Free Motion Quilting Tips

From my level to yours!

I don’t know what level I’m at, that’s why I just say my level.  I don’t think I’m a beginner per say, but I’m by no means an expert.  However, I had to start somewhere, and I thought I’d give you some tips to help you get started or maybe improve your own quilting!  These are just some basic skills that I’ve learned over the years and I thought I’d pass along to you. 🙂

Iron, Spray baste, and Iron again

Okay that’s just a quilting tip in general, however getting all of your seams going in a streamline direction will help your quilting go much smoother.  I use spray basting because I find it works better than pins for me, it’s more convenient than having to stop and remove pins, and it washes out, so it’s not going to hurt anything.  After I spray baste everything down, I iron again.  It’s just a final assurance that everything’s laying right, everything’s cool, all the fabrics and batting are playing nicely together.

Pull the Bobbin thread Through to the Top

Wherever you start your quilting (some people start in the middle, some start on the edge, you do what you want!  I’ve done both!) put your needle down and pull the bobbin thread to the top.  do a couple of stitches to “lock it in” before you ever start moving.

Drop Dogs and Free Motion Foot

I did a post long ago about investing in your quilting.  If you have the right tools, you can do anything!  So I have a darning foot, which is another name for a free motion foot, and it’s what I do all of my free motion quilting with.  When you’re using this foot, it’s crucial that you either cover your feed dogs with a darning plate or drop them if your machine allows.  (The feed dogs are the little metal moving parts that pull the fabric through your sewing machine.)  If you don’t cover them or drop them, they’ll try to chew your fabric up from the other side and it’s not going to be pretty.


So once you start moving your quilt sandwich along, take a quick look underneath and make sure that your stitches look okay.  Once you get going a little further along, go ahead and check it again.  A number of things could throw your tension off just a little and result in eyelashing and frustration and yelling into the void.  You could have gone over a thicker seam, you could have had to change your bobbin, your machine just feels like being a jerk.  Trust me, don’t just check it and go, make sure you check it a few times.

Move your Fabric at your Needle Speed

You want to keep your stitches around the same length that they would be if you were just sewing along, so you don’t want to move your quilt around too slow or too fast under your needle.  Likewise you don’t’ want to move your needle too fast or slow.  If you have a speed control, you could use that to ensure that your stitch length stays consistent, or just practice with some small sandwiches to see how fast you should move with your standard foot pressure.

Don’t be scared!

Experiment!  Watch all the YouTube tutorials and test them out!  I’ve been using pebbling in a few of my latest quilts, and it’s tricky but it’s fun!  I’m considering using some swirls and loops in some other quilts I’m planning, and it just adds such fun to a quilt!  An extra dimension!  Add a whole bunch of dense quilting or keep it a little “low volume” it’s all up to you!  I actually like using a diagonal straight line on quilts that I feel like already have a lot going on and I don’t need to add something more.

Do you have any quilting tips?  I’d love to hear them!  Until next time, happy sewing!

One thought on “Free Motion Quilting Tips

  1. All great tips. I actually recently damaged my bobbin case because my needle and my hands were not at the same speed doing thread painting. Who knew that your needle would actually penetrate the plastic edge of the bobbin case, or that you could bend the needle while moving the fabric if your personal speed didn’t match the needle speed! (I’ve done this twice with thread painting on quilts, and it has become expensive!) I am sticking to FMQ nice loopy swirls! I love using a “teflon” slider” taped down on the machine bed to help reduce friction on the bottom of the quilt.

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