Just Kutz PRO 12:43pm, 31 March 2008
Dear ladies, I would like to make my first quilt with a free hand foot, but I had never used could you give me some advices? Quilting by sewing machine is not difficult but with this foot I had never try.

Thank you in advance.

J. Conlon and Sons 10 years ago
Amanda Jean from the Crazy Mom Quilts blog recently posted a video showing how to machine quilt using a free hand foot.

You can see it here:

Just Kutz PRO 10 years ago
Thank you sewandsox, that's is exactly what I want to do.
One Happy Tree [deleted] 10 years ago
I'm about to make my first large free motion (meandering) quilt and this video was a God sent!!! I practice on a sample quilt (like the size of a place mat) that my 5 year old snatched up and will not return because she loves it so! I think it turned out well. I also have been practicing pen to paper and it's not as easy as it seems...or maybe I'm thinking too much into it!??!
alissahcarlton PRO 10 years ago
That's funny - after watching the video (which I agree, was SO helpful) it actually had occurred to me that my years of doodling applied as practice! It was tough for me to take the plunge but once I did (for the first time last week!) it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be...
shellipsm PRO 10 years ago
I made a LOT of bibs for my daughter as practice! ;)

The KEY, and I mean KEY thing to remember is to HOLD THOSE TAILS TIGHT as you start, and then clip them off. make REALLY REALLY small stitches and SLOWLY when you start.

Then, just find a nice speed, and well, break a few needles in the trying! ;)
Just Kutz PRO Posted 10 years ago. Edited by Just Kutz (member) 10 years ago
I start to make my quilt but I don't know why some stitches are big some small also my curves are small so the template comes super heavy I will post some photo to show the process. My shoulders are destroyed :(

To start I make this bag

Free motion

One Happy Tree [deleted] 10 years ago
That looks great! I just made my first attempt using a darning foot and free motion quilting. I do like the way mine turned out, mistakes and all. I think your back is gorgeous!
Just Kutz PRO 10 years ago
Thank you !!!
Today I still working with a free motion. But I make more mistakes the biggest? make the curves small You can't imagine how difficult, looks my brain when I have a lot of ideas. hahahaha

Free motion quilt
Piecemeal Quilts 10 years ago
The thing about free motion quilting on a regular sewing machine (rather than on a long arm or mid arm frame) is that you move the fabric instead of the machine. Sounds obvious, but it means you have to think differently. It's like moving the paper instead of the pencil. It's harder than it sounds, and it does take some practice before you can move the "paper" smoothly. Just keep working at it!
Just Kutz PRO 10 years ago
Thank yu piece of me ! my problem at this moment is that I have a lot of big stitches instead of normal and regular
kate Callan 10 years ago
When you get big stitches that means that your hands are moving faster than the speed of the needle, it can't keep up. And too small of stitches happens when your needle is going faster than how fast your hands are moving the fabric.

Make sure that you are moving your hands at a nice pace and keep your presser foot at a constant speed as well, they have to work together to stay the same at all times.

A cool trick I learned is to set my speed low on my machine so that I can press all the way down with my foot and it will only go as fast as I set it...then I don't have to worry about what my feet or the speed of the machine is doing, you can then concentrate fully on your hands and your design.
coffee to go PRO 10 years ago
Good tip Kate, I find that to be the hardest part, my foot wants to press that foot feed down faster and faster and it is hard for my hands to keep up. But with practice it does get better, until the next time and the next project. Then it seems I have to relearn again.
One Happy Tree [deleted] 10 years ago
Piece of Me is my hero. I like the "moving the paper and not the pen" analogy because that's exactly what it's like!

Kate Callan - That's exactly what I had to do and thought maybe I was wrong for needing to set the speed a little slower. I guess I got a hot foot and I just want to bear down on the pedal!

