27 January, 2012

Free Motion Quilting Tips II

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 the only secret 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.

Learn Free Motion Quilting
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So here are a few things 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!

learn free motion  quilting

Thread Tension
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 consistence 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 perfect 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.

I don't like to transfer designs on fabric so I like to free motion quilt without a pattern. One of the easiest ways is to stitch spirals following the shape of the patch you are stitching on.

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.

2. Thread
- 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).

Aurifil thread- my favorite thread for free motion quilting,
perfect for my speedy industrial machine
3. Needles
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.

needles for free motion quilting
The difference between an universal needle,
a quilting needle (sharp point) and a topstitch needle (big eye).

4. Batting
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.

5. Basting
- 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.

6. Backing
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.

My industrial machine - under the arm there is a 10.25'' space
and an 100'' quilt. 
My domestic Pfaff has 7'' under the arm.

- 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 changing 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!
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  1. Thank you Gets - I'm sure those tips will help me - I know its practice practice practice - it seems I am lacking time patience time patience etc etc

  2. Olá Geta!
    Excelentes suas exlicações sobre como quiltar!
    Foi uma aula completa para que possamos saber como treinar nossos trabalhos.
    É preciso praticar muito e muito.
    Obrigada mais uma vez! Adorei!
    Um abraço,
    Maria Josefa

  3. Thank you for these teachings! Your tutorials are always great! This post will be an important help for my machine quilting!

  4. Thank you so much for this post today. I am home sick and cant sleep so went hunting for a project to do. While half asleep I decided that I wanted to make some Mug Rugs or Hot Pads something small and practice quilting. I am new to this about a month now. new machine with a million stitches (which I figured I could use some of them to quilt strait lines) but the more I look at the blogs the more I want to try and just do something original. This walk though was great. This may be a dumb question but what exactly is "stippling" Being new I don't know is that any pattern or is it a specific one?


  5. Nice FMQ Tutorial Geta. Thanks for sharing. Your FMQ work is beautiful, as are your quilt designs.


  6. You are so nice to share what you have learned. I do love making loops and find them to be easy and to make a nice effect. Thanks so much.

  7. Thank you for both tutorials. I took my first FMQ class last week - so I now need lots of practice!

  8. Thank you so much for all the information. You make me feel more confident to try some different stitching.

  9. Great post. How can you use a zig zag stitch with your walking foot? I can only use a straight stitch with mine or any I've ever seen.

  10. Thanks a lot !!! i'm a beginner and your free motion quilting tutorials are very useful for me
    thank you thank you

  11. This is a great tutorial, thanks for all the fantastic tips.

  12. I've been practicing my free motion quilting and am stressing out about what the back is supposed to look like. Is the top thread supposed to be buried in the quilt? My top thread always shows - just a little bit.

  13. What a helpful and well written tutorial! You are incredibly talented! Thank you for taking the time to share with us.

  14. Un sincero agradecimiento su tutorial ha sido de gran ayuda para mì. Un abrazo.



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