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:
- 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.
- Take a Sharpie and draw lines that are about 1 1/2" to 3" apart.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When you are really ready, check out Elizabeth Hartman's tutorial on Free-Motion Quilting.
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.