Cyn.xoxo - It looks great so far! I made tons of mistakes.
pollylou2000 10 years ago
This is my very first time on a blog -- I'm a blog virgin! Frustration has driven me to it... I'm in the process of free-motion machine quilting a king-sized quilt in the quilt-as-you-go method. I have finished 3/4 of this quilt with NO problems using Sulky invisible thread on the top and #40 cotton thread in the bobbin in my Husqvarna machine. Until now!!! As the 'finish line' is in sight, my machine has suddenly decided to knot like crazy underneath. I've rethreaded everything, cleaned out the bobbin case and put in a new #11 quilting needle. I've even let the machine 'rest' for a while. Any suggestions? (I tried regular stitching and that works just fine.)
P.S. I hope I can find any replies once I've logged off!
Polyquats PRO 10 years ago
1. wind a new bobbin.
2. recheck the settings for machine quilting (since normal stitching is OK).
3. Get the machine serviced.
Are you drawing up the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt when you start?
shellipsm PRO 10 years ago
I have found the "birds nesting" happened a lot when I: a) didn't pull my "tail threads" tight enough as I started, or b) my tension and timing was off, and good ole' Elna needed a trip to the "doctor," for a tune-up. ;)
boltandfrolic 10 years ago
Have any of you ever used the Bernina Stitch regulator for free motion? I just got one!
thepinkpaintedgiraffe 10 years ago
You are all far more braver then I....I just bought the foot to do free motion, but I'm terrified to do it!!! Hopefully I will gain the confidence to give it a whirl soon!
JAmundsen PRO 10 years ago
I have the stitch regulator, and it is a handy tool. There are two ways to use it; one, using the foot pedal to regulate things, and a second way in which you unplug your pedal and go fully automatic, pressing a button to get going. The great thing is that the sensor literally counts threads and regulates the stitch to happen in a consistent fashion. For those of us who haven't enough practice to make even stitches, this is a godsend. I've been making little fat-quarter tote bags just to practice my free motion.

I must say that I find quilting large quilts on my Bernina to be a major trauma. I just don't have the skill or shoulder strength.
and I don't like "quilt as you go." I prefer to pay a long-arm professional to do the job right. After all the time and effort I put into piecing my tops, I'd hate to ruin them.
Toni Swedberg 10 years ago
The largest I have ever done on a home sewing machine was a twin size quilt. It was okay but sort of bundled and tight in certain places. Other than that I don't have any problems moving my "Paper" around. The best shape to practice with in my opinion is a circle or spiral. It just keeps going and going!
meeshmercer 10 years ago
I'm having the same problem as pollylou2000...75% done with my stroller quilt--FIRST free motion project--and I'm getting huge knots on the back, even with pulling bobbin thread to the front. I guess I will wind a new bobbin...which probably means having to buy a new spool of thread to finish the project. Grrr.

What is "quilt as you go?"

Anyone else have a Pfaff?
JAmundsen PRO 10 years ago
"Quilt as you go" is exactly what it means. You back and quilt individual blocks, or small groups of neighboring blocks, leaving a quarter inch on the outside edge of the block/unit. Then you join the units into a larger quilt top. There are books out there that explain the technique better, if you are interested.
meeshmercer 10 years ago
thanks for the info. i'm a relatively new quilter and i've seen quilt as you go referenced, but never explained.
Piecemeal Quilts 10 years ago
Quilt as you go can be done a couple of different ways.

Option 1 - You sew a block, layer it with batting and backing, quilt it, then join all of the quilted blocks. Joining the blocks can be accomplished by leaving extra fabric on the block and backing, or by using sashing front and back.

Option 2 - Very similar to option 1, you sew several blocks and join them together either in strips, rows, or sections. Then you quilt the larger (but still much smaller than the full quilt) piece. Finally, you join the segments together.

Option 3 - This only works for certain kinds of blocks - those that can be foundation pieced on a single square of foundation. For example, string blocks, rail fence blocks, and log cabin blocks. Instead of using paper or muslin for your foundation, layer your backing and batting and sew the block together right on the backing and batting. You are literally quilting as you assemble your block. You'll want to cut your backing and batting a little larger than you expect your finished block to be, then trim them to size after it's completed. Assemble as in options 1 and 2.

Check out this link for more info:

There's also an excellent book called Divide & Conquer by Nancy Smith and Lynda Milligan. Here's a bit from their appearance on Simply Quilts:
And here's the book:
meeshmercer 10 years ago
thank you so much for the description and the links! i couldn't figure out how one would join the sections on the back of the quilt. now i think i understand, and it sounds like an interesting technique as i've never done anything larger than a crib quilt (and am somewhat intimidated to try).
Piecemeal Quilts 10 years ago
Here's a quilt that my Mom made using the Divide & Conquer book. The individual blocks were quilted, then assembled with sashing on the front and back. This is the back of the quilt.
Lover's Knot back
esteemarlu 10 years ago
I'm new to this group but not new to quilting. I just got a brother nouvelle1500 and will be trying the free motion quilting for the first time. Do I have to put the stitch length to 0. That's what has me confused. You ladies are awesome and so much help.
As long as the feed dogs are dropped or covered (whichever your machine calls for) it doesn't matter what the stitch length is because your hands are the determining factor on how long the stitch will be.
esteemarlu 10 years ago
Thank you so much for that info and now I'm even more nervous about getting the right hand speed. I'll just dive in tomorrow I guess.
RustyNutStudio [deleted] 10 years ago
dont be nervous, it really is all about practice, the more you do, the better you will be.

