To gain control over your free-motion movements, you will need to practice, practice, practice.
Did I mention practice?
We all understand that musicians, athletes, chefs, artists, and other talented people need to practice to perfect their skills. Successful free-motion quilters are no exception.
If you only follow this one simple tip, even after the first two weeks you will be amazed at how your free-motion quilting skills will have improved!
The Best Quilting Tip
you will ever Receive!
Practice your free-motion stitching
for 30 minutes each day!
Whether it's the last 30 minutes of your day or the first thing you do when you sit down to sew, set your mind to just do it.
Choose simple "C" curves, "S" curves, loops, hearts, etc. Keep it simple to begin with and the practice will take care of the rest. You will soon be in control of your movements.
Save your practice pieces, especially the first one. At the end of two weeks, compare your first to your last. You'll see what I mean.
Skill Building Tutorial
Free-motion quilting on a domestic machine for beginners
You will need
Inexpensive cotton backing fabric or muslin suitable is suitable for practice quilting.
- Quilt batting
Select a batting that has a low or medium loft.
- Non-woven quilter's grid or pattern grid
Quilter's grid is optional, but recommended. This product is similar to light-weight, interfacing and has a one inch grid pattern printed on it. The grid comes in fusible (Pellon 820 Quilter's Grid)* and non-fusible (Pellon 810 Tru-Grid).* It's usually available through craft/fabric stores and quilt shops.
Note: If you do not have the grid, you can make your own by marking a piece of fabric in a grid pattern using a one inch wide ruler to be used as the top layer of the sandwich. It's easier to mark it before you layer it with the backing and batting.
- Contrasting thread
You will want to clearly see the stitches while practicing.
- Quilter's gloves
Using quilter's gloves is optional, but recommended. These special gloves have rubber tips which help to control the fabric while quilting. Any lite weight rubber tipped gloves or finger cots can be substituted.
Prepare your sewing machine for quilting
1. Prepare the quilt sandwich with the quilter's grid as your top layer. If you are using the fusible quilter's grid, lightly tack the grid to the batting with an iron using a medium setting. Don't flatten the loft of the batting. If you are using the non-fusible grid and it seems to be slipping around as you quilt, you can place addition pins about every four inches across the grid.
3. Pull your bobbin thread through to the surface of the quilt sandwich. Bringing the thread to the surface will keep it from making a tangled nest underneath.
Begin by lowering the presser foot and firmly holding on to the end of the upper thread. Make a single stitch into the quilt sandwich at the starting point of the design. Slid the fabric forward, and gently lift the end thread until the loop from the bobbin thread comes above the surface of the grid layer. Pull the threads upward until the end of the bobbin thread comes above the fabric surface. Pull both threads together until you have about three to six inches of thread. Continue to grip the thread ends until you have at least two or three stitches in place.
4. Stitch from one point of the grid to another using straight lines, then curved lines. Try to achieve a smooth sweeping motion when stitching the curves. To begin with, use the sample paths shown here. Use your imagination to create other practice paths along the grid points.
There is no need to race. Be deliberate with your stitching during your practice sessions.
When quilting along a drawn quilting pattern, use a slow to medium speed. When "slow quilting" you will learn to gain control and more accurately follow design lines. You can always pick up speed once you have accomplished the basics.
You will have a tendency to turn your small quilt sandwich as you practice, but keep in mind that when you are working on large quilts, turning them may not be an option. I encourage you to learn to stitch in all directions: forwards, backwards, sideways, and diagonally.
5. Keep a light touch using only enough pressure as is necessary to move the fabric.
Don't rest your wrists or arms on the machine bed. Use the "Tea Cup Postion" (lifting your "pinky" to keep them from touching the fabric) is one way to keep a light touch. Don't tense up and do remember to breathe.
In order to control the movement of the fabric, position your hands so that your index fingers and thumbs encircle the presser foot area.
Wearing the rubber tipped quilting gloves will help you control the fabric so there is no need to press down on the fabric.
6. One key to improving your skills is to strive for accuracy in stopping and pausing on the grid points, while stitching smooth lines between the points. The pause gives you an opportunity to re-position your hands, if needed. When you pause, do it at a grid point where the design changes direction.
As a beginner, your pauses and restarts will probably be a bit out of alignment. At grid points this misalignment will be less noticeable than if you pause in the middle of a curved or straight line.
7. The tie-off
At the end of each design, back-stitch two or three stitch lengths to secure the thread ends. Lift the needle and cut your threads.
This method usually leaves a noticeable hump of thread on the bottom side of the quilt. A nicer and more professional tie-off method is hand-tying your thread ends.
For hand-tying your thread ends, bring both of your threads to the surface. Cut your threads leaving three inch tails. Hand-tie a square knot with the top and bobbin threads. Thread the ends onto a hand-stitching needle. Slip the threaded needle beneath the fabric at the last stitch of your design bringing the needle back up about two inches away from where it entered. Remove the needle, and give a firm tug on the thread ends to pull the hand-tied knot beneath the surface of the fabric. Snip off the excess thread tails. Repeat the tie-off process with the starting threads. I know that it seems ridiculous to tie-off the threads of a practice piece, but you should at least practice tying-off so you know how to do it properly when you are working on an actual quilt.
Remember, the more you practice, the better you will quilt.
Quilting Tips & Tutorial presented by
Susan Joy Noyes, designer for Showcase Design Elements
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