Hot Tips for Great Free Motion Quilting


Ever wanted to do Free Motion Quilting, but unsure what you need to do. Read this great tips on Free Motion Quilting to get you started!

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Hot Tips for Great Free Motion Quilting

Free Motion Quilting Basics

What is Free Motion Quilting (Free Motion Quilting): Free motion quilting is totally FREE, which means you have total freedom of movement of your quilt on your domestic sewing machine or long-arm machine. And if you are lucky enough to have a long arm, it’s the freedom of movement of the long arm quilting machine over your quilt. Doing the design yourself, just as you would on the domestic.

Hot Tips for Great Free Motion Quilting


But before you begin, you must understand a few things about quilting on your domestic machine. When free motion quilting, you don’t have the feed dogs to help you guide the fabric. To begin, you lower your feed dogs and you use the quilting foot designed for your machine and move the fabric and quilt the design you want. This enables you to create or follow a design. It also lets you have the freedom to as I love to say “GO WILD”!!! The possibilities are simply endless.

free motion feed dogs


Think about what you want to create. There are positive and negative spaces on quilts that need to be filled; some areas denser than others. We’ll get into positive and negative space later. For now, let’s cover the basics.


Remember doodling is key. Once you get in the habit of doodling, you will build up muscle memory. This is extremely important when you do Free Motion Quilting. Building muscle memory helps you when quilting on your quilt. Sewing machines with a throat space of 8 or 9” in depth are considered Domestic Machines. Most of the newer models come with a quilting or darning foot and have some sort of extended table to work on. However, you can achieve Free Motion Quilting without an extended table. And, with these machines, they usually come with an open or closed quilting foot. Both are easy to use and the same results can be achieved.

bobbin thread up


Machines with a throat space of 11 to 16” are considered Mid arm machines and usually can be retro-fitted to a frame of some kind. Whether table top or an actual frame, these machines can be used for free motion quilting. If your domestic machine is on a frame, then your quilt will be connected to leaders and have side clamps to aid in the tension. Leaders are strips of fabric that usually measure 8 to 9” deep and the length that are made for your poles for your frame. The common lengths of frames are 8’ 10’ and 12’. Machines with a throat space measuring 16’’ or longer are considered long arm quilting machines and are usually always on a frame of some kind, and follow the same principles as the mid arm machines. Stay tuned for part two of my free motion quilting on your domestic machine.


What is all over Quilting?

The true meaning of all over quilting is a quilt design that is edge to edge. This design, whether stipples or feathers, goes from one edge to the other and covers the entire quilt. This can be achieved with computers or free motion on a long arm machine or even a domestic machine.

edge to edge quilting example


Tackle Straight Line Quilting:

Straight line quilting can be intimidating. However, you can learn a technique that works for you. I love using the walking foot; it travels evenly over my fabric. However, when doing straight line quilting with a walking foot and a straight-line guide, feed dogs are not required to be lowered. Whether on a domestic machine or a long arm, this takes some time to master. Going at a slow even pace will ensure your project will come out beautiful with clean straight lines.

Most domestic machines come with a walking foot and straight-line guide, and if not, can be purchased from your sewing machine dealer.

The guide can assure that the space between each line is even, making your design sleek and beautiful. Straight line quilting is very contemporary and can make modern quilts pop. It is a great technique for beginners to use so that you are not having to draw lines on your quilt. With a walking foot the possibilities of quilting straight line designs can be endless.


Stitch in the Ditch:

To Stitch in the Ditch, you can use the walking foot to create long, straight lines of quilting along the seams (or “ditches”) of the quilt top.

Where the needle is, is called the ditch. You will know you are truly stitching in the ditch when you use your walking foot or open toe straight line sewing foot, and after it is done you won’t be able to see the stitching on the top. Many people use thread that blends well with the fabric both on top and in the bobbin so that it blends nicely.

stitch in ditch needle placement


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A spool or reel that holds thread or yarn for spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, or making lace.
A term sometimes used for unbleached muslin, dating from the nineteenth century when printed fabrics were generally imported and plain fabrics were generally manufactured domestically.
Feed Dogs
The mechanical teeth under the area of a sewing machine which move to pull the fabric through the machine. For free motion quilting or embroidery or needle darning these feed dogs are lowered or covered.
Accessories that are available for sewing machines and are especially made for quilting.
Four strips of wood that supports the layers for quilting.
Free Motion Quilting
Method of quilting where the feed dogs of a sewing machine are lowered or covered and the quilter controls the movement of the fabric under the needle.
In The Ditch
The process of quilting just next to the seams of a quilt, block or to the very edge of an applique area.

Same As: Stitch In The Ditch
Long Arm
A special quilting machine that is used for machine quilting a quilt. The quilt is held taut on a large frame while the machine arm moves freely to perform a manual or preprogrammed quilting design using free motion. The machine is very expensive, so many owners will rent out time on their machine.
Quilt Top
The top layer of a quilt Sandwich.
Stitch In The Ditch
The process of quilting just next to the seams of a quilt, block or to the very edge of an applique area.

Same As: In The Ditch
Walking Foot
A special foot which can be attached to a sewing machine which helps to feed the top layer of a quilt fabric sandwich evenly with the feed dogs feeding the bottom fabric.
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