It’s time! Your quilt top is basted and sandwiched and you are ready to add the touch that will make your quilt the dreamiest possession you own. It’s time to quilt this lovely! Don’t start your fretting! You can do this! And you can do it on YOUR machine.
The definition of quilting is the act of stitching three layers together: your top, batting and backing. If you didn’t add quilting to your quilt you would end up with a saggy blanket. The top and bottom would separate after washing. Quilting is the “glue” that holds everything together.
Like all things there is more than one way to accomplish this task. Today, I’m going to show you one method called ‘free motion quilting / FMQ’. The pattern I’ll use is the most basic of basics, a simple meander. It doesn’t require too much thought and maybe you’ll even find it relaxing and therapeutic. After all the thinking we have done to get this quilt where it is now, a little less thinking might be just what you need.
The best learning comes from doing. If you prefer to practice first that’s fine too. When I was first learning to FMQ a meander, I made several fabric sandwiches with 10″ squares. I played around with quilting designs and just got a feel for the movement I needed to make to accomplish a decent meander. After I was done, I turned all those 10″ fabric sandwiches into pot holders. It was good practice.
Still, working on a 10″ fabric sandwich is nothing like working with a whole throw size quilt. Give yourself some space to make mistakes. Acknowledge that your quilting will not be perfect (there is no such thing), and just by letting perfection go you’ll feel more comfortable and your expectations will be achievable.
One last thing, I promise you that after you get your quilt washed your ‘mistake’ will be extremely difficult to find. It will not be blaring. Everyone will NOT see it. The crinkly goodness of a quilt will gloss right on over anything.
Free motion quilting does require a sewing machine that can drop it’s feed dog. The feed dog is the “teeth” right below your presser foot. By dropping it, you take the movement of your quilt out of your machine’s hands and put it into your own. It means you move the quilt where you want it to move, instead of the backward and forward movement your machine does for you.
To drop it there will be a button or a lever. On my Bernina, that button is on the side of my machine and I just have to push it in. On my old Janome, it was a switch on the back of my machine that I just moved to the other side. On my Juki, it’s a switch on the front of my machine. It will look a little different on every machine. Read your manual to get a better idea if you need to.
You will also need a darning/quilting foot. It will have a circle or maybe a partial circle. It might not have a cord like the one I show in my video. It will be very similar in looks to other presser feet.
Go ahead and drop your feed dogs and get the correct foot adjusted on your machine.
Let’s get to it
step 1 – In the right hand top corner of your quilt, presser foot down, drop your needle and raise it back up. Pull top thread until bobbin thread makes a little loop. Grab your bobbin thread and pull it though the top of your quilt. You should have both threads (top and bobbin) out. Make several stitches in the same place to secure your stitch. Be sure to hold top and bobbin thread out of the way while you do this. (this is how you will always begin your quilting after a bobbin or thread change as well)
step 2 – Press down on your foot control and begin moving your quilt. Make curvy lines. Work down and towards the middle of your quilt filling in the space. It’s best to keep close to the parts of your other quilting. You don’t want to leave holes or gaps where you forgot to quilt or missed. If you keep close by what you’ve already quilted you will have a better chance of achieving this.
step 3 – You want to always keep the area your are quilting at the moment flat and smooth. No crinkles. As you move to around your quilt, you will have to stop and adjust repeatedly.
step 4 – The bulk of your quilt is always to your left. Once you reach the bottom right hand corner, stop stitching leaving your needle in the down position and adjust your quilt so that it’s to the left and in your lap as well. Repeat this every time you get to another corner.
step 5 – Running out of bobbin can be expected several times while quilting and is no need to fret. Simply change out your bobbin as normal and begin your stitches right back where you left off before your bobbin thread ran out. I like to start just before my quilting ended. Be sure to stitch in place several times to secure.
step 6 – Continue until your whole quilt is finished.
A few thoughts: There’s this whole thing called ‘burying your threads’, and the purpose is to make your quilt look very spot on. It’s a major part of hand quilting. Many quilt makers will do this while machine quilting as well. I do not. It’s too fussy for me and I can’t make sense of a real need for it. I like things easy and do-able. At the end of Step 1 you would have been left with those two threads hanging around. I just take my scissors and snip those off flush with the quilt. I would have done the same in step 5 and every other time I run out of bobbin or have to restart. I don’t bury threads. I stitch in place to secure many times and snip the threads. This does not look bad. You will not notice this later.
I always thought this lack of fussiness on my part would be something to hide from other quilt makers until I watched a few of Angela Walters‘ quilting videos. She does the same thing and she is the quilting queen, and if she can do it we can too. I’ve linked to her site so that you can find AMAZING quilting inspiration from her once you are ready to move on from a basic meander.
You are done! Was that easy or difficult? I promise the more you do it, the easier it gets. It starts to feel natural after awhile. Put your earbuds in and crank up some music or listen to your favorite podcast while you are quilting. Stephanie, over at Modern Sewciety is my favorite sewing podcast! She interviews fabric designers, shop owners, just people of the quilting industry. I love listening to her!
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