Experiments in Free Motion Quilting

by Kelsey Norwood

in Quilting

I’ve been quilting a lot lately.

By quilting I mean putting together quilt tops. I’ve only actually finished one quilt, and I paid out my nose to have it professionally done.

There had to be a better way. I love how it turned out, but HOLY COW, it cost me a lot.

So I did some Google research and learned more about free motion quilting, which I’m convinced is the better way I’ve been looking for.

Sure, it’s difficult and takes lots of practice. But it’s practically free.

So I gave it a try last night, a very preliminary and experimental try, not expecting great results.

free motion quilting darning foot

Figuring out my machine and how to get started – which foot to use and how the heck to put it on – took the longest.

You use a darning or embroidery foot and you have to take off the little thing that regular presser feet attach to. Once I figured out it didn’t attach like a regular presser foot…smooth sailing.

Then you lower the feed dogs. And lucky for me, some fellow Riccar 9600 owner scanned and posted her entire user manual online for me to learn how to do that. Whew.

free motion quilting how to

Set stitch length to 0.

Make a little quilt sandwich with fabric on top and bottom and batting in between, safety pin together, and go to it.

The darning foot doesn’t rest on the fabric so you can move it around freely. The stitch length is controlled by the speed of your presser foot and the hard part is moving the fabric around smoothly and uniformly to make nice stippling.

free motion quilting stippling

For a first try it’s…not horrible. It was difficult and it will take lots of practice, but then I can quilt less expensively!

I’ll create a more thorough video tutorial soon cause the possibilities of free motion quilting are kind of awesome. And I’m ready to master a new skill. Or at least try…

Any tips for me???


1 Barbara H. April 28, 2011 at 9:08 am

I need to try this some time. It seems intimidating right now, but I need to at least give it a whirl and see.

One of my blog friends is a master at it — gorgeous work. She’s at http://ivoryspring.wordpress.com/ if you’d like to see some of her work. Very inspiring to look at!

2 jeri April 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

I am definitely giving this a try. Also I’ve seen where you can print out a stipple (or other) pattern, pin it to your fabric and then sew along it. That might be worth trying on a smaller project?

3 Kelsey April 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Jeri, I actually did print out a pattern on vellum last night after I tried winging it. I’m definitely going to try tracing, at least at first just to get the hang of the motion of the pattern. But other than how it turned out, it went great!

4 Joan April 29, 2011 at 9:12 am

Love this idea and have been wanting to try it, so thanks for sharing your experience with it. Now, you perfect it and then teach me how to do it easily. :)

5 Jenny May 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm

My mom does this. You could ask her.

6 Laura P May 3, 2011 at 9:12 am

I just tried it myself last month. I found a blog that talked about using a simple design on freezer paper ironed to the top of the quilt. I made a table runner for practice and it came out pretty well. Still need more practice, maybe placemats….

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