18 October, 2009

Free Motion Quilting Tutorial

Here is the promised tutorial on free motion quilting.

Free motion Quilting Tips
PIN this for later

This does not cover all the aspects of free motion, I just wanted to describe a few things that work wonderfully for me and make my quilting easier and faster. You can experiment with the things you consider are interesting and see if they work for you, too.

In my country quilting is unknown to most people that is why I had to learn all by myself. Can you believe that the hardest thing I had to understand was stitching in the ditch?
I had no one to tell me “Don’t do this, it is wrong” so I do some things in my own manner. They make my quilting easier and I use them all the time.

Here are some:

1. Position of hands
This is the most important thing to me: I don’t quilt with both hands on top of the quilt sandwich. Fortunately, no one force me to do this - I would rather give up quilting!

Look at the picture below.

position of hands for free motion quiltingFor me this position of hands is much more comfortable. I move the quilt around without difficulty and with no pain in my shoulders. I don’t wear any type of gloves, I don’t need them.

learn free motion quiltingI keep on top only my left hand (keeping the quilt laying flat)...

... and the right hand I keep under the quilt. I use this hand to move the quilt.

I also use my left hand to move it around, but the right hand is mainly doing the job.

2. Basting
I use pins (instead of safety pins) to baste the quilt sandwich.
I keep the points of the pins in the middle layer (batting). Sometimes I have scratches on my hands (especially if the quilt is large). But since we have Pepe (our kitten) I have them anyway on my hands.
I love using pins because I put them so quickly and I remove them equally.
Don’t use pins on baby quilts ! Or be careful to remove them all.

baste a quilt for free motion quiltingIf the quilt top is large I layer it with batting and backing on the floor. I use masking tape to secure the backing to the floor.

If it is not large I baste it on a table and I use clamps to stretch the backing fabric.

clamps for free motion quilting 3. How I start a stitch
I bring the bottom thread to the top.
Holding both threads securely, I start taking 3-4 tiny backstitches. I end the stitch in the same way.

how to start  and end free motion stitching I always use the same color of thread on the front and back of the quilt (in the pictures, I used two colors for easier understanding). And I like using the same color for backing, too. In this way if I can't get perfect stitches, the mistakes will not be very noticeable.

To avoid mistakes like this,

I turn the quilt sandwich over from time to time to make sure that I have good stitches on the back.

Some people like using a busy fabric on the back but I prefer to see the quilting. If I have a busy pattern on top, the quilting will look nicer on the back than on the top.

4. Clean your sewing machine often. Oil it according with the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. About threads
My sewing machine (like all the machines, I assume) works wonderfully with quality threads. And because not all my threads are of the best quality, I save the best for using on top (because I usually have problems with the top thread).

6. About needles
I always use quality needles. Lately I have used Schmetz Topstitch needles (#14/90 or #16/100) for most of my projects. They have a large eye and I noticed that the thread does not break so often. If the thread keeps breaking I change the needle.
And I always test its point: if it is dull and does not prick or it leaves a scratch on my fingernail it is time to change it.

7. Why is it harder to quilt large quilts ?
If the quilt hangs off the edges of the table we work on, this will cause difficulties in moving the quilt around. So this is the golden rule for easy free motion quilting : regardless of the size of the table we use (I use a small one), we must keep the whole sandwich on the table at all times.

I start quilting in the center and I never roll the quilt. I just place half of the quilt under the arm of my machine and I quilt on a small portion at a time.

If the sewing machine fits into a cabinet and there is a large flat area to work on, this is a tremendous help.

8. How to quilt fancy designs
Here is an option.
I hate to trace a pattern onto fabrics or make stencils.
That is why I let the computer to make the hard work for me.
  • I print (using EQ software) the desired design on lightweight paper.
  • I pin the paper onto the quilt sandwich.
  • I stitch the design (with dense stitches) then I carefully remove the paper.
From my experience stitching a pattern through paper is the easiest method of stiching a design because the lines are very visible. You will focus only on stitching.

