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Free Motion Quilting

“Dogs… Down”

Free motion quilting can be a beautiful art form.  It allows you to move the quilt completely by hand while the machine does the quilting for you. 

Patience and persistence will make this part of your skillset.

We’ll give you the basics.

It’s up to you to practice them. 


Okay, you have you material all Oreoed up.  Just like the cookie. 

Your area is set with your sewing machine.

Now what?

First you need to drop your feed dogs or cover them.  Whichever way works with your machine. 

If your machine doesn’t have these features, you can us a 3 x 5 index card.  Just tape it in place and voilà.  The fabric will move with only your hands doing the work.

Outfit your machine with a darting/free motion foot. It looks similar to this.

It’s best to use a new needle as this type of project puts more stress on them.  I’ve broken several when I’ve implemented a used one.

It’s also a good idea to use a stronger needle too.  I like using the 90/14 size.  It’s not just for jeans. ;)

Make sure you have your bobbins filled with the same color as your top thread to create a more uniformed look.  It’s a good idea to have several of them pre-filled.  This is because quilting this way uses a lot of thread.

You don’t want to be on a good rhythm and have to stop to refill.

Remember to use 100% cotton thread.  Your machine will thank you with a longer life span.


Now you need to decide on a pattern.

There are two different types of patterns to choose from.

·         Paper pattern

·         Stencil

Most patterns for free motion are continuous line quilting.  For our examples here were just referring to free motion.

When using a stencil to make your design, it’s good to use chalk or pencil.  They both wash out well.

Paper patterns are usually the tear away types that need to be taped or pinned to your entire quilt.  It will guide you every step of the way.


In order to start quilting it is best to roll up both sides of the quilt and start in the middle.

Remember to work from the center out.  This helps prevent puckering.

Once the quilt is placed under the needle, sew three stitches in place.  This locks your thread like tying a knot.

Now you can move your quilt as you sew on top of the design you are following.

Having one hand on top and one underneath give me control over the materials. 

If you need more influence over the quilt it might be best for you to use gardening gloves with the rubber grips or rubber fingertips you can find at office supply stores.  The rubber gives more stability as it grabs the fabric.

Trail your pattern in whichever direction feels comfortable to you.

Some people like to move the quilt towards them, while others like to move it away.

Obey your instincts.

Wrap up

That’s free motion quilting.  In continuous line quilting we’ll go over how to incorporate this skill with stippling, a freehand design.  We’ll even go over a way to practice that will make it easier for you to acquire this talent.

Until next time.

Happy quilting,

Color Block Quilts

› Free Motion Quilting
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