Archive for the ‘Free Motion Quilting’ Category

Proverbs 4:23

Another project comes to a happy ending.  I decided I wanted rounded corners on this feminine quilt so I used my circular template to mark the curves.  The markings helped guide the free motion quilting.

Rounded Quilt Corners

Marking Quilt Corners

After choosing the fabric for the binding, I cut 2 1/8” strips on the bias.  Bias-cut binding is necessary whenever you’re dealing with curves.  I simply eased my way around the corners, being careful to follow the quilt’s edge.

Attaching Binding to Quilt Corners

Easing the Binding Around Curved Corner

As you can see, I cut off the excess edges of the batting and backing before attaching the binding, leaving about 1/8” beyond the quilt top.  Pre-cutting isn’t necessary but I think it helped visually when navigating the corners.

And here she is.  I actually named the block Meet You in the Middle owing to the four patch that is created when the four differing blocks come together, but the name appears to fit the finished quilt as well with all the four patches forming an X.

Completed Quilt

Meet You in the Middle Quilt

Here’s a close-up of the free motion quilting.  I love the overall effect of this pattern.

Free Motion Quilting

Free Motion Quilting

I’m not sure what’s next, but I think it may include some flying geese.

Hope you get some quilting done this weekend.



Read Full Post »

I applied double-fold bias binding to finish the edges of my quilt.  I really don’t have a binding preference on square or rectangular quilts.  Bias cut or straight of grain both work well.  If my corners were rounded or edges scalloped, I would definitely use bias binding.

Quilt Binding

Applying Double-Fold Binding to Quilt

The final step before I could call the project complete involved embroidering a quilt label.  I wanted something a little smaller for this quilt so I chose a simple bunny design.  As you can see, I used some of the leftover binding to frame the label.

Quilt Label

Little Bunny Quilt Label

I want to mention one more thing regarding free motion quilting.  An even rhythm (hand movement in sync with machine speed) produces even stitches.  If you move your quilt too slowly, your stitches will be too small and possibly bunch up.  Conversely, if you move your quilt too quickly, your stitches will be too large.  Both practice and warm up really help you to find the right balance.

Free Motion Quilting Stitches

Work Toward Even Free Motion Stitches

In the planning stage, try to find designs that flow nicely without too many starts and stops.  Sometimes it’s fun to take traditional quilting designs and convert them for free motion quilting.  As you draw them out on paper, it’s helpful to use numbers for the starting point, direction, and stopping point, simplifying them as much as possible.

I have lots of quilts floating around in my head and look forward to sharing the adventure with you.

Completed Quilt

A Happy Ending


Read Full Post »

1 Peter 5

Whenever I machine quilt, I remove the general throat plate and replace it with a straight stitch plate.  I know these aren’t available for all machines, but if one is available for your brand of sewing machine, I do recommend purchasing it.

With the feed dogs lowered and the straight stitch throat plate in place, I then cover the bed with a Sewslip.  The Sewslip and Super Slider are non-stick surfaces with holes under your machine needle.  They have a tacky backing that keeps them in position.  Anything that will eliminate drag on your quilt while it’s under the needle is helpful.  I’ve been using one for years, and I do think they make machine quilting a little easier.


Next, I turn on my sewing machine and lessen the presser foot pressure.  Every machine does this differently so read your manual for instructions.

Pressure Foot Pressure

Lower Presser Foot Pressure

With my machine set, I now take a little time to warm up by using a sample quilt sandwich made for this purpose.  You don’t want to skip this step.  It allows you to test your stitches to make sure they are balanced.  Also, your head and hands get a chance to change into quilting mode before you actually beginning stitching your quilt.

Free Motion Quilting

Free Motion Warm Up

The last thing I do before beginning to machine quilt is apply Tri-Flow to my machine needle using a Q-Tip.  Since I use 505 Adhesive Spray to “baste” my quilt sandwich, I don’t want any skipped stitches.  This brand of spray is pretty good at not gumming up your needle, but I still like some extra insurance.  Tri-Flow puts a Teflon coating on the needle and insures against the build-up of gummy residue.

Apply Tri-Flow to Needle with Q-Tip

I position my quilt somewhere in the middle section and pull my bobbin thread to the quilt surface, leaving enough thread tails to pop back into my quilt later.

Bobbin Thread

Pull Bobbin Thread to Surface of Quilt

I know that most people make a few securing stitches at their starts and stops; I’m just not one of those people.  It goes back to my hand quilting days.  I don’t like the look of thread buildup, so I use self-threading hand needles, form a single knot, and feed the thread into the batting until it pops.  Yes, it takes an extra minute here and there, but it’s worth it to me.

