My First Attempts at Free Motion Quilting and What I Learned

by | Jul 12, 2017 | Quilts | 1 comment

Another friend recently had a baby and I had a bit more time to make a quilt for her little girl, unlike the quilt I made in less than a week.  Besides making a quilt top with more pieces and pattern mixing, I experimented with a couple new quilting elements with this quilt.  Most notably, my first attempt at free motion quilting!Beginner Free Motion Quilting
Up to now, I’ve used straight line quilting in all of my quilts.  Because one, I really like the clean lines especially when the mimic the piecing and draw attention to all the work I did on the quilt top!  And two, I’ve been nervous to mess up the quilt with wrinkles and tucks.

Beginner Free Motion QuiltingI’ve gained enough confidence in my quilt prep skills that I felt ready to try!  And it went pretty well!  For a first attempt at free motion quilting, I’m really pleased!

Okay, I didn’t break out of my straight lines box completely.  My free motion quilting meanders in rows of varying widths across the quilt.  Skinnier rows in the middle, wider rows at the ends.  So I still have an element of ‘straight lines’ within the quilt.  But inside those rows I meandered back and forth in big loops.

What I Learned

Free motion quilting isn’t scary, it’s exciting!

I LOVED not having to turn the quilt around and maneuver it through the machine to switch directions.  And I can do anything I dream up because I can move easily in Any. Direction. I. Want.  I had no idea I was feeling constrained by my straight lines (although I totally knew they were a crutch) until I didn’t use them.  I’m absolutely going to keep using straight lines, because I like them, but I can’t wait to find little ways to change them up and begin adding little elements of free motion quilting.

Random is hard.  Beginner Free Motion Quilting

I already knew that, but this reminded me.  Whenever I thought I was getting a groove, I realized I was starting to make the same motions and create a pattern when I really wanted random.  No pattern.  Nothing to really stand out or draw the eye.  So yeah-random is harder than it looks.  When I actually try a free motion pattern then I’ll decide which is harder-random or pattern.

Consistency is Key.

Moving the quilt at a consistent speed while sewing at a consistent speed is vital for getting even stitches.  Mine has a HUGE variety of long and short and micro stitches throughout.  I can see why having a speed control on your machine is helpful!  If I can push the pedal down all the way and have it hit the same manageable speed every time, I don’t have to use any energy trying to hover the pedal in that ‘sweet speed’ where my hands are right in sync with the machine.

Beginner Free Motion QuiltingPracticing is going to be FUN!

I know I’m going to get better each time I attempt free motion quilting because I saw improvement in just one quilt.  And half of free motion quilting isn’t just the physical ability to quilt, but the artistic ability to envision the quilting and how the designs will affect and add to the quilt.  I’m really excited and nervous to artistically plan out the quilting on a quilt.  Maybe even with a sketch beforehand!  (Perhaps I’ll also start doing borders on my quilts…)  Free motion quilting just takes the artistic value of a quilt to another level!

I’m in awe of the quilts with multiple free motion patterns for different sections. They are creating visual interest with TEXTURE and are made by geniuses.  Or at least crazy talented people with beautiful vision!  And I can’t wait to try it myself.