I hope all of my US friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My husband and son couldn’t get away, but my daughter Connor and I had a fabulous road trip together to visit my family in Pennsylvania and New York. We had a wonderful time staying with my parents and then with my sister – including cherished opportunities to connect with many of my cousins and other extended family members. What a treat that was!
But now I’m home and back in finishing mode.
I’ve switched gears from machine-guided quilting with my walking foot to free-motion quilting with my darning or free-motion foot. This allows me to stitch in any direction I please – but also means that I am solely responsible for moving the quilt. The feed dogs of the sewing machine are disengaged so that the needle goes up and down, but doesn’t move the fabric. This means I need to have a careful balance between the speed at which I am running my sewing machine and the speed at which I am moving the fabric – run the machine too fast, and the stitches are too small; move the quilt too quickly, and the stitches are too long. The goal is to create beautiful patterning (“drawing” with the sewing machine) while still keeping the stitches all approximately the same length.
Batting choice, needle choice, thread choice and tension settings can each make a significant difference in the appearance and quality of the stitching.
But one of the main challenges of free-motion quilting is the physicality of moving the quilt. Fabric can get very heavy, and it’s all too easy for one’s hands to slip and lose control. Having a large stable, flat surface to work on really helps; this could be an extension table, a Sew Steady Table, or a cabinet with a surface flush with the surface of your machine. A Supreme Slider can also be a big plus – but you must first make sure it is anchored securely so that it doesn’t slide right into your stitches. Ask me how I know that…
In the past, I have steered away from the various hoops designed to assist with free-motion quilting, feeling that the downsides outweighed the potential pay-off. But I’ve been rethinking that.
I’m currently working on my Snowflake quilt from the sew-along with Nicole from Modern Handcraft.
As I quilt this, I’m considering what I learned from the previous two quilts in my Finishing Spree – my Church Window quilt (pattern by Brittany of Lo & Behold Stitchery) and the Enchanted Carpet bargello quilt made by my friend Ruth DeJager (original design from my book Colorwash Bargello Quilts). Continue Reading…