There are no rigid or exact rules in any art form. Art should be inspirational, unique and appealing to the individual.
The next time someone asks “What is free motion quilting?” Explain that it is the art of stitching the three layers of a quilt together on a sewing machine in a free form manner or following a marked pattern to create a piece of art that is exclusively your own.
You have done a lot of work to get to this point, you should feel good about it.
Now that your fabric has been washed, dried and pressed. You are familiar with your rotary cutter and comfortable using it after cutting out your quilt pieces. The top of your quilt has been accurately sewn together and you have pressed the top of your quilt. Your batting decision has been made and your backing fabric is set to go (If not, I will go over this in detail below).
You are about ready to start quilting!
First, let’s go over a few items you will want handy and steps to take to ensure a quality outcome.
Best Thread For Machine Quilting
When I first began quilting I would use cotton thread for both, piecing and quilting. Machine quilting is normally done at a higher speed and the cotton thread created way too much lint for my liking. After getting tired of having to clean out the lint in the bobbin area I decided to try something different.
I tried polyester thread (40 weight) and found that like cotton it is durable and colorfast but it is NOT linty. This was a great find as it is available in many colors and unlike cotton thread, it not only comes in a matte finish but also a high sheen finish. Also because it is a bit stronger it helps create a more defined quilted stitch.
Gloves made for quilting are a must! You will want gloves that are soft and fit firm and have flexible fingertip grips. The gloves will help you to hold the quilt firmly while maneuvering through the free motion stitching.
Stay far away from any gloves that have floppy wristbands as these will have you to wrestling with your quilt when they get caught in the fabric, which only leads to frustration. Gloves will also help to keep your quilt clean.
Another benefit of wearing quilting gloves is that they will prevent you from having to pull and tug on your quilt, relieving the tension and stress on your fingertips and wrists.
Quilting Slider – Nope, not the ones you eat
The last thing I want is for you to get frustrated and quit, you have come too far for that! Your gloves will help hold the quilt but it can still be difficult to move a large quilt around on the bed of your sewing machine.
Supreme Slider has a product that lies on the bed of your sewing machine. It enables you to move the quilt easily while quilting any design. It is reusable and you can cut it to size. I have found the slider to be a very beneficial addition to my supplies.
Free Motion Quilting Foot
If your sewing machine did not come equipped with a free-motion quilting foot, don’t fret, you may purchase a universal quilting foot or check your manual to find out where to purchase one made just for your machine. Your dealer may also be able to suggest what is best for your machine.
What you want to look for are the following features:
- Open Toe – This will allow you see where you are going as you stitch because there is nothing blocking your view or the pattern you are following. Having the open toe makes it simple to pull the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt and the thread tail out of your way. (You will be doing this a lot when switching the thread, bobbin or stitching location. These threads will be tied into small knots on top of the quilt)
- Off-Set Shank – While the open toe allows you to see where you are going in your stitching. The off-set shank will give you an open view of where you have already sewn because there is nothing blocking the view directly behind the needle.
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If this sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry… Once you get set up and start stitching it will become clear.
Don’t forget to have handy other notions such as safety pins (lots!) scissors and extra quilting needles for your machine.
Preparing A Quilt Backing
Using fabric that measures the standard 43″/44″ wide
- Measure the width and length of your quilt top. (Your pattern should indicate the finished size as well as how much backing fabric to purchase) If you measured your top then add 8″ to both the width and length of your measurement.
- Fold backing and then cut on the into two lengths. Trim the selvage edges.
- Place the right sides together and stitch both of the outside long edges together.
- Match seams and press just one of the folded edges.
- Cut the pressed edge to create a single piece.
- You now have a quilt backing!
- After you have pinned the layers together you can then trim the extra backing.
Assemble Quilt Layers
We are getting there!!
- Look over the quilt top very closely and trim any loose threads. You don’t want these popping up on the top as you quilt. Press the quilt top. Be sure this is done first if you are going to using any marking tools for a quilting design.
- Find a large clean area (I use my kitchen floor, swept clean of course!) Place the quilt backing on the floor with WRONG side up. This is when I get out my painters tape and tape the back to the floor so that it is taut)
- Lay batting down on top of the wrong side of the backing. Smooth out any wrinkles.
- Time to get out those safety pins, I hope you bought enough! Starting in the center begin pinning moving outwards. The rule of thumb I go by when pinning my quilts is: If I stretch my hand out and place it on the quilt I should be able to feel at least 5 pins. It is important to keep all of the layers tightly together to avoid any overlaying of fabric on the back when quilting.
Congratulations! You are now ready to start quilting and by following these guidelines your creation is going to turn out awesome!
In the next section, we will jump right into setting up your machine and start learning some free motion quilting techniques.
If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment below.