4 Quick Tips for Easier Free-Motion Quilting

Free-motion quilting literally frees you to stitch patterns in all directions without any restriction from feed dogs. However, this very same freedom presents challenges when you’re just starting out. Here’s what you can do to make your first few projects easier.

1. Clear a Space

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Starting a free-motion quilting project is the perfect excuse to clean up your sewing area. The more space you have for the fabric to rest, the less drag you’ll have to deal with. Make as much room on your sewing table as possible to prevent your project from dropping off the edge as you quilt. This gives you more control over the movement of your projects and minimizes the risk of mistakes from accidental slipping.

2. Learn Your Comfortable Speed

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Quilting without a physical guide for the fabric takes a bit of coordination between your hands and your foot. There’s no magic speed for easy free-motion quilting; you just have to practice until you hit your stride. You’ll know when you’ve found your perfect combination when it feels natural and comfortable to control the speed of the machine while maneuvering the fabric. If you’re tense or nervous, keep practicing until you relax!

3. Start with Smaller Projects

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Switching from controlled quilting to free movement is a big change and will feel strange at first, so avoid any huge projects right out of the gate. Instead, pick something small and easy to handle, like a placemat, potholder or set of decorative coasters. Working with less fabric minimizes bulk and reduces the total surface area you have to concentrate on as you work. Use simple stitch designs to avoid frustration until you get the hang of the movements involved.

4. Let Go of Perfectionism

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Creatives tend to be hopeless perfectionists, but trying to maintain your own impossible standards will drive you crazy when you’re free-motion quilting. Take the opportunity to ease up on yourself. Set aside your free-motion project time as a no-judgment zone, and focus on your love of quilting instead of creating a flawless finished product. With less mental pressure, you can loosen up and get used to the rhythm of quilting without restrictions.

Keep practicing and having fun with your free-motion quilting projects, and use the freedom of movement to experiment with new patterns. Once you feel more confident, try branching out to more complex projects for stunning results.

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