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Free Motion Quilting Made Easier

How do you feel about free motion quilting? I think I was lucky I took to this form of stitching like a fish to water. I am comfortable with the process, since I am a mixed media art quilter, and I usually work small.

Oh, and did I mention that I am a rule breaker? That helps also!

Mola Fish quilt panel by Judy Gula

When I free motion stitch, I often choose to simply work with the pattern in the fabric. You can see some samples of my mimicking and branching off from the pattern of the golden yellow Women’s Business Gold Aborigine fabric in the photo above. (By the way, we have several of the popular Aborigine design fabric patterns back in stock).

You can stitch around the fabric’s design once, or in echoing “wave” fashion. You can stitch to fill the pattern in. Or maybe the design moves you to create a pattern of your choice. For instance, the circles and dots used as design elements in my fabrics, plus the fish bringing to mind water bubbles, inspired me to free motion stitch the small circles seen on the solid pink fabric the mola is appliquéd onto.

I try to keep my free motion stitching open and large, rather than tiny, even for my small quilts.

Once you’ve experimented a bit, try practicing your favorite moves larger! Then try them smaller!

I’ve found that the use of a few notions can really help the free motion process along. The Sew Slip II really keeps the fabric moving smoothly. Below it is pictured on one of my machines (which is sitting atop one of my Havel’s cutting mats).

The Sew Slip II aids free motion machine quilting

The back of the SewSlip sheet is formulated to grip firmly, so it sticks to your sewing machine bed using no adhesive (and thus no residue on your machine). The front features a non-stick top surface, meaning your fabrics slide freely as you manipulate them with your feed dogs down. The sheet has a precut rectangular hole for your feed dogs to show through, if you are choosing to quilt with them up, for instance to use a walking foot for thick or difficult fabrics, or sewing leather or fur, etc…this mat really helps any type of textile glide smoothly.

One side of the SewSlip mat grips with no adhesive, the other allows all textiles to slide freely

GRABAROOS gloves for free motion quilting


Another notion that contributes to free motion quilting success: I now use GRABAROO’S® gloves most of the time I quilt. There are tiny rubberized grips on every finger, so they really grab the fabric, which allows me to more easily manipulate it while free motion quilting. They are lightweight don’t make my hands too hot.

Regular readers already know how often I have often proclaimed my love of Star Thread in this blog! Today I’m going to make another suggestion for those who want to enhance their free motion quilting experience: using Seralene brand thread from Mettler in the bobbin.
I think that success in free motion stitching is at least partially due to getting into a “zone,” where you are relaxed and your creativity flows. Seralene is a thinner thread, meaning that you will load more thread on your bobbin. More thread on the bobbin allows you to sew longer at a stretch — thus getting you into the groove! No breaking your stride to change the bobbin!

Machine stitching/embroidery by Liz Kettle

And if you’re really ready to ramp up your machine stitching, Stitch Journeys with Liz Kettle: Your Guide to Amazing Stitching is coming this May. I really can’t recommend this class enough; and it’s not just that she’s my dear friend. Previous attendees rave about the tips and tricks she passes on as she teaches you all the necessary techniques to successfully machine stitch any weight of cotton, rayon, silk, poly and metallic decorative threads. We’ve already been asked about local hotels and restaurants — this is a learning opportunity well worth traveling for!

I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks — please leave me a comment!


P.S. More of my Fish Mola panels can be seen in the Artistic Artifacts website’s photo gallery.

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