Free motion quilting is a beautiful and creative way to add intricate designs and personal flair to your quilting projects. However, it can be intimidating for beginners. In this blog post, we will explore some essential free motion quilting tips to help you gain confidence and create stunning quilted masterpieces. Whether you’re a novice or looking to refine your skills, these tips will pave the way for successful free motion quilting.
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1. Choose the Right Machine and Tools
To start, ensure you have the right equipment. A sewing machine with a drop feed-dog function, a darning foot, and quilting gloves will make the process smoother. Also, use quality quilting threads and needles for best results. You can find the essential tools for free motion quilting HERE>
I have previously quilted with various sewing machine, and if I can choose one feature that I would not trade in for now is the throat size of my current Janome Horizon. This makes a big difference in making it easy to move the quilt.
The machine is slightly on the higher price just for the throat size feature. This is because it actually have more fancy stitches than other larger machines. You can find the top best sewing machine I recommend for Free Motion Quilting HERE>>
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Free motion quilting is all about muscle memory. Practice on scrap fabric or quilt sandwiches to get comfortable with the motions. Begin with simple designs and gradually progress to more intricate patterns. Practice the motion with pen and paper and if you don’t know where to start, start tracing some designs. You can find a free printable free motion quilting designs to trace in this post HERE>>
3. Set the Right Tension
Proper tension is crucial for even stitches. Experiment with your machine’s tension settings until you achieve balanced stitches on both the top and bottom of your quilt. I would recommend adjusting the top thread tension first, make some stitches, check it and adjust accordingly. If the bottom thread is popping up on the top layer, release the top thread tension slightly and repeat.
4. Baste Your Quilt Layers Well
Make sure your quilt layers are securely basted together to prevent puckering or shifting while quilting. You can use safety pins or basting spray for this purpose. I like the idea of spray basting as you don’t need to remove the pins as you go, but lately I’ve been pinning as I ran out of my favourite basting spray!
You can read here on tips how to baste quilt layers together with basting pins.
5. Start with Stencils or Marking Tools
If you’re struggling with freehand designs, begin with stencils or marking tools to outline your quilting path. This can provide guidance and help you stay on track.
Stencils like this one HERE can help especially if you are worried about not knowing the free hand pathways for the design you want to do.
6. Maintain a Consistent Speed
Quilting at a consistent speed is essential for even stitching. Experiment with different machine speeds to find what works best for you, and practice maintaining that pace. In Free Motion Quilting Bootcamp, I teach the students to begin stitching frames over each quilt sandwich as this will allow them to practice with the speed of the machine and the movement of the hand.
7. Relax Your Shoulders and Hands
Tension in your shoulders and hands can affect your quilting. Try to relax your upper body, grip your quilting gloves lightly, and take breaks to prevent fatigue. This sounds pretty easy, but as a beginner, we tend to tense up and not relax as we try and focus on getting everything right. Just like driving a car, it may seem like it’s hard at the beginning but after a while, it becomes second nature.
8. Experiment with Stitch Lengths and Styles
Free motion quilting allows for creative expression. Play around with different stitch lengths and styles to achieve the desired texture and look for your quilt. Some quilters find it easy to do the meandering design. while some may find it is way easier for them to do loops. So, take some time to try out different design, one may fit you more than the other.
You can find 20+ ideas for free motion quilting design HERE in this post.
9. Plan Your Quilting Path
Before starting, have a rough plan for your quilting path. Visualize how you will move the quilt under the needle to avoid getting stuck in corners or tight spots. Always stop and look around, oftentime I see that we tend to just go, go, and go when free motion quilting. It is actually best to stop and break every once in awhile to really get the rythm right and to make sure you’re heading in the right direction in covering the areas you want to quilt.
I always encourage others to quilt form the center out just like in this previous post here where I explain in detail how to free motion quilt from the center out.
10. Embrace Imperfections
Remember that quilting is an art, and small imperfections can add character to your project. Don’t be too hard on yourself – enjoy the process and embrace your unique style. I remember my first few or several free motion quilting projects were not good. But if I had decided to quit then, I would be nowhere near to how many quilts and little projects I’m able to make these days. I was so glad I didn’t quilt as it lead me to more creativity and allow me to finish my own quilt at home.
So if you are a beginner, don’t compare yourself to someone else’s middle. You are on your own path to success and I can promise that you will get better with good practices!
Free motion quilting is a skill that takes time to master. By following these top 10 free motion quilting tips, you’ll build confidence and create stunning, personalized quilts. Keep practicing, experimenting, and most importantly, have fun with your quilting journey. Your unique creations will be cherished for generations to come.