September 02, 2010

Free Motion Quilting: Basics

I personally never watch videos on blogs because the only time I am online is while watching TV or while on the bus. Nevertheless, it occurred to me that you might want to see a video of the basics of free motion quilting. So my handsome husband lovingly held my iPhone after the baby was abed, and I did a down and dirty video of all the things I'm about to talk about below. Bonus: this is also my 100th blog post. I think that's some sort of good omen. So, here you go! If you're like me and don't want to watch this, I think I did a pretty good job explaining it below.



These are the steps I take when free motion quilting. You may do things differently, and if you're inclined to experiment with other approaches, go right ahead!


Pulling up the bobbin thread

Get your practice pad under your needle, wherever you plan to start stitching. Lower the foot. Using the handwheel, take a stitch into the fabric and bring the needle back up. Slide the pad out a bit and pull on the thread to "pop" the bobbin thread up where you can grab it. Pull out the thread until the free end comes through. Now line up the pad so that the needle is directly above where you took the first stitch.




Hold the threads gently behind the foot as you start stitching, to prevent them from turning into a snarled mess on the back of your quilt.


Locking your stitches
 We want your stitching to hold for the coming decades of use and washing. You need to do something to keep the loose ends of the threads from unraveling where you start and stop your stitching. Some people take a few stitches in place. I slowly take a few stitches away and then back again over the same stitches to really lock them down. This leaves a somewhat more noticeable area in the stitching, but I think it's worth it for what I think is a stronger "lock". I expect my quilts will be washed a lot.


You can do whatever you'd like to lock your stitches. You can even do the fancy quilt show maneuver where you tie the threads together and then bury them in the quilt using a needle. I detest extra steps so I have never tried this.


What to do with your hands
Some people grab their quilts. Some people grab with one hand and lay the other flat. I lay both my hands flat so they make a "U" shape. While stitching I press down on the quilt sandwich and slightly outwards, to eliminate any wrinkles in the area I am stitching. I stitch whatever I can in this"U" shaped area, then I stop and reposition my hands without letting the quilt shift. If your machine has a needle down feature, that is very helpful, the needle holds the quilt in place while you move your hands. My machines don't have this feature, and invariably, the needle stops up. So I either take one hand off and use the handwheel to lower the needle, or I move my hands one at a time. The quilt stays in place, lined up for me to stitch again. When you reposition your hands, remove any pins that are in the "U" shape where you will be quilting.



Stitching
I aim for 8-10 stitches an inch. When I first started, I took about 40 stitches an inch. Or 2. I broke at least one needle. If that's how you start out, don't worry. I was taught to err on the faster side with stitching speed and I do find that when I stitch faster my lines are smoother and my stitch length is more consistent.

Ok, so now that we've covered HOW you get started, tomorrow we'll work on WHAT to stitch - hope you have your practice pads ready!

24 comments:

Patchwork and Play said...

Oh goodness! I had an ah-ha moment when you showed how to make the U shape with your hands and quilt inside this area!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!

Debbie said...

Thank you, Christina. One can never watch enough of these! Each person has different hints that are helpful. I also picked up on your u-shaped hint.

Quiet Quilter said...

"U, U, U, There's no one like U, U, U"

I'll remember that song and the hint at the same time....

Love the way you are taking it slow and easy, giving advice and hints along the way. We haven't even started the free-motion and I have picked up several hints already.

Fat Chick said...

You make it look so easy!
Congratulations on 100 posts too
:)

Pat said...

Congrats on reaching 100 posts and thanks for the good hints so far......I really hope I can improve on my free-motion quilting during this "journey" with you!

BaileyGirl5 said...

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to do this series. You are really breaking down free motion quilting for me and I'm ready to put my past fiascos behind me and try again.

Gene Black said...

Okay, I usually grab the edges of the quilt when I free motion. I am going to use gloves and try the "Hand-y U" trick.

María Cristina said...

Maravilloso el video y las fotos!!!
Gracias por tu dedicación!!!
Felicidades por tu entrada número 100!!!!
Un abrazo!!!

Di2Quilt said...

I finally understand how to "pull up the bobbin thread". I've heard that term over and over but just didn't know how to do it. The "U" shape is another technique I'll have to work on, too!

Thank you for the video!

Mama Pea said...

Great job, Christina! Loved your video. Looking forward to your next set of instructions!

Graciela said...

Thanks Cris!!!i´m waiting for the next

Merry Made Quilts said...

Thank you!! I've been wanting to start machine quilting for a while but was chicken! I only hand quilt but this comes at the perfect time!!

Sherry Hogan said...

I just watched the video and I sure this is as easy as it looks. I do need to try the locking your stitches this I've never done before. I'm working on my practice pads now

Weatherbee ;) said...

The video was great...and very helpful! I just figured out I can use my embroidery foot to quilt with, so I'm ecstatic! Can't wait to get going!!! :)

Ms. A said...

Thank you so much for posting this!! It might seem simple - and it is, but sometimes the little steps are intimidating!

Stray Stitches said...

Your tutorial is so easy to follow and very precise. Thanks!

Jennwith4 said...

Wasn't able to see the video (this computer has problems) but all the tips afterward helped!

Kay Lynne said...

Congratulations on your 100th post! All your tips on free motion quilting are great.

Vicki @ DottyJane said...

Great job of explaining! Congratulations on 100 posts:)

Dolly said...

Congratulations on a perfectly helpful centennial post !

happy zombie said...

I loved, loved, loved your presentation at guild, Christina - so glad you made a video!! You do such a great job teaching, presenting and quilting!

Allie said...

GREAT video and great writing, both! That's me, 40 stitches per inch - or 2 - this is going to take some practice. But I'm ready for the challenge! I've never pulled my bobbin thread up before, I'll have to try that - it may be a factor in the bird's nests. My machine has an automatic lock stitch and I've always used that.

Val said...

Hi Christina, I am new to quilting and it is NEVER very good, but now I am happy to have the quote "Done is better than perfect!" I am going to apply your prescription very liberally! Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration :0)
Val xx Oxfordshire UK

quiltytherapy said...

How do you lock in your threads as when you're done? Do you pull the bobbin thread up again?

I've been trying free motion, but always run into that dilemma.

quiltytherapy at yahoo.com

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