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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!!