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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Freemotion Lesson: Practicing

Freemotion stitching can be a bit intimidating - I've seen that horrible look of fear when I teach this class. But after multiple lessons and lots feedback, I found something that worked - and took some of the fear away. When you are teaching yourself freemotion:
  1. Make a quilt sandwich out of old fabric or muslin. The sandwich should be about 20" x WOF. One side will be the selvage and the other will be the fold. Tuck the batting in between. Spray with basting spray.
  2. Take a Sharpie and draw lines that are about 1 1/2" to 3" apart.
  3. Remove all the thread (none...nothing in the bobbin, either). This will allow you to focus on the motion part; you won't get worried about the thread tension, the look of your design, the consistency of the length and distance between your stitches. Just play with the movement. 
  4. Make a zig-zag pattern -- start at the bottom right hand side and move from the right line to the left line, then back to the right and so on until you are at the top. Then come back down. And yes, it is often more difficult to push the fabric away from you than it is to pull the fabric toward you.
  5. When you are comfortable with the movement, add thread. You may have to adjust your tension a bit. And you may have to get a different needle (want to learn about needles? Check out the Schmetz Learning Center. If you really have trouble, change thread. Yes, you can try to figure out why that thread doesn't work, but why bother? Just change your thread.
  6. As your comfort level grows, try different designs. Need inspiration? Try the Free Motion Quilting Project! Use the lines to help you focus a bit (look at where you are going...then back at the needle...then where you are going...etc). Go in and out of the lines, so you don't create a path or runway look.
  7. When you are really ready, check out Elizabeth Hartman's tutorial on Free-Motion Quilting.
On a side note, I wear fairly tight rubber-palmed gardening gloves - nothing fancy - that allow me to grip the fabric without much fatigue on my hands. I turn it into a mini-spa by covering my hands in lotion before tucking them into my gloves! 

Also, don't forget to drop your foot! Because of the puffiness of the quilt sandwich, you may THINK your foot is down. If it isn't, you'll have big loopies on the back of your quilt sandwich.


  1. Thank you so much for your informative posts. So, I primarily do piecing to make small projects, I believe this helps increase my skill. My question is in regards to thread... how do you know which thread is the best for which project? Such as if I am making a small table runner.. do I use cotton or polyester? Or if I am making a small change purse? Do I use cotton or polyester? And when I finally choose my thread, do I use this same thread in my bobbin? Thank you for your time.

    1. BTW, here is another excellent article on thread - -- great visuals that show the different quality of thread.

  2. Great question! I'm no expert on thread, but I use 100% cotton for piecing and quilting. I use polyester for something like a coin purse - because it's stronger. And most of the time, I use the same thread in the bobbin. Here is a link to a GREAT article from Superior Threads on selecting thread for your project:


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