Free motion quilting + wine?

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on 22 Nov 2009 3:41 PM

OK, so I've heard it said many times that a glass of wine (or two) can help with free motion machine quilting. I have to admit that this just didn't seem likely to me... at first. I've been practicing free motion quilting and I'm still relative a newbie at this, and I don't know how other people feel, but it's certainly not easy! Anyway, while waiting for my dinner-mates to show up last night, I had about an hour of free time and decided to give it a shot--and I swear it went a little more smoothly! It's just a little easier to find your rhythm. Has anyone else ever tried this, or does anyone else have tips for easier free motion quilting (perhaps some that can be implemented mid-day)?

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Dale Kathryn wrote
on 22 Nov 2009 11:23 PM

A glass (or two) of wine worked for me. I am thinking you are not looking for a "red or white" discussion here!  Another aid is music - whatever kind you like. I prefer classical music when I am doing free-motion sewing.


"To create one's own world in any of the arts takes courage." - Georgia O'Keeffe

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arlijohn wrote
on 23 Nov 2009 1:05 PM

Hmm, wine sounds good to me. I've found just making sure I am untensing my body helps. I mentally tell my arms and shoulders, hands and fingers to relax. A good audio book is something I enjoy when quilting. Also frequent stops to get up and stretch. Hope this helps.

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BryndisB wrote
on 24 Nov 2009 11:44 AM

Friend of mine calls free motions machine quilting,  " beer stitch "    :)

Having one or two gives the best result !

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drywatergal wrote
on 20 Dec 2009 5:43 PM

Bwaaahaha, "beer stitch".  That's a good one! 

Until hubs got a LA quilter, I did mine on my Janome.  iPod - II Divo, with a small glass of Crown.

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ckquilter wrote
on 23 Dec 2009 12:24 AM

hi pippa

being as i am not allowed to drink alcohol- i don't know if that helps or not.

but there are some things to think about to make the quilting easier.

obviously, working on a smaller piece is easier - to support and move underte machine.

make sure the piece is supported - it should not be hanging over the edge of the table - or it will pull on the needle and distort stitches.

you chair should be at a good height in relation to the height of the table. when your hands are on the quilt in position to sew, your elbows should be at about a 90 degree angle - meaning your hands are not to high and putting pressure on your shoulders and neck.

i always clean my machine before starting to quilt - including the bed of the machine. this makes it smooth and allows the quilt to move freely.

remember to breathe. i find beginners often hold their breath until reaching the end of a line of quilting - and if you can learn to continue breathing at a normal rate while sewing, your stitches will look better (and you won't be as blue)

you are tryingto achieve a regular stitch - of good length and consistent length.

i have people start by just stitching some straight lines - stitch 5 or 6 inches, stop, and analyze your stitch - is the length good?

if too short, you need to move your hands faster -

if too long, you need to move your hands slower or sew faster.

stitch another 5 or 6 inches - and analyze again.        do this until your stitch length on the straight line gets be of good length.

you are trying to work with the machine as a partner - so that the speed of the needle going up and down and the speed you move the quilt, works together to make a good quality stitch.

after you are getting happier with the stitches on a straight line, you will want to start trying curves. an easy way to start with something that is familiar to you, is to write your name. you don't have to dot i's, or cross t's yet. just practice your name. don't make the letters too small. make them round. youcan write it on the fabric first, but it is better if you just go for it.

if your stitches are too long, your curves will not be round. try and move your hands smoothly and at as consistent a speed as possible.

as you get more comfortable, you will find your most consistent stiches are made when you run the machine at full speed, consistently. it is very hard to get even length stitches if the machine is constantly changing speed.

some machines will have a speed control - and to start with you can set it for half speed, and then floor the foot pedal - the machine will now sew at a consistent speed - and you have to figure out the speed at which to move your hands to get a good stitch length.

when sewing a curve - try not to stop and adjust your hands while on the curve - it breaks the smoothness of the curved line.