This little quilt was entirely quilted using this method.
9. An example of quick and easy quilting

I outline the patches I want to enhance and I use stippling on the background.

The front of a block

The back
For outlining the shapes I use stitches like these (done with free motion)

decorative stitching for free motion quilting

I can't finish this post without showing you the quilting on the back of my favorite shadow trapunto quilt. I made it using many of the tips shown here.

Click for a large picture
 Other free motion quilting tips

Free Motion Quilting Tips

Let's keep in touch!

Subscribe to my newsletter
Monthly Free Quilt Design
Access to the archive of past designs

Follow on Bloglovin


Michele said...

Bravo! I must try your hand positions. I'm still learning and free motion is taking so much time to get decent results. Maybe I can blame it on the hand position? Your other tips were helpful as well. Thank you!

zetor said...

Very helpful, thank you!

MARIKA said...

You are kind that to send good councils to become all dressmaker's hands
Thank you.I wait for your next councils
.Loving embrace for good councils Marika

SewCalGal said...


This was an excellent tutorial for a beginner thru advanced quilter. Something for everyone. And beautiful, beautiful, beautiful quilting shown as examples.

I think you should write a book.

Thanks for sharing.


Petit Debutant said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I think i have picked up a tip or two that I will be trying out. Thanks Again!

DiahRothman said...

Geta, this tutorials is great, it really helps me more on my quiting-make-easy.... Thanks you so much!!!

Nancy Brodeur said...

Thank you, Geta; I have just started to practice machine quilting. Your tips will be a big help. Your work is very nice.

Lavinia said...

Thank you for the tips Geta! Will be trying them out in my next quilt!

Sherry said...

You really gave me some great info I will have to try to hold my hands the way you do thanks for the info and can't wait to see you next one.

Aida Costa said...

Excellent tutorial!! Thanks so much for sharing :)

roolen said...

Thanks so much for sharing. It's very helpful !

Béa said...

Excellent tutorial!! Thanks so much for sharing. I like especially the quilting through paper : what paper use you for easy removing, please ? All your work is amazing !!!

Chris said...

Super tutorial, Geta. I especially enjoyed the part about quilting over your printed paper designs. I love feathers but rarely do them. I'll give this a try next time. Thanks, Geta!

Quilt Online said...

si eu iti multumesc.

Sewmarm said...

This was a lovely and very well-organized tutorial. And we can see that your home decor also benefits from your talents!

Jude said...

A wonderful tutorial on machine quilting, Geta! I like your hand positions and will try them.

Melissa said...

Wonderful, Geta! So clear and easy to understand. I like your pictures. They are very helpful. Thank you for telling us how YOU do it and not how it SHOULD be done!

Csilla said...

Multumesc mult pentru acest tutorial, chiar a fost bine venita :)

Marcsi said...

Gyönyörű, fantasztikusan szép munkák!

Mary L. said...

Another excellent tutorial! Great job!

gayle said...

I've had a lot of trouble with thread breaking when I machine quilt. Thanks to you, I'll try different needles and see if it helps.
Your quilting techniques are obviously good - since you use them to produce such beautiful work!

Tami (Pixeltrash) said...

Oh my. Your stitching is beautiful. I've only tried my hand at free motion stitching twice and I can't imagine getting it that perfect. You've inspired me to try though. Thanks for the tips!

Emma said...

My tip is use gloves wheh quilting. There are lots of specialty quilters' gloves, but my favourites so far are Ansell Hyflex from the supermarket. They make an unbelieveable difference, and allowed my to move my right hand from underneath the quilt top, and reduce strain on my hands/arms/shoulders/neck.

Emma from sampaguitaquilts.blogspot.com

CJ said...

Very nice tutorial, good information. I am going to try the hand positions and the paper technique. Thanks for sharing. BEAUTIFUL work!

redgarnet222 said...


