to refer back to! Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. I FMQed a beautiful full size quilt and ended up with a couple of bubbles and folds in one spot on the front. Just makes me sick!! I am trying now to fix it. Not sure I can. Thank you so much for posting your ideas and tutorials. Very helpful and encouraging!

    • See also, Lori Kennedy. She recommends putting straight lines as a guide using washable pencil or marker made for quilts, of course ie, clamshell…the lines are about 1.5″ apart. You start at the bottom, curve the arch over the top line and go back to the bottom. Try a sample first.

  15. You always have such sensible ideas and suggestions Amira, thank you so much!
    I have a new Muslim friend who I am teaching to sew and I’d like to make her a garment. I know the type she wears and she’s the same size as me, but I’m not certain of how colorful or it’s appropriate (or inappropriate) to make it. Could you possibly advise me? She likes blue. Thanks again!

    • Hi Suzanne, how sweet of yu to make to make sewn gift for your friend. Well, muslim don’t have any colour restriction for as long it is not too inviting, however some cultures do. So, it will depend on your friend’s culture. Good luck

  16. The quilting center out by quarters worked well for me. “Well” is maybe not the best term. Doing a queen size on home machine really can be a bear of a job, but keep frustrations down, it will eventually get you to the edges. I wish I had known then to turn my tension down to lower number. What a difference that makes. So next one should be one I would show!!

  17. Thank you so much. My daughter is getting ready to FMQ her first twin sized quilt (she’s done a lot of smaller projects). She is at the age where she wants to hear from “an expert “ and that isn’t always me. The visuals you provided will really help her.

  18. Just go a Janome 6700 and your article inspired me to try on my own again. Thank you for your detailed information!

  19. The first time you mentioned “inside out” I pictured the batting on top. “That can’t be
    right ,” said I to myself. When I saw the diagram, I knew you meant center to edge, and you mentioned center later in the blog
    Good information.
    To the person with the Qeen size quilt and tiny opening; would you advise her to use a flat board to roll her quilt up on? Or I”ve seen blogs saying “Use a pool noodle” but the noodle itself takes up space.

  20. Hi, I really enjoy your emails, but today was especially interesting. I do not know how you find the time to quilt as much as you do. You are an amazing woman.😉

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