Is Free-Motion Quilting Hard? (What To Expect)

Free motion quilting can be challenging for those who have never tried it before.

Free motion quilting is when you sew your quilt pieces together without the use of your feed dogs that help to guide your fabric through in a straight line.

Is free-motion quilting hard?

Free-motion quilting requires that you have plenty of space, a plan before you start, and a lot of practice. While one method is not necessarily more difficult than another, free motion quilting does require you to make several adjustments to your normal style.

Because it is hard to make desired patterns while using your feed dogs, most quilters tend to use the free motion quilting technique to create patterns and designs with their threading and sewing.

In this article, we will explore more about free-motion quilting!

How Hard is it to Get Started with Free-Motion Quilting?

If you are looking to get into free motion quilting, there will be some things that you need to keep in mind to get started.

Some things that you need to know before you get started include:

1. Make Sure you Have Enough Space:

Space is significant when it comes to quilting.

If you have never sewn a quilt or other large blanket before, you might not realize how much more space it takes up when compared to sewing smaller items like clothing or small projects.

If you don’t have enough space to lay your quilt out, you can experience your quilt pulling down and being weighted, which can make stitching difficult.

To prevent this drag, you just need to be able to get your quilt off the ground and onto a table or other surface that supports its weight while you are sewing.

2. Practice First:

Each thread and fabric combination can handle differently, and you will want to practice with a test scrap using the fabric and thread that you intend to use.

Practicing first can help alert you to issues with thread tension, sewing challenges, and other issues that you might run across before you start to sew your actual project.

Not only will practicing first help you to find any potential problems, but it also can help you narrow down what type of design you want and will be a good indication of if you will be able to sew the design you intend to.

3. Make a Plan:

Not only should you practice, but you need to make a plan and layout of your intended project before you start.

The more you plan your project in advance, the less likely you are to make a mistake when you are actually sewing your quilt together.

Some ways that you can plan or sketch out your design include:

  • Arranging your pieces and then taking a picture.
  • Hand drawing a design
  • Using a quilting design software to sketch out your design

4. Start Simple:

If you are new to free motion quilting, then you will not want to start with an overly complicated design and will instead want to start with something more simple.

When you are doing your first free motion quilting project, you will want to set yourself up for success. This will help you start to learn free motion quilting without being discouraged with a complicated pattern or design.

Do you need a Special Quilting Machine?

The best part about free motion quilting is that you do not need to invest in an expensive specialized quilting machine to get yourself started.

If you are not sure what you will like free-motion quilting, but you already have a sewing machine, you can use your regular sewing machine as long as you are able to lower the feed dogs.

Lowering the feed dogs on your machine will prevent your machine from forcing your fabric to move forwards while sewing and will allow you to sew in whatever pattern you desire.

If you are looking for a more professional method of quilting, you can invest in a special quilting machine that will give you more stitch options and will be better if you intend to do a lot of quilting.

What Materials and Equipment do you need for Free-Motion Quilting?

If you want to start free-motion quilting, there will be a few things that you need to have before you start.

One thing that you will need is a free-motion quilting foot. This allows you to have full movement for your free-motion quilting that will not force your machine in one direction.

If you intend to quilt regularly, you might also want to look into getting an extension table that extends the work surface of your sewing machine.

You should also get a few things that help you draw out and transfer your design to your quilt.

These things include:

  • Marking tools that will help you make marks on your quilt that are easy to follow.
  • A quilting ruler that will help you guide your fabric through the machine.
  • A plastic sheet slider that will cover your feed dogs and make a smoother sewing surface.
  • A quilting guide that is a weighted ring that you put on top of your quilt that allows you to quilt within the ring.

You will also need the normal sewing supplies, including thread, a needle, scissors, desired fabric, seam ripper in case of mistakes, and anything else you would use in your average project.

How Do you Make Free Motion Quilting EASIER?

Free-motion quilting can be a daunting task, and you might be looking at how to make free-motion quilting easier.

Rest assured, there are some things that you can do when you are first starting out with free-motion quilting to make it easier.

These things include:

1. Start Small

Don’t go too big the first time.

Start a smaller project when you are just getting started, and then you will be able to get in more practice and work with an easier amount of fabric.

Larger material can be harder to work with because of the weight and bulk of the material as well as planning how to use such a large space.

2. Practice:

When you are doing anything, practice makes perfect, and quilting is no difference.

If you are not looking to spend a lot of money on test fabric, you could always practice with felt fabric. Felt is inexpensive and works similar to fabric.

3. Go Slow:

You can determine your speed with your foot pedal, and its best to go slow when you are first starting out with quilting.

If you attempt to quilt at superior speed, it can be difficult for you to maneuver your fabric at a rate you are not comfortable with.

4. Go Easy on Yourself:

You are likely not going to be an expert when you first start quilting.

One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to take the pressure off.

Expecting to be a pro at quilting right away can become very discouraging when you are first starting out.

If you take the pressure off, you can really begin to enjoy the quilting process and the learning process.

How Do you get Even Stitches When Doing Free-Motion Quilting?

Getting even stitches in your quilt can be very important to the look of your project.

To get even stitches in your quilt is similar to getting even stitches in any of your sewing projects.

If you are not getting even stitches, you could have one of the following problems:

1. Tension Problems:

Uneven stitches can be the cause of a tension problem with your thread.

When you are setting your thread tension, you will want to make sure that the top and bottom thread have similar tensions.

If your tensions are not matched you can get knotting in your thread, your stitches can be uneven, or you can even cause your thread to break.

If this is a problem you are having, you will want to check both your top and bottom thread.

If you are unsure about your thread tension, you could always work on a test strip of fabric to make sure everything is working correctly.

2. Pulling too Hard:

If you pull too hard on your fabric, you could make a longer stitch length than the rest.

Usually, the feed dogs on your machine help to prevent this, but if you are free-motion quilting, the feed dogs are not working to keep your stitches even.

To fix this, you will want to make sure that you are not pulling your fabric through your machine and instead gently guiding your thread through the machine.

3. Machine Error:

If you are having an issue with your stitch length and it is not one due to one of the above reasons, you might have an issue with your machine.

If you cannot diagnose the problem yourself, you should take your machine into a specialist or call the manufacturer of your machine.

They will be able to diagnose and fix the issue of your machine or tell you what type of problem you are having.

How to Prepare a Quilt to get the Best Result?

Preparing your quilt before you start can help make sure that your quilting project goes smoothly.

To prepare your quilt, you will want to do the following:

  • Make sure your quilt top is square.
  • Make sure your batting/backing is larger than your quilt top.
    • Give yourself backing that is at least 8 inches wider or 10 inches long.
  • Make sure you trim all threads on your quilt, either on the top or back of your quilting fabrics.
  • Do not pin your quilt top to the backing.
    • When you are quilting, you want to make sure it is not loose at all so that your quilt turns out tight and even.
  • Iron all fabric that you intend to use, so there is no wrinkling, and the fabric lays flat when sewing.
  • Wash your fabric before you sew it together.
    • This will allow your fabric to shrink in the wash before you sew it together so that your quilt is not ruined the first time you wash it.

Before you start quilting, make sure you properly prepare your quilt, get all the necessary equipment, and practice before you start.

This will help you create the quilt that you want!