Free Motion Machine Quilting

by The Grace Company, March 23, 2015

Free motion machine quilting is a creative and fun way to extend your skill set and enhance your needlework. This method of quilting allows you to try designs that are otherwise difficult with other types of machines. If you’re looking for a way to create professional and award-worthy finished pieces, you should give this method of quilting a try. Free motion quilting allows you to try new finishing techniques, including these three.

The Technique

Free motion machine quilting allows you to create designs like background patterns that enhance your finished piece of work. Some common designs include swirls, spirals, flowers and scrolls. You’ll need to spend plenty of time practicing when you first start to try free motion machine quilting, as it may feel uncomfortable to you. Try out some small projects such as baby bibs or placemats rather than going all out on a queen-sized quilt.

Practicing Free Motion Machine Quilting

Get set up with a spool of 50 weight, 100% cotton thread in both the machine and the bobbin. Choose a thread color that contrasts with the fabric you’re using. Set your machine up with a universal 80/12 needle.

Getting Started

You do not need to baste together the layers of fabric before doing any free motion machine quilting. Snip any loose threads from your layers of fabric and remove any safety pins holding the layers together. Free motion quilting works best if you set your machine to make tiny stitches, at the rate of 20 to 30 per inch. Use your fingertips to slowly guide the fabric under the needle. Make a short chain of stitches, one-half inch at a time, to test the gauge. Once you’re happy with the gauge, you can continue with the project.

Creating a Project with Your Own Designs

As you move toward the center of the fabric, look ahead to where the needle will be next. Don’t focus on where the needle is now. Keep the machine’s speed steady as you guide the fabric. As you’re working, do the free motion stitching for binding before you do the fill-in areas. The fill-in areas may cause some bunching or gathering of the fabric. Be sure to distribute your stitching evenly over the entire quilt. You can sketch out your own free-form pattern and draw it with disappearing ink, or just make up the free motion stitching pattern as you go along.

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