Simple Free Motion Quilting Tutorial

How to Free Motion Quilt

Free motion quilting is still something I get asked about the most.  It’s so simple, and also so daunting at the same time!   I’m DEFINITELY not an expert, and don’t look too close at my stitches, but good news….it doesn’t have to be perfect, AND it’s a great stress reliever!  ;)  

While I was quilting some other things yesterday I figured I would take some photos and show you exactly the few simple steps I take to free motion quilt on my Juki

  • Use the free motion quilting foot, or a darning foot.  

How to Free Motion Quilt

  • Start with a well basted quilt sandwich, I flip flop between spray basting and pins.  You can find a tutorial for how I spray baste my quilts here.    Wind up some extra bobbins so you can quickly change the bobbin when it runs out in the middle of your quilt. 

How to Free Motion Quilt

  • Turn the stitch length down to zero, and lower the feed dogs.  My machine has a speed control, I make sure it’s at the fastest setting before I start, and I oil my machine if I remember.

How to Free Motion Quilt

  • Start on the edge, on the batting or backing.  If you are trying free motion for the first time, make a few smaller basted “quilts” that you can practice on.    These are the quilting gloves I’m using in these photos, but I also have these white ones and I like them even better.  They give a nice grip and are a must for me when quilting, I also wear at least one glove when I’m binding to help me grip and move the quilt better.   If you have a hard time holding the quilt and moving it while quilting, try using gloves! 

How to Free Motion Quilt

  • Decide on what design you are doing before you start.  If you are just starting, you can also practice with a pencil and paper first…or you can just wing it like I do and hope it works out for the best.  ;) 

 Now start stitching! 

How to Free Motion Quilt

My best tip if you are having a hard time keeping your design fluid and you are getting sharp points and turns…SPEED UP and RELAX!!!  If you have your shoulders bunched up by your ears take a minute and breathe and relax, and then press your pedal down and speed up!  Your designs will be more fluid, and you won’t overthink where to stitch next…when you speed up it will look better.  Push the pedal to the metal and try it! 

How to Free Motion Quilt

I took a quick video of me quilting in real time you can view here.  

I’m pretty unadventurous when it comes to free motion, I usually do stippling (on the left below) or some form of loops (on the right).  They are basic, and good starting designs.  

How to Free Motion Quilt

If your bobbin thread runs out in the middle of the quilt just cut your thread, refill your bobbin, and re-start stitching in the same spot, just a few stitches from where you ended.  Stitch in place or back and forth a few times to secure it, and keep stitching!  You can trim or bury the thread later. 

How to Free Motion Quilt

How to Free Motion Quilt

I think that’s it!  It’s very simple.  Mostly it’s just practice, practice, practice.  I should also say that my Juki has never had tension problems, and I rarely mess with the tension…but that can be a big headache when quilting.   Quilting a large quilt is a whole different ball game (it’s a shoulder workout to hold and squeeze through the machine!).   Here are some Tips for Quilting a Large Quilt.  

There are TONS of videos for learning how to free motion quilt on YouTube.  They cover more than I ever could, so if you still feel unsure, spend some time learning a bit more.  

How to Free Motion Quilt

If you’ve never free motion quilted before…this is me encouraging you to try it!  You might just really enjoy it when you get the hang of it.  DON’T be hard on yourself or worry if it doesn’t look perfect…we are not after perfection…just a finished quilt that you did all by yourself!!  




26 Responses to Simple Free Motion Quilting Tutorial

  1. Vicki July 16, 2019 at 4:27 pm #

    Yes, definitely, to gloves, that Juki, and going fast! And washing/drying hides so many things: uneven stitches, wobbly and pointy curves, little puckers, you name it. I also think the quilting patterns that go all the way across in rows are easier, like orange peels, those wishbone things, and the loops in your last photo.

    • Allison July 17, 2019 at 1:39 pm #

      Yes…washing hides all quilting mistakes and you forget about them anyways!

  2. Little Quiltsong July 16, 2019 at 5:16 pm #

    Thank you for addressing this – I go between 3 different quilting methods that I feel comfortable with, but would love to learn stippling or more ‘flowy’ loops. The problem is, I get ‘lost’ as to where I should go next. Loved that you showed a live video. Will keep practicing :)!

    • Allison July 17, 2019 at 1:40 pm #

      Going faster can help you figure out where to go next…with practice you just learn to not overthink it!

      • Kacie December 28, 2022 at 3:23 pm #

        Great live video to observe. Good advice to breathe and relax. Go with the flow :)

  3. Cathy July 17, 2019 at 7:31 am #

    I have the same sewing machine and foot. Thank you for tutorial. I’m eager to try free motion quilting. Hugs

    • Allison July 17, 2019 at 1:40 pm #

      It’s a great machine for quilting!