I just love your tutorial on the machine quilting. You did a wonderful job of explaining the way you have learned to do it. For all of the having to learn on your own, you have really become an expert machine quilter.

Thanks you so much. This will help me a lot.

Arien said...

The last picture with big white blanket is also a machine quilting? It is so fantastyc to see someone can make these beautyfull things.

Howard Family said...

Amazing!! Great Job!! Thanks for the tutorial!!

Monjet said...

Thank you, this is very helpful.

Lynn said...

Nice tutorial!

KicsiKató said...


Thanks for your work, there are some useful - and new!! - tips for me:))

I'm waiting for the next round - love your quilts!

Have a nice day, hugs from Hungary,


Anita said...

I like Your works very much! Sunt superbe!

Rózsaszín pöttyök said...

Thank You! It's a wonderful idea!

I recognized my sewing-machine can also do this type of work in September (reading its instructions ...) I tried once the method but it was disastrous.

What size quilt do You think a beginner should start with?

Anna said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I'll post a link to you on my blog soon as I think many of my readers will enjoy it.
I use a similar grip when I free motion quilt and I'll try yours to see the difference.
I really love your work!

That Girl said...

Thank you for such a clear tutorial! I have dabbled in machine quilting but it has always been difficult so I pirmarily hand quilt. I have 3 quilts to finish for the holidays so I knew that I was going to have to tackle machine quilting... I think I can do it following your instructions. :)

Diane said...

Geta, Thanks so much for the tutorial. I didn't think I could do extensive quilting like yours on my domestic machine. It is so very helpful. I may be up late tonight giving it a go. Thanks again!

Wolfie said...

I found your blog and tutorial thanks to Annas' blog and wow - you are one talanted gal!! I have a severe problem with the actual quilting, but with your expert advice I might get a hang of it. One thing I can figure out is where in EQ6 you find quilting templates....blocks, threads, embroidery - yes, but templates for quilting - nope. I might be a very bad searcher though LOL.
Hugs from Sweden!

Joy LaVon Designs said...

Geta~ I just ripped out some "free motion" I did, I am going to pn a template, and take off my gloves, and try your hand idea 1 on top, 1 under. THANK YOU< and YES write a book, more money for thread. LOVE, Joy

Eileen said...

Very informative tutorial, Geta. I will have to try out your suggestions next time I free motion.
Wolfie, in EQ6 go to Block Library>EQ6 Libraries>7Quilting Stencils. I think that's what you're looking for.

deb poole aka kustomgal said...

I am in "awww" of your work. You are so talented. And yes, I will be happy and honored to add your name to my blog. Thank you for sharing your talent.
My blog is http://www.fancythatbydebpoole.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Geta for a fantastic tutorial, I think you're work is amazing and you're English is great.

betty said...

Thank you for this excellent tutorial,I like your hands position ,it is appropriate especialy for the beginners(like me) and the paper design for quilt
instead the drawing on top.
Great job

Sarah said...

what a brilliant tutorial - thanks for going to all the effort. It is full of tips for new quilters like me!

blog said...

Achei seu blog por acaso. Muito lindo seu trabalho, sou iniciante no patchwokr.
Amo essa tecnica, adoro fazer bolsas e cestinhas.
Sou a Rosa do Brasil. Bjs

Melissa said...

That Trapunto quilt is amazing! Brava! Thanks also for this tutorial, it makes the quilting look soooo much more accessible. I've got a basket full of fat quarters waiting to make a quilt, but have been putting it off... maybe I'll make some potholders first and practice! Thanks!

Debora said...

Gracias por el tuto,la verdad muchas de nosotras empezamos en la nada sin saber como arrancar,justamente estoy teniendo problemas con la maquina ,de atras me cose igual ,,me canse asi que voy a cambiarla,soy de argentina no tengo mucho para elegir,las maquinas que tienen ustedes ,me esta terminando de convencer,aca no la consigo asi que la tendre que pedir de importacion,gracias nuevamente y un beso.