if you want a sharp point - that is when you want to stitch up to the point - hesitate (or stop and reposition your hands), and then resume sewing - this makes a sharp point. if you try andkeep moving around the point, you will blunt it.

remember that you are moving the fabric - do not let go of the fabric until the needle quilts moving. or you will get knots, distorted an/or short stitches.

likewise, to reposition your hands, stop sewing, move your hands, and then resume sewing. if you try and move your hands while the machine is sewing, you are changing your speed and will get inconsistent stitches.

when you start to sew, do not be pulling on the fabric - it pulls the fabric against the needle, and as soon as the needle goes up the fabric will jerk, and you will get a bad stitch.


if you still have problems, remember to try and analyze what is wrong - change something and try again. reanalyze. it will teach you what to watch for.

and you can always find a friend to help - or take a class, or ask for help at the local guild or quilt shop.                       ckquilter

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comocosews wrote
on 7 Jan 2010 4:51 PM

Me, I like a little whiskey with coke. Not too much whiskey. These instructions are great. And my guess is that as with many things, practice, practice, practice is what works best.  My problem will be that I have fibromyalgia. And the pain in my shoulders and neck will mean I can't do a lot at one time. But this is something I really want to learn. comocosews

     COMOCOSEWS--Fibromyalgia is more than just pain.  
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on 8 Jan 2010 11:06 AM

This is all great advice, thanks! I continue to practice, slowly but surely. Maybe what I really need is a snazzy new Bernina :)

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on 9 Jan 2010 4:59 PM

I find that listening to an audio book does the trick for me. I find with music I overthink and tense up. I like books that I already know the story line. That way if I get really involved in the stitching, I can tune back in at any point and not have lost the thread of the book.

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Karoda wrote
on 10 Jan 2010 8:59 AM

but, really? w hat doesn't go better after a glass (or two) of wine???? i'm sure there are a few things...but its a much much shorter list :)

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BryndisB wrote
on 10 Jan 2010 10:06 AM

  Quilting + wine!  is for me a small joke and isn't ment to be taken very seriously  :)  


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Bronwyn9 wrote
on 10 Jan 2010 10:00 PM

You just have to be "more careful" not to sew over your finger and include this feature in your "art quilt". Sometimes it is not a good look to have blood spots as a feature in your work, and it is not nice to 'un-pick' your finger, believe me I've had to do this a couple of times !!!!

But seriously - the key to machine quilting is practice - practice- practice. It just comes to you in the end.

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S. Casler wrote
on 26 Jan 2010 2:03 PM

Red wine and chocolate are the two things that me and my artist friends swear by that help us create.  Just remember to do the stitching etc. not just drink and eat.  Blurry eyes and sticky fingerprints don't go well when using a dangerous machine ---- beware of the sewing machine needle attack.

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on 27 Jan 2010 12:46 PM

Chocolate--I hadn't thought of that one, but I think I'll have to give it a try!

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ernamar wrote
on 4 Feb 2010 2:39 PM

First: Make a "bunch" of quilt sandwiches @ 6" x 8"; consider some really pretty floral and/or border fabrics for the [quilt] sandwich top(s), and keep handy for practicing. 

Before having wine, beer, tequila, or vodka (they all work well in moderation!), use the printed fabrics as a guide to freehand quilt - with good quality quilting or embroidery threads.  Take your time, breathe, and relax.  You can then move onto your favorite doodle WITH the blank fabric, or trace feathers, bubbles, flowers with disolving ink, and have some wine.  When I liked what I saw (stitch, tension, needle, thread, etc.) I wrote the stats on the practice piece to keep for future reference,(great when using different metallic threads . . . .)

This is how I started many years ago when technology wasn't where it is today.  Bernina has the BSR attachment for those who must keep their stitches exactly the same size.  In the big picture, very few people run up to your quilt to determine if your freehand stitches are all the same size.  

I have the BSR, but I prefer freehand without the BSR.


Happy free-hand quilting!


Erna. M


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