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.
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!