Thursday Tip #12

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
I have had one quilt professionally quilted and the end result was lovely but I felt a total disconnect with this quilt, almost like I had missed a large part of its journey. I wanted to be a quilter, not a piecer, so with great determination, I taught myself to free motion quilt on my domestic. Its not always easy, but it gives my quilts that homemade feel, which I love. I'm a realist, its not as perfect as the professional quilters but to me, its perfectly imperfect.
I saw a lovely mantra the other day, "Real not perfect" and I think that applies to everything we do; we inject real love, real passion, real determination and real enjoyment into all of our projects and the gratitude expressed from the people who receive our quilts, is real too.
So here are just some of my free motion quilting tips:
  • Free motion quilting takes a long time and is very hard on the body, so be prepared for many, many hours at the machine and stop for regular breaks. Set a timer if you need to or drink lots of water, so nature forces you get up and move :)
  • If you can draw it, you can free motion quilt it. I can't stress this enough, draw, draw, draw. Keep drawing the design until it becomes familiar to you and then draw it some more. Practice drawing your design in different sized squares to see how the design will fill the space and adapt the size of your design to suit the space. Keep drawing, keep practicing!
  • In a design such as a flower, alternate the way each flower faces. Link flowers or fill in any open space you are not happy with, with some stems and leaves.
  • In some designs, like feathers, its necessary to stitch back over small sections of the quilting, so you can continue on without having to cut and restart.
  • Make up a test sandwich square with two pieces of fabric and wadding and practice your free motion design before quilting your project.
  • I suggest beginning with stippling. It a great way to develop the flow of free motion quilting and its a little more forgiving if you make a mistake or quilt yourself into a corner.
  • Choose a backing fabric with a busy print, to disguise your quilting, if you prefer.
  • When your ready to start quilting ensure your machine is clean, a new quilting needle is inserted and you have plenty of bobbins wound and ready.
  • You will require a darning foot for free motion quilting. There are a couple of different ones. I prefer a clear open toe darning foot as it gives me a better view of where I am working, especially around seams.
  • All machines are different but its suggested you drop your feed dogs to free motion quilt. My Pfaff has two presser foot settings, so I prefer to leave my feed dogs up and I use the first presser foot setting. The only exception to this is when I'm working on a large project and at the very start, when its really heavy, I drop the feed dogs while I begin working in the centre. As I work my way across, I put the feed dogs back up. 
  • Quilting gloves may give you more control as you quilt or spraying the back of the quilt with starch may help the quilt glide easier as you work. I use neither of these techniques but do what makes you comfortable and gives you the best result.
  • Regardless of what design I'm quilting, I always begin in a seam to disguise the start of the design. If you have the needle down function, make sure you use it; its like an extra pair of hands. Quilt a couple of stitches in the same spot, to anchor your thread before you begin.
  • Quilt at a consistent pace to keep your stitches even. It's not a race, it's leisurely, even quilting.
  • When you need to change direction, stop with the needle down, turn your quilt and then continue quilting, to keep the stitching even.
  • Keep quilting right into the wadding to keep the design even. This will also help to anchor your edges, nice and flat, ready for binding.
  • I quilt in the wadding, if I need to travel or change direction to avoid having to cut and restart. 
  • The aim is to not cross over any quilting (and quilting is time consuming to unpick) but if its just a little mistake here and there, keep going! In the overall quilt, no one is going to notice :)

Be proud of your free motion quilting; you have done it all yourself! There will always be the "nit pickers" who look for the imperfections; let them do that while your busy planning your next pretty project. Everyone's idea of perfection is different. Mine is knowing that I've sewn every step of a quilts journey and then seeing the joy and comfort it gives to those I love. You cant get any more perfect than that :)

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