Can I confess something? Quilting the layers of a quilt together is still the part of this whole quilt-making process that intimidates me. And if I ever do quilt the layers myself, I pretty much just stick to straight lines. Anyone else feel intimidated free-motion quilting on their home machines?
Well, we’re all in luck today because guest poster Dara Tomasson is a wiz at it and has some great tips and ideas to share! Dara is a quilting guru on both a longarm and her home machine. I was so excited when she offered to write a guest post for my blog share tips and ideas for enhancing your quilting on your own machine.
Hi I am Dara from Stitched Quilting Co. I am a domestic and long arm free motion quilter where I teach others the joy and art of free motion quilting. I am thrilled to be showing up here at Amy’s blog to share with you some tips and tricks on conquering your fear of free motion quilting. I recently had 8 of my free motion quilting designs published in this book from Martingale Publishing, 180 More Doodle Quilting Designs coming out this week!
When I first started quilting I was SO afraid of free motion quilting my own projects. I knew that there were special industrial type machines that did the quilting called long arms. It was so intimidating to try to manage three layers of fabric and batting through the relatively narrow throat of my sewing machine. Making a mistake was petrifying.
Basting a quilt was ominous: did I have the correct type of pins?, did I pin them close enough?, what is the spray I am supposed to use?, did I use enough spray?, are all the layers smooth enough? To add more stress to the process I had to learn a whole new set of rules when taking a quilt to the long armer. Although I never had a negative experience with a long armer, I always felt a little disappointed when I got my quilt back because I didn’t feel the quilt was not 100% completed by me. Does this resonate with any of you?
I desperately wanted all my quilts to be made 100% by me so I decided to educate myself and learn how to quilt my quilts myself. The best first step was to make a quilt sandwich. It doesn’t need to be large, between 10-20 inches square. I put on a darning foot and just started to stitch. I did not pass judgement on how the stitching looked, I just practiced. I focused on how the fabric felt as my hands passed through the needle from all different directions.
Learning a new skill quite often is overwhelming. So instead of me sharing all the details of thread and needle size I just want to challenge you to make a quilt sandwich, put on a darning foot and move the sandwich around under the machine.
I will keep to the kiss theory- keep it simple. Here are 4 tips and 4 tricks for working with a quilt sandwich.
Tip Number One
Use old sheets or fabric that you no longer want. Cut them up into 10-20 inch squares. Cut the backing fabric 2 inches wider so that your hand has a place to go. The batting is about 1 inch wider than the top. For example, if the top is 20 inches square, then the batting is 21 inches square and the backing is 22 inches square.
Tip Number Two
Use a contrasting thread colour so you can see the thread path when you are stitching. This picture illustrates the difference in the quilting with the different colours.
Tip Number 3
Develop muscle memory of quilting designs on paper before going to a quilt sandwich. I like to doodle in a notebook so I can look back at my doodles. I often use past doodles as sources of inspiration. Using a white board and marker can be another great way to develop that coordination and skill, its also eco-friendly!
Tip Number 4
Study books to learn new techniques. One of the perks about this book is that the sequence of quilting is laid out. I practiced several new-to-me designs from this book on my quilt sandwich and it was so useful to see the method (pathway marked by arrows) the designer used to create their quilting design.
Divide up the quilt sandwich into smaller sections so the area is more confined and easier to stitch into. Quilting these lines is a good warm up for quilting.
Keep a quilt sandwich by your machine at all times and practice a little on it before working on your sewing project. Not only does this help you find your quilting groove but it allows you the opportunity to check your tension on the front and back before moving on to your quilted project.
When the quilt sandwich is divided into sections, no pins are required and they do not interfere with the quilting.
Think about what kind of learner you are. Do you learn better if you can see someone creating the design? Or listening to someone explain how the design is created? By understanding how best you learn can help you with your free motion quilting success.
These are just a few tips for reducing the fear to start doing more free motion quilting (FMQ). If learning to quilt your own quilts is something you would really like to do you can watch my free intro to FMQ course through Imagine with Riley Blake. This course just became free this month!
Also, investing in this book, 180 More Doodle Designs and others like it, is another way to build up your personal library so that you can have inspiration and references at your fingertips when practicing on those quilt sandwiches to gain confidence and skills.
I would love to hear from you about your favourite tips and tricks for free motion quilting. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Hop over to my blog (www.stitchedquiltingco.com) or my instagram and see how my desire to quilt my projects 100% by me has turned into a fulfilling creative endeavour that has changed my life for good.
Thanks Amy for the opportunity to share my passion for liberating quilters into believers that everyone can quilt their own projects no matter what machine, what age or stage they are at.
Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm, Dara!
*this post contains affiliate links