Free-motion is jerky

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Lisaloo2 wrote
on 5 Oct 2009 9:52 AM

Hi All - I am new here and have been helped with many of my issues just by reading all of the helpful ideas and suggestions.  But I have so many issues!!  The one that is foremost in my mind right now is how jerky and awkward my free-motion quilting is - just not that smooth, effortless meandering I am yearning for...  I have a table attached to my machine so I have a bigger surface, I pulled my desk away from the wall for more space, I have rolled the edges up so I have a roughly 8" square surface I am concentrating on, I am breathing, trying to relax my hunched shoulders, going at a fair clip, but still - jerk, jerk, jerk (that's the motion, not what I am calling myself, usually).

Any suggestions or tips?  Thanks....

I am a SAHM who loves all kinds of quilting, dogs, reading and cooking. 

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Jamie Fingal wrote
on 5 Oct 2009 1:51 PM

Think about your needle as a pencil - and draw circles - round and round and making loops.  This will help make you move more smoothly.  Take breaks to loosen up your shoulders.  Go back and do some squares, rectangles, and more loops.  Free motion quilting likened to drawing, moving around the quilt, and becoming one with your machine.  You can do it.  It just takes alot of practice.  So go for it!

Jamie Fingal

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sha1non wrote
on 5 Oct 2009 3:19 PM

I find that if before I work on the actual quilt I do a little sample piece that helps ease me into what my plan is for the quilt.  I think also starting on a smaller piece helps because you are not man-handling so much extra material.    As well I remind myself  "yes machine fast but my hands and the work move at a steady medium."  And it really is practice, practice, practice. 


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on 5 Oct 2009 11:59 PM

Hi, this blog site is fantastic.      You need to make yourself a cuppa and get ready for a session of learning and inspiration.. This young lady is creating a new free motion quilting filler pattern for each day of the year!  There is a little video of each one and lots of info. tips and techniques. So helpful to everyone.  enjoy! Barb.

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Lisaloo2 wrote
on 6 Oct 2009 5:53 AM

Thanks for your helpful ideas - and Barb, I followed your link and WOW!  She is fantastic with lots of ideas (love the tutorials) - especially liked the cat hairball design...  I think I am going to do what everyone suggests and practice - I am going to try some of the bloggers patterns on small squares until I get my yearned for technique down pat.  Thanks, again for your help!

I am a SAHM who loves all kinds of quilting, dogs, reading and cooking. 

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on 6 Oct 2009 6:39 AM

One thing that I found VERY helpful, after the practice practice practice, was quilter's glovew - cotton glovew with little rubber dots on the palm side.  They hold the fabric and really make it easier to move.




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jo goranson wrote
on 19 Oct 2009 1:29 PM

See my post to "Free Motion Frustration". I think it will answer all your questions. If not, let me know and I will try to help you.

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robbieklow wrote
on 22 Oct 2009 8:37 AM

Hi Lisaloo!

I'll second what the others said and add a few things:

Often the jerky line comes from moving the fabric too quickly in relation to how fast the needle is moving up and down. Get some felt scraps or make small sample sandwiches and see if running the machine faster helps. You don't have to go full speed, just a little faster and maybe slow down how quickly you are moving the quilt. As you get more practice, you should feel more comfortable running the machine closer to full speed.

Also, look at the type of thread you are using. A 40 or 50 weight machine embroidery thread will give you a smoother line than a thicker thread and it will look better.


Good luck and have fun.


Robbi Eklow

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auraquilts wrote
on 22 Oct 2009 11:40 AM       Leah is terrific!  Take a look at her site every day for a new inspiration!!

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Quilnan wrote
on 23 Oct 2009 8:01 AM

Like you, my early free-motion results were jerky. And like others have suggested, beginning with smaller projects along with practice on fabric/batting sandwiches was my solution. I had to baby-step it. Instead of starting with a full-size quilt, I broke it down into smaller more manageable steps. I got so I didn't hate my machine quilting efforts... in fact I rather liked them. Also found the gloves with gripper dots are helpful. Closing my eyes and visualizing the design, or even using a pencil on paper to draw out the design I would stitch, is very helpful to just get the sense of the motion. Then it's patterned in my mind and my action can follow more successfully. Good luck. Let us know how you are doing. Nancy

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Lisaloo2 wrote
on 23 Oct 2009 10:09 AM

thanks to you all for the great tips - especially the blog!  I have the gloves and they do help but I think my big issues are my speed (fast foot, slower hands), thread size and the need to practice, practice, practice....  I have 2 little boys at home so time to do this is an issue, but I will keep trying.  I've made some small fabric sandwiches and am going to look at my thread and try, try, try again.  Thank you all - I will keep you posted.

I am a SAHM who loves all kinds of quilting, dogs, reading and cooking. 

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arlijohn wrote
on 27 Oct 2009 10:33 AM

One of the things I find helpful is to make sure your chair is the right height and to be able to rest your forearms on the table. It helps you relax instead of tightening up.

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drywatergal wrote
on 20 Dec 2009 11:17 AM

Before we got our LA, I did free motion on my regular sewing machine.  What I had to do was put my iPod on and play II Divo music.  Wow, did I ever relax!   

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Lorraine62 wrote
on 16 Jan 2010 5:40 PM

whatever you do dont look away or you will sew through your fingertip like I did..dont worry I didnt bleed on my rhapsody quilt!!

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on 27 Jan 2010 6:47 PM

If you do bleed on your quilt (I have on most of mine), spit on it! You have the same enzymes in your salava as you do in your blood.  It works like magic.

Barb V

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