Annelein Design said...

Thanx for shearing your experience. I would like to quilt this way. You are encouraging me.

Nice greetings,
The Netherlands

Katie said...

One of the most important things I would tell people when they want to start FMQing - is to buy a Darning Foot or Free Motion Foot attachment for their DSM if they don't already have one. If you're like me, you tried everything and was very discouraged when nothing worked. AHA.. there's a FOOT YOU HAVE TO BUY? Now I FMQ like a dream.
Also, girrrrll... you can barely see your Add a Comment link on your page - it's in a very pale shade of green.. it took me forever to find it!! hahaha.. Thanks for your wonderful tips!

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Oh my goodness! I am happy that I found your blog :o) I am a novice quilter and love the information you have posted here. I am currently working only on hand pieced and handquilted baby quilts (for when we eventually become grandparents :o)...but have always wanted to learn more about free motion quilting.

I gave our daughter my old sewing machine, so I am on the look out for a new one that will work well with FMQ.

Blessings & Aloha!

Gmama Jane said...

Hard to see your Post a Comment...it needs to be darker! I love this tutorial. I am a beginner machine quilter and I have such a hard time.
Love your work
Gmama Jane

cr8rt said...

This is so good. Thank you. Really, thank you. I love your tips. Jen

Tina said...

You are an artist, way beyond just quilter! And your English is better than my grandchildren's who are American! Thank you for this tutorial.

sunrise4501 said...

I love your site! Thank you so much for your tute, now I think I can try your methods. I have many many table toppers to make for gifts. I will try your method on these first.
I agree, write a book, I'll buy it!

PatriciaFaye said...

Your tutorial is one of the best and easiest to follow. Others I've looked at were quite intimidating. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions. I think I am ready to get started.

Jeanne said...

I love your blog site. I can't believe how beautifully you machine quilt. I made some small wall hangings and will try your method of machine quilting. I am amazed at your level of quilting (and your blocks also).

Eloisa said...

Muchas gracias por el tutorial de acolchado,tu trabajo es impresionante,un beso.

Joanna said...

I'm happy SewCalGal shared this link with us. Thank you for showing us your methods. Your quilting is truly beautiful.

Linda H said...

What a great tutorial. Thank you so much for sharing your technique. I can't wait to finish my next quilt top and try holding the quilt the way you show.

Your work is just stunning!!

Cheryl said...

Excellent!!! I am very happy to have read this tutorial! Thank you thank you thank you!

CilB said...

Your quilts are breathtakingly beautiful! I do have a question. On the quilt that you showed us how to use the paper method for quilting,( the brown stars), what did you do in between each of the blocks to define them so much? This is a beautiful quilt and I would really like to try this method but it looks so pretty the way you did it. Thank you in advance for you help and again, thank you for the very helpful tutorials.

Sam said...

Very inspiring! Thanks for the tips. http://www.quiltingcurve.blogspot.ca/

Carol said...

All great tips! I will be trying out your printing method for free machining. Thanks for sharing Geta!!!

ayisha said...

Your site is very good and helpful thank you.

Tina said...

Very soon I'll be working on some FMQ, I haven't done anything but a few lines so far. Many of your tips will come in very handy and I learn. Thank you!

Jodi-Marie said...

Your work is so beautiful. Your tips are very helpful. I am just learning free motion quilting. Thanks for sharing

Lee murray said...

Wow your quilts are magnificent. Congratulations for your Houston win. Very inspiring.

KaHolly said...

I am new to FMQ and really appreciate your tips and techniques. Thanks so muchfor so graciously taking the time. ~karen

Celia Ambrose said...

I have admired your quilting photos for the past year, and want to thank you for your free motion tips. Your work is beautiful and perfection to a "T". I signed up for your email subscription. Many blessings to you for sharing your expertise. (celiaambrose@hotmail.com)


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin
Blogging tips