      • Angela Webb July 19, 2019 at 7:47 am #

        Allison, I have the same machine, and I love it for piecing, but have a lot of trouble with thread tension. Do you ever have tension issues with yours?

      • Allison July 24, 2019 at 4:18 pm #

        Luckily I don’t! My 3 year old has played with the tension knob a few times and it will get wonky, but nothing I can’t fix by turning the knobs a bit while I sew until it’s perfect. I’ve heard the tension issue before with free motion….but I’ve heard it with most machines! I think it just is hit or miss!

  4. Jenn Anderson July 17, 2019 at 7:54 am #

    Thanks for sharing this simple (not overly complicated) free motion quilting tutorial. I like the big loops in the photo at the end too!

    • Allison July 17, 2019 at 1:40 pm #

      Big loops are my fave!

  5. Lisa July 17, 2019 at 9:37 am #

    The local person that did my quilting went in the hospital one time. I had several things that I really needed/wanted to be quilted. My grown daughter said “oh, Mama, you can do it yourself, just swirl the lines around!!! lol Well, I started looking at tutorials online and using scrap paper here at work, to doodle on. The more I doodled, the more fluid the motions became. I now quilt all but King-sized quilts at home on my Janome memory craft. I love it.
    Thanks for the tutorial. It really does become easier, the more you practice.

    • Allison July 17, 2019 at 1:41 pm #

      Yay I love that! It does become easier, and is so fulfilling to quilt your own quilts!

  6. Monica Kostak July 17, 2019 at 10:34 am #

    I tried it on some SMALL Christmas ornaments and on 2 mini quilts. I was pretty impressed with myself. :) of course some stitches were a little wider than uniform…but i was happy with the outcome and…my daddy loved his wall hanging :)

    • Allison July 17, 2019 at 1:41 pm #

      Yay that’s awesome!! It’s so fulfilling to quilt things yourself!!

  7. Bridgette July 18, 2019 at 11:34 am #

    Thank you thank you!

  8. Pamela Hamilton July 22, 2019 at 10:45 am #

    I liked your tutorial and agree with your tip about sewing faster! My question for you is how do you handle a BIG quilt? I can’t seem to keep it moving. The weight seems to bog me down. H E L P Please!!

    • Allison July 24, 2019 at 4:16 pm #

      In the bottom of the post there is a link to a whole blog post I wrote about Quilting a Large quilt on your own machine! There is more info in that post about holding it, how I quilt it in sections, etc!

  9. Fussell August 7, 2019 at 6:19 am #

    I love to fmq with my juki! I’ve found that leaving the feed dogs up and setting my stitch to zero gets the best tension. results may vary lol. I’m working on a queen size quilt at the moment, it’s loopy with little “Easter eggs” thrown in like the person’s name, names of other special things to them, and some hearts. It’s like therapy for me except that I’m sure therapy is probably cheaper. ;)

    • Allison August 7, 2019 at 1:07 pm #

      I think therapy is definitely cheaper. ;) I like to have my feed dogs up sometimes too…if I’m doing a more complicated pattern I think having them up makes it a bit easier!

  10. Katherine Stewart August 16, 2019 at 11:13 am #

    what kind of gloves do you use and where do you get them?

    • Allison August 17, 2019 at 10:55 am #

      Hi Katherine! I link the gloves I’m using plus some I like even better about halfway down in the post in the paragraph that starts with “start on the edge”….I think these ones are Fons and Porter, but there are some white one I linked to that I like better. They are a bit roomier and have more grip.

  11. pattybaptiste September 16, 2019 at 10:33 pm #

    Where did you get the darning foot? Is it universal? I have a Kenmore.

  12. LuciR October 22, 2019 at 7:31 pm #

    I’m new to quilting, and thoroughly intrigued with FMQ. I’m working on some wall hangings and table toppers as Christmas gifts, so will be trying this method. Thank you for a easy to understand tutorial and video.

  13. Lynnette January 20, 2021 at 8:14 am #

    I’ve tried the free motion, ordered the pressure foot attachment but I don’t understand how to keep stitches even. I dome out with some long and some shorter, which looks terrible. It’s about moving it consistently as the feed dog would do. I’m having trouble making it consistent. Is there a trick ?

  14. Jan Major February 26, 2022 at 12:54 pm #

    Allison I just love your quilt patterns and am making a throw size using pattern Off Track. I am definitely going to practice quilting! Thanks for your instructions!

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