9 Free Motion Quilting Tips – READ BEFORE QUILTING!

by Kelsey Norwood

in Crafts,Quilting,Sewing,Tutorials


I finished this pirate quilt top ages ago using the very cute line for Riley Blake by Emily Taylor. I just saw that she has a brand new Pirate Matey’s line coming in October and I think I like it even better than this one! But I always say that…

I finally got around to finishing this quilt up and I wanted to share some tips I follow when I do straight machine stitching with a walking foot or or freehand machine quilting with an embroidery foot:

  1. USE A WALKING FOOT! If you’re doing straight line quilting, do not even try to do it without a walking foot, you’ll want to cry. Always use a walking foot!
  2. USE AN EMBROIDERY FOOT! If you’re doing freehand machine quilting, you have to use an embroidery foot because it doesn’t press all the way down to the throat plate. There is space underneath that allows you to freely move the fabric around while stitching.
  3. Test your fabric, batting, and backing first – rethread your sewing machine and adjust the tension until it looks just right. Also practice the speed your hands move and the speed of the pedal.
  4. USE QUILTING GLOVES! There are lots of different glove options – I bought a pair that are lightweight and have grippy balls on the fingers and palms. They’re easy to get on and off and help you move the fabric around without slipping.
  5. USE A QUILTING TABLE! Buy a custom fiberglass quilting table (18×24 is my favorite size) and spray it with silicone before you get started. (Spray it outside.) The silicone spray will make the table really slippery and will make moving the fabric around at a uniform speed much easier.
  6. Give yourself plenty of time. You don’t want to just get in your groove and then have to stop…Set aside enough time to make considerable progress. You will get better and more consistent the longer you do it in the same session.
  7. BE BRAVE! I freehand quilted that wave pattern on the outside border of the pirate quilt. I really wanted to find some kind of template and trace it, but I was brave and just went for it. I love how it turned out, it was so much faster than tracing a pattern and trying to follow it, and it turned out just fine! It’s not perfect, but why should it be?
  8. Make it personal. I added three hidden hearts (for my three sons) in the loopy design in the skinny white border and also wrote out last name in that same loopy part. I will sew my label on too, but having some hidden messages/pictures for the recipient in the quilting is so sweet and personal.
  9. Try different backing fabrics – flannel is cozy, cotton is traditional, minky is so fun! I’ve used minky a few times and I LOVE how quilting looks on the minky. The stitching sinks really deep into the minky and the thread doesn’t show up but the design really does. I love how it looks.

#7 is the best tip I can give you – practice first and then be brave and jump right in. Do something different and challenge yourself! It will turn out beautiful and you will love it!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Keri July 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I can’t believe you freehanded the wave! It looks great!!

2 Bethany July 5, 2012 at 11:36 am

Wow! You are truly amazing! That quilt looks AMAZING!

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