Adventures in Free-motion Quilting

Free-motion quilting is one of the things I love to do. I’ve been working at it for years now and it’s just plain fun to me. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, free-motion quilting is quilting where the feed dogs are disengaged and you (the quilter) move the quilt to determine where the stitches are made and how long or short the stitches are.

Here is a great blog by Vivika DeNegre with tips for free-motion quilting.

Let me show you some of the projects I’ve quilted with free-motion quilting. And, as always, there are stories to go with the quilts.

Garden Critters
Garden Critters

First, this is Garden Critters . I love this quilt. It is the first quilt that I designed myself. I found the embroidery in a book and I’ve long since forgotten the title of the book. I did not hand embroider the designs but rather stitched them by machine using a triple stitch. I was really new at machine quilting when I quilted it but nevertheless I’m pleased with the free-motion stipple quilting.

Sunbonnet Sue
Sunbonnet Sue
Sunbonnet Sue detail
Sunbonnet Sue detail

This is my Sunbonnet Sue quilt. Often when I work on a quilt, by the time I get to the quilting, I’m just plain tired of the project. I want to be done so I can move on to the next project. So when I was quilting this quilt, I was working way too late at night because I wanted to be done, and the later it got, the smaller my stippling became. I finished it but because of the dense, dense quilting – the quilt was very stiff. My son, Gabe, calls it The Cracker Quilt ; he says it’s like sleeping under a soda cracker. I’m not sure how he knows what it feels like to sleep under a soda cracker – but that’s what he said. Thankfully, after several washings, the quilt has softened up.

Toilet Paper
Toilet Paper

And here is the final quilt for today. For years, my family teased me that I had quilts everywhere in my home except the bathrooms so when I saw the pattern We’re on a Roll by Java House Quilts  I just had to make it. I free-motion quilted the top three blocks. The top block is stippled, the second block has swirls, and for the third block, I followed the circles printed on the fabric.  (For the fourth block, I quilted with a feed-dog driven decorative stitch.)

Free-motion quilting of bed-size quilts can be problematic with domestic machines because of the weight of the quilt and the amount of throat space available. Tracy and I recently had the chance to experiment with the Handi Quilter Capri, a sit-down longarm with 18” of throat space. Check out our review of the Capri and of a trio of great books from C&T Publishing.

If you are new to free-motion quilting or want to improve your technique, we have a video by Judy Hansen on our website, Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners. Or get Fearless with Fearless Free-Motion I & II | A Sulky Online Workshop Series with Eric Drexler. This workshop bundle offers six 15 to 45 minute segments that cover the basics and beyond from the Master of Free-Motion, Eric Drexler.

And if you’d like to hear about how to free-motion quilt feathers, we have a video by my friend, Angela Huffman, Free-Motion Feathers, that will give you great information.

Free-motion quilting is totally doable with a little practice and the right equipment. Try it!

Happy quilting,

Lori

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