Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Little Free motion Quilting

I really started my quilting career not knowing what I was or wasn’t suppose to do.  I didn’t know about 1/4” seams so at least 2 projects have mostly hidden points.  I didn’t know that free motion quilting was hard so I just did what I needed to do.  No one told me.  I started free motion quilting about 15 years ago with my mother’s old Singer machine I call the “Green Machine”.  You all know the type—steel frame, olive green, very heavy with a few extras.  This machine has “cams”.  It lets you sew decorative stitches way back in the 70’s.  It did not have the ability to lower feed dogs.  But it was mine—a gift from Mom. Now I have a Juki industrial machine with a larger arm that will go faster than anyone can handle.

A quilter at the LQS let me borrow a stencil.  She told me to take off all the feet, hoop the project and start practicing.  Away I went. 

I thought that I would show you how I make some of these better motifs today.  It is in the same fashion as 15 years ago.
I find that when working on a specific motif to be quilted, it always looks better in the end if I hoop it.  I don’t hoop things if I am just going to meander some pattern.  I  like an embroidery hoop.  Here is my favorite.IMG_4201
I like this one because it is easy to get under the foot of the machine and has enough space to get a decent size motif in it.   You do not want a thick quilting hoop, it is too tall. I like to use a stencil and blue pen to draw the motif onto my quilt.  I try to have a pen that is older, I don’t want so much pen that it will be forever getting it out.  I like a little older pen.  I will pull off the end and add a little water to it.  This will make it so it isn’t so much work to transfer the motif.  Sometimes I use a chalk pencil.  This pattern is to ornate to easily tell where I am going with the chalk. 
IMG_4206When I hoop a motif I keep in mind that only so much of the hoop will fit between the foot of the machine and the arm (the throat plate area).  I try to place the motif so that I do not have to rotate the hoop to reach all the areas of the motif.  Some larger motifs this is not an option.  This one is small and I could get to all the parts easily.  IMG_4207
  1. I use the hoop for 2 main reasons:
  2. I like how the hoop spreads out the motif.  This helps everything lay flat.  I do not have to worry about that while trying to maneuver around the motif.  The second reason is it gives me better control in moving the fabric.  I place the hoop with the flat side down, opposite of how you would hold the hoop for embroidery.  See how I am holding the hoop.  I have the hoop in both hands.  Usually I just go fast when I am meandering.  For this technique, I take my time.  I do not have to stay exactly on the line—but I want the consistency of both shape and size.  I will often draw many motifs on and sew them out so that I do not have to take the hoop out from under the machine.  I will just slide the next motif under the needle and hoop that part of the quilt. 
I also wanted to show you my practice piece.  I draw this motif on a small sandwich and run it around the machine a few times.  I like for the muscle memory to start kicking in.  I want to be able to know if I my hands keep wanting to make a concave curve vs. a convex curve.  If you click on this you will see that I sew this shape 3 or 4 times.  I have about 4 of these shapes on the sandwich.
I then spray the quilt when I am done.  I don’t soak it too heavily.  I often spray it 4-5 times.  I will let it dry, then spray again, until all of the blue is out.  Sometimes it will take awhile.  This is why you don’t want that brand new pen.  I will lay it over the back of the couch to dry at the end of a work session or between sprayings. IMG_4202
The key for me has always been practice.  Nothing nerve wracking.  I have 2-3 sandwiches that I often practice on.  When the kids are looking for something to do—Why not rip!  They love it.  Then I will use the same sandwich next time.
Just Quilting Away,
Just Another Quilter


  1. Thanks for sharing your method. This might be just what I was looking for. With lots of practice, of course...

  2. Words can't express how much I appreciate this blog of yours! I have dreaded learning how to machine quilt like that, but after your detailed tutorial, I think maybe I can learn to do it too. I AM going to try! One of the hardest things for me is deciding how to quilt a project! Thanks so much! To do it as lovely as yours is, I'll have to practice a lot! ---"Love"

  3. Thanks for the info! I just got a new machine and have decided it is time to learn to machine quilt. I have signed up for a class at my LQS in a couple of weeks. I can do this, I really can! ! !

  4. Thanks for all the useful information on free motion quilting. I am going to get a new hoop and practice.

  5. Those motifs look fantastic! And you make it look and sound so easy. The quilt is coming along - you'll be done in no time.

  6. Thanks for the tutorial. Haven't tried machine quilting like that yet, I mostly stitch in the ditch. I will keep some of your tips in mind.