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If you’ve ever been intimidated by free motion quilting, raise your totally capable hand. I know. I'm right there with you. At first, basically everyone feels like free motion quilting is out of their league, but everyone can do it – with the right tools. Also, with a step-by-step free motion quilting tutorial geared toward beginners.
There's a saying that a poor craftsman blames his tools. Well, that doesn't apply here. The right tools can make all the difference – especially in the beginning when you are learning.
You’ve got the hands, I’ve got the plans. Let's dive in.
What is Free Motion Quilting?
Without going into lots of detail, to free motion quilt, your sewing machine must be able to lower its feed dogs* so that there is no resistance or pushing of the fabric. You will also need a free motion foot that is compatible with your sewing machine. In most cases, it is brand-specific.
Once the feed dogs are lowered and your free motion foot is securely attached, you are in complete control of the fabric and the stitching. Your machine will provide no resistance so you can freely maneuver the fabric or "quilt sandwich" around in any pattern you like.
*Feed dogs are the metal teeth-like plates that rest level with your sewing machine surface. They are used to help pull fabric or "feed" fabric through your sewing machine. (I get the "feed" part, but the "dogs?" Maybe it's supposed to reference dog's teeth? Feed for thought.)
This much freedom can be scary, and at times, frustrating. I can say with certainty that you won't sew perfectly the first time you try. But that's OK! We're a laid back lot here at Suzy Quilts and perfection is overrated. The key is to practice on small projects. I like to practice by trying to outline a design on some fabric.
In the video below I am using a few of the tools I list below and simply outlining the pretty floral design in some Anna Maria Horner fabric. Check it out!
Free Motion Quilting Tutorial
My Favorite Free Motion Quilting Tools
I'll preface this first tool by saying I know not everyone has a BERNINA sewing machine. I actually switched to a BERNINA earlier this year and this BSR tool was a big reason why. As I mentioned in a previous sewing machine post, the BERNINA Stitch Regulator adjusts the stitch length to your speed so that your stitches remain even...even if your speed doesn't. 😉
This amazing little foot produces neat, consistent stitches that are precisely the same length while free motion sewing.
The way it does this is through sensors that react to the movement of the fabric. This nifty accessory is able to adjust the speed of the machine automatically.
Whether you’re a free-motion newbie or you’ve been doing it for years, quilting gloves are going to make your life waaaaay easier.
I found my favorites on Amazon – they’re really affordable, and definitely get the job done. Just ignore the fact that they’re called Machingers. Actually, no. That’s an awesome name. Wear your Machingers with pride.
You might try having two pairs on hand – one for working with dark fabrics. When you’re really working it, dark fabrics can make the tips of your gloves a little bit smudgy (the color probably won’t transfer to light fabrics, but I like to play it safe.)
I'm one of those people who enjoys a good workout...at the gym. When I'm in my sewing studio I want my quilting to be as smooth and easy as possible. Using a Supreme Slider while free motion quilting gives my bulging biceps (they totally are...take my word for it) a break. Oh, and we’ll give some credit to the gloves, too.
The Supreme Slider may seem like just a little slab of plastic, but it really does make a huge difference, especially cutting down on drag.
Before ordering, measure your sewing machine – these come in different sizes and you want to make sure it's going to fit.
What are your tools, tips, tricks or thoughts on free-motion quilting? Have you tried it with success? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!