good luck, i can't wait to see the finished results!
esteemarlu 10 years ago
Well I made my first practice on free motion quilting and I guess it was o.k for my first try. Some points are visible when they shouldn't be. The work isn't nice and smooth but I will continue to practice.I think I finally got the speed of the machine right.
free motion practice1
It is more than alright for your first try. It is very, very good. Like themad1s said - just practice. The speed you move your hands is the determining factor. As long as your hand speed is consistent the rest will smooth out as you get more comfortable. And here is that word again - practice.
Churchlady2006 10 years ago
Looks very good to me, you know what, when this is washed it will actually look perfect. I find the little bit of streatch and pull the washing gives it makes everything much better.
I am trying to learn to do this also, I usually end up stitching in the ditch, I am a chicken, you inspire me to keep trying. Jerri
angefasu PRO 10 years ago
I just want to say this group is sooo great! I read this thread today and seriously sat down and practiced

The "I'm getting the hang of this" part

I've found that sticking with loops and figure8s is easier for me to start out. Then I'll start branching out into stippling.
Piecemeal Quilts 10 years ago
My mom and I share a short arm and frame, and she prefers the loops, too. If you don't have to worry about crossing lines, that takes some pressure off. She thinks about cursive capital L's so she can do loops in both directions. I like points rather than just curves, so I've done waves (think sloppy cursive lower case c's) and flames. I'd like to throw some leaves and flowers in there, too.

Regardless of the pattern you do, try not to make columns or rows of that pattern. Move it around a bit instead of thinking strictly up/down or side to side. Don't make sections of stitching sitting side by side. Try to get it to fit together. This is especially critical on a frame because you do long passes across the quilt. It's easy to make strips of quilting if you're not careful.
meeshmercer 10 years ago
Finished my first free-motion project. Instead of trying it for the first time on a pieced project, I made a small, stroller-sized quilt out of one piece of Alexander Henry fabric. I quilted around the children to highlight them. I can't wait to do my next project!

esteemarlu 10 years ago
OK I'm going to ask a stupid question about stippling, Are you suppose to start and stop in the middle ,in the edge,where? Do you just connect the stippling if you finish in a weird place like in the middle?
meeshmercer 10 years ago
I'm curious about that too! The books (I have) are not good about describing how/where to stop and start.
It's not a stupid question. I start at an edge or a seam and try to end at an edge or seam but sometimes you can't help but stopping in the middle (for example, when the thread breaks) and then I start off again where it stopped.
Redwork in Germany PRO 9 years ago
After reading all of your hints and tips I dared to free moting quilt my first little piece. It is a mat I will use for my balcony door nothing special and therefore I had no problems with my trial and error approach. The stitchlength is by far not right and I crossed a few stippling lines, it is not always easy to remember to move the "paper" properly...

However, I will keep on practicing. For the mat I used a pretty heavy cattun but anyway I wondered will the free motion quilting (stippling) always make the quilt so hard? It kind of lost ist fabric/soft quilt feeling; don't know how to explain this, it has a soft thin cotton batting which I used for other hand quilted items that felt a lot softer. Did I do something wrong e.g. can I influence the "stiffness" of the machine quilted items?
Quilted Mat

Best wishes,
♥ Heather ♥ 123 9 years ago
This was such an inspiring discussion. I just finished my first quilt top and am addicted. I plan to be practicing this free motion quilting!
jollywinegums 9 years ago
Redwork in Germany - the closer you stipple quilt and the thinner your batting(especially cotton), - the stiffer your quilt piece will become.
many people prefer to *flatten * their quilts this way.
If you prefer a softer quilt. then use polyfil or polydown batting and quilt less intensively.
hand quilted items will always have a *softer* feel.
The key to free motion quilting ,is practise. And a glass of wine ;-)
lgpars 9 years ago
I am practicing up to try my first free-motion quilting. I noticed a few of you said something about not going across the lines. Are you not supposed to cross over your seam lines with the free-motion quilting? So do you just do a block at a time and then stop and move to another block or area inside a different seam area? If you have to do that, how can you do the larger type stipling? I do not want to use that real small type of stipling. My quilt is 80 x 96 (HUGE). I would post a picture but I don't know how. Ha! I'm debating as to whether I should just stitch in the ditch except for the border and then try to free-motion the border. The trouble with doing stitch in the ditch with this quilt is that my backing is not printed and the top blocks are staggered from row to row so if I stitch in the ditch I'm afraid my back is going to look crazy since some of the stitching will be on again off again going across the quilt. Going down will be fine. Any suggestions?
Piecemeal Quilts 9 years ago
When they talk about not crossing lines, they mean the quilting lines, not the seams in the quilt top. Typically, "stippling" means smaller, very tightly quilted squiggles, and "meandering" means larger, looser squiggles. Both follow the same essential path, but one is very small and the other is very big. In both cases you are not supposed to cross your quilting lines. HOWEVER, stippling and meandering are just two kinds of free motion quilting. You can do loops or leaves or flowers or flames or waves or zigzags or feathers or butterflies or anything else you can think of.