Knot Thread and Pop Back into Quilt

For easier maneuverability, I roll the side of my quilt that falls to the right of the needle.

Roll Quilt

Roll Quilt to Right of Needle

I also keep the front and back of the quilt loosely bunched to prevent drag as I’m stitching.  The bed of my machine is even with the sewing table so this is most helpful in the area between me and the machine.

I mentioned in a previous post that music can be an aide to machine quilting.  I believe it relaxes you and helps you to form a smooth rhythm with your quilt as you move it under the needle.

And speaking of the quilt being under the needle, I focus my attention on a small area as I quilt.  Sometimes I make a taut “U” shape with my two hands; other times I might use a quilting hoop made for machine quilting.  My eyes are always looking ahead to where my needle is going next.  And this brings me  back to free motion presser feet.  Some are better than others when it comes to vision, so give them a test drive before making a purchase.

I hope you find something helpful to take away from this post.  But the one thing I can’t help you with is practice.  Practice is the key to successful free motion quilting. Practice makes progress.  Maybe someday practice will be the cure to my butterflies.  Maybe.

Free Motion Quilting

Free Motion Quilting Completed

Happy quilting!


Read Full Post »

John 14

I was a hand quilter for years and still love the look of all those little hand-worked stitches.  For me, hand quilting was peaceful and relaxing.  However, I never finished hand quilting an entire quilt top, not even a baby quilt, in one day.  Yesterday, I free motion quilted the Right Inclination quilt and had it finished before dinner.  I believe the popularity of machine quilting is in large part a matter of numbers.  We all have a head full of quilts we want to make and a limited amount of time in which to make them.  Machine quilting makes our goals more reachable.

I confess, as much as I enjoy free motion quilting, I tend to have butterflies in my stomach every time I reach this stage in the quilt making process.  I’m the perfectionist type, which is probably at the root of my nervous stomach.  After a half hour or so, I’m as comfortable as can be and totally lost in the rhythm of my hand movements.  Do any of you have the same experience?

There are many techniques as well as helpful products for free motion quilting.  You can make it as simple or as complex as you like.  This is one area where you will profit from lots of experimentation.  Here is how I do it.

Machine Quilting Supplies

First, I set out all the equipment that I will be using for the particular quilt I am making.  These may include the following:

Quilting gloves or rubber fingers

Quilting needles

Sewslip or Super Slider

Straight stitch plate for sewing machine

Quilting thread and bobbins

Free motion presser foot

Quilt So Easy hoops

Tri-Flow lubricant and Q-Tip

Quilt markers

Quilt stencils and shape templates

Chalk Marking Spray

Self-threading hand sewing needles

Sometimes I mark my quilt top and sometimes I don’t.

Marked Quilt Top

Whenever I’m shopping, I keep my eyes open for unusual items that might work well as marking templates.  Craft stores sell wood cutouts in various shapes that work well.  I’ve also found plastic layering templates made for fleece that I like.  Chalk marking spray and quilting stencils are another option.

Quilt Marking Supplies

Sometimes the print of your fabric lends itself to quilting, which was the case on the dragonfly borders of Right Inclination.  It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Fabric Print Provided Quilting Motif

The main thing to concentrate on is a plan.  Give some thought to your quilt design and the type of quilting that would compliment it.  Sometimes I draw out a motif and practice it with my hands before actually attempting to quilt it with the machine.  I often use a mix of motifs and shapes.  I also take into consideration the type of batting I’ve used and how close the stitches need to be.  Remember, quilting shrinks the layers as they’re being stitched.  Plan for this by evenly quilting your entire project.

Once my quilt top is ready, I then prepare my sewing machine.  Every machine has a different feel to it.  Additionally, the various free motion presser feet make a difference.  After a little experimentation, you will gravitate toward one or two that you like.  At present, I like the clear Big Foot combined with my Bernina machine.  A year from now it may be a different combination.

Free Motion Presser Feet

I choose my needle according to the thread I will be quilting with.  I’ve actually made a chart of needles, threads, and upper machine tensions that work well on my machines.  It’s a handy guide to have around so that I don’t waste time with each new project.

My Thread-Needle-Tension Chart

Normally, I use the same weight thread in the needle and bobbin except when using monofilament thread.  One of my favorite quilting needles is made by Schmetz.  Look for the word quilting on the cover and the green band on the needles.  (All of their needles are excellent.)  Whatever brand you use, make sure it has a sharp tip.

Machine Quilting Needles

Machine Quilting Needles

In the second half of this post on free motion quilting, I will share some more products and techniques that I use and find helpful.

Happy quilting,


Read Full Post »