Years ago I took a lesson on free motion quilting way before I could do anything (even try anything) that resembled free motion quilting on a quilt. The lesson terrified me and I never did a drop of free motion quilting again for over a year. I then completed a very very small project (a small zippered pouch) that somehow gave me the confidence to do more quilting. It has been a long journey with many doubts and dips but over all there is only one thing that has helped me improve and that is the really boring word of 'practice'. I know I have said this over and over again.
And so to encourage someone to take the same leap as I did and push through those doubts I want to start a series of lessons and little giveaways in 2015 - that will be focused on giving you that extra little push to drop those feed dogs on your machine and get quilting.
My tips for beginning free motion quilting are:
(I'm assuming you have dropped/covered your feed dogs and lowered your stitch length - try lowering your stitch length to 0 - if you are using a Bernina BSR try a stitch length between 1.5-1.7)
Practice with a purpose. Practice on something you want to (have to) finish. Be it a new baby quilt, some placemats/coasters for a birthday present, a bag, a quilt for a charity or your church - your kids will be happy and unjudgmental with anything you make them - a quilt for their doll or teddy? Your projects do not have to be big at all - but make sure you see through each project (even if you hate it others will love it.) As you progress through each project you will see progress and improvement.
|Start with smaller projects like placemats.|
Are you comfortable? If your chair is too low and your table too high (or any combination of uncomfort) you won't want to sit for too long. Is your foot sitting on the pedal comfortably? Free motion quilting takes time - you will want to be comfortable.
Are you sitting at a big table? It is important to keep your quilt elevated off the floor so you are not fighting with the drag of the quilt as well as trying to move the quilt around smoothly. I have some great portable tables that I found at Costco that I can hide in a closet or under a bed when not in use and then place them around my machine to ensure the quilt off the floor and not creating additional resistance. Having a big surface area around your machine for your quilt to sit on will really help you.
Music? Silence? I personally listen to talk radio when I work - it distracts me enough so my shoulders drop a little. I know some people like to listen to music to get into the quilty groove. Other people work better when it is quiet. What ever makes you zen? (Tip: Copious amounts of alcohol and chocolate do not help!)
What design to start with? Would you believe that the all over popular stippling is really hard to work out at the beginning. Start with swirls, pebbles or wavy echoing lines. Cut yourself a break and leave the stippling for later - there are much more fun designs out there to play with.
Using an all over meandering design? Start in the center (if using a domestic) - and work your way out. The center is always the most cumbersome and difficult. Working from the center out will prevent a whole host of problems that might defeat the confidence you are trying to build.
You are not a baby bird learning how to fly - keep your shoulders down (easier said than done) and keep your elbows in.
- your hand eye co-ordination by repeating patterns over and over again
- try to think and focus on the pattern ahead - especially with meandering patterns - where are you going next?
- achieving smooth motion and movements
- consistent size and pattern shapes
|Practice by repetition.|
Some practice ideas:
- doodle - I doodle (scribble) everywhere - repeating these patterns and motifs on paper will really really help your muscle memory. Found a pattern you want to try? trace it 10 times on paper first before trying it on your machine.
|Doodle, doodle & doodle some more|
- tracing the pattern/shapes of a pretty fabric can make a gorgeous quilted project as well as letting you escape the big question 'what pattern am I going to quilt' it will also help you gain more control as you follow the pattern shapes
- quilt as you go is gaining in popularity and serves a solution to wrestling an entire quilt at one time
- play 'what shall I draw' - get someone to tell you what to draw with your machine/needle and thread. Not only it a fun(ny) game - but it will also help you to begin to see the endless possibilities of free motion quilting.
GIVEAWAY: Natalia Bonner's Beginner's Guide to Free-Motion Quilting
My favorite pattern in this book are the spiral circles on pages 44 & 45 - a great all over pattern that would look great on any quilt.
To win this book leave a comment and answer one of the following questions below before January 26th:
- if you are nervous of free motion quilting enter please leave a comment below saying what free quilting pattern you would like to learn and why?
- if you are a budding free motion quilter what pattern do you favor and why?
(Please note: Giveaway will only be shipped within the US.)