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Getting started with free-motion quilting….

Today's blog is brought to you by Vicky. Those of you who know Vicky know she is a fabulous quilter. I hope you learn something over the next few weeks. We also hope that you gain the confidence to practice a little free motion quilting.

We have scheduled these posts to release now so that those who have join us in the Janome Sew Along over the past few months can consider whether they would like to free motion their quilt.

If you have never done free motion quilting please DO NOT go straight to your quilt. Make some "quilt sandwiches". These are a layer of fabric on the back, wadding in the middle and another layer of fabric of the top. Make these about 50cm square.

Over to Vicky....

What is free motion quilting

Free motion quilting is the wonderful art of you moving your fabric / quilt in order to create patterns rather than letting your sewing machine move the fabric for you.

In order to do this, you will need to drop feed dogs on your machine (or cover them up if you can’t drop them), so you are in charge of what is happening. You are then placing your hands on your quilt and they are going to be like a hoop, securing the fabric and moving it to produce the stitches.

In FMQ you are only working in a small area at a time, so you can control what you are doing in the area around your needle. Stop regularly and reposition your hands. When you are doing this, watch for flex in your needle. Work at a slow and steady pace to get confidence and consistency. Wearing quilting gloves or using a sticky grip hoop are very helpful in reducing fatigue in your hands and getting consistent results.


It can be a bit scary when you start doing FMQ, so if you can change the speed of your machine, I suggest to drop it down to about 1/3 of maximum speed so that you have more control over what your machine is doing and you are not scared to have your hands close up to the needles.

As you become more confident and move your hands around quicker, you will see that the stitches will look too big – this is the time to increase your speed slightly. Conversely, if your stitches are very small and close together it means that your hands are moving too slowly compared to how fast your machine is stitching so you need to slow down your machine a bit. With practise, you will get into a good rhythm and balance between moving your hands and the machines speed.

Setting Up

Having a large area that is flat with the sewing machine is really helpful, and helps to eliminate drag and this inconsistent stitch length. Many machine companies make extension tables to fit around their machines to create a flat work area. Alternatively, there are sewing machine furniture companies who make sewing tables that allow you to set the machine into the table, creating a flat work area for quilters. Being able to sit up straight and not have your shoulders hunched up around your ears really helps to reduce fatigue and muscle stress.

Marking your quilt

Never be afraid to pre-mark your quilt top or work area or use reference points in the fabric or quilt top that you are sewing.

You can use commercial quilting stencils, or just draw a pattern that you want to stitch out. When you are first starting FMQ it can be difficult sometimes to know where to stitch next, but it is easier to follow along a line. You can pre-mark your quilt tops with various products eg blue pen (washes out), purple pen (fades in air), chalk (dust or iron out), pounce grids, reference lines or dots, patterns that you are quilting. It makes life so much easier when you are just starting out.

Marking pounces


Go to page 2 and 3 for lots of options

Be kind to yourself

Last but not least, relax and have fun. Quilting is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, not stressful and disheartening. Be patient with yourself as you learn new techniques and train your brain and hands to move in different paths and patterns. It won’t happen overnight but with practise and patience you will progress in your free-motion quilting journey.

Stay tuned for more next week :)

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