By the way - to post a photo, click the "How do I format my reply?" link at the bottom of the "Reply to this topic" box and they'll tell you all about it.

Good luck!
lgpars 9 years ago
So you cannot attach a picture from your computer? Just from Flickr? I did not see anywhere that said you could attach a photo from your computer.

And thanks Piece of Me for explaining about going over the lines. That makes sense. :-)
I am just starting to do some free motion quilting. I just got a new machine, and I'm still trying it out, so I don't know if my problems are just because I need to practice more, or if it is the machine.

Here's what's happening: My stitches and tension on the top look good, but when I turn it over to the back there is a wide range of things going on. Some places the tension is perfect, some places it is really tight, and some places it is really loose, sometimes to the point where the bottom thread is not even in place - with little fingers holding it from the top thread. I'll try and attach a picture. The more I practice the less it does it, but it still does it. (I get little loops in random places where the tension is too loose).
Has anyone had any experiences with this? Do I need to just practice more? Or do I need to return the machine and get a different one?

IMG_1625 by Diane {from blank pages...}
IMG_1624 by Diane {from blank pages...}
Laurie_Mike PRO 7 years ago
It looks like you just need to practice. I call this 'eyelashes'. Play with the tension and maybe slow down a bit. You'll get there
Wonderful discussion. I don't think it matters if you cross the lines or not. To me free motion is not something that has a lot of rules.

db by design: yes you just need more practice. Those longer stitches happen when you aren't moving the quilt at the right pace. I find that I stitch rather fast and move the quilt slower--I had a tendency to try to move the quilt as fast as the machine sounded! Once I slowed down the quilt movement everything looked better. Practice is the key!
Burstyriffic 7 years ago
I love free motion quilting because I think it adds beauty to a quilt. It makes it something special that came from the heart and from your effort, and you can't get that if you send it out to a long-arm.

Also, it just makes the most beautiful texture on a quilt. I find it definitely helps to have your backing close to your thread color so that when you do get the "eyelashes," as someone called them, they are less noticeable.
mackimom 7 years ago
I just finished taking part in an online free motion quilt challenge. The goal was to free motion quilt everyday for 2 weeks and post your results. It was amazing how much everybody improved. There were beginner quilters as well as experienced. The site has lots of free motion tips, videos and the experiences of everyone taking part. There are lots of links too. I think it would be worth it for you to check out. I am much more confident now, since taking part. Good luck with your quilting!

I blogged about my experiences cwquilts.blogspot.com

The challenge site is fmqchallenge.blogspot.com/
cer!se 7 years ago
Thanks everyone for this discussion, and especially for the video clip at the start... After watching that, I had my first go at FMQ on my latest quilt and it wasn't too bad at all, I'm rather pleased withnhow it came out, and can see lots of potential for getting away from endless straight line quilting now! But is it normal to end up with your hands aching and clenched and cramped from gripping the fabric either side of the needle? Or was that just me?!
capitolaquilter Posted 7 years ago. Edited by capitolaquilter (member) 7 years ago
This thread is a wonderful resource. I braved FMQ for the first time a few years ago and have done it on rare occasion since. Reading everyone's comments inspires me to try again. I do recall getting all tense in my shoulders and achy in my hands. I found that because I'm inexperienced (and insecure) with the technique that I would just keep going if I was on a roll. When I would work on a quilt one day and then go back another, my rhythm was different and it showed.
creativeinspiraciones 7 years ago
If you have not already see this group and Leah Day's Videos on her blog you should check it out. Her blog is a FMQ bible.


Day Style Designs is her company.
Chic Quilt Geek 7 years ago
Just to add - I had terrible tension and "eyelash" problems when I first tried to FMQ - turned out it was the poor quality thread I was using. I now only use 100% cotton Gutermann and don't seem to have that problem any more

beadywoman2 6 years ago
I'm hopelessly confused about thread tension and free-motion. Some tuts say to lower the tension, others say to make it higher. I've found that higher works better for me, but is this the norm or am I just doing things wrong and not really learning to truly free-motion?

Thanks in advance!
felicity.quilts 6 years ago
My machine (a bernina) likes to have the upper thread tension increased when I free-motion. As long as your setting results in tension that works for you and your quilt, then it's right!
jenjohnston 6 years ago
Don't be afraid to modify your bobbin tension either -- it really isn't a big deal. I find I have to modify the bobbin tension to get the best results.
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