Monday, March 03, 2008

free motion quilting

Welcome to the last week of our quilt-a-long!
Today it's all about finishing up your quilt.

OK, so first off, I'd like to state, I am not an expert on free motion quilting, by any means! My husband (he is such a sweet man) helped me put together a video for today's post.

A few things to note....

For free motion quilting you will need to use a darning foot and drop your feed dogs. This will allow you to freely move your quilt with your hands rather than have the machine move it for you.

If you ever have a chance to take a machine quilting class, I would highly recommend it.

A few tips:

use the same color of thread on the front and back, so if the tension is a little off, it won't be very noticeable. I have found it's very hard to quilt something using one color thread for the front and a different colored thread for the back.

use a busy patterned fabric for the back of your quilt to help disguise mistakes.

if your thread keeps breaking, change your needle.

about managing bulk...I don't use any kind of clips or anything. I re-adjust the position of my quilt as needed. (which is a lot.) I let the quilt bunch up wherever it needs to and work on a small portion at a time. only half of the quilt bulk (or less) should be between the needle and the machine at any one time. I do not start in the middle of the quilt as some do. I start at one edge, and start stippling randomly, continually filling in the empty spaces.

A few links:

there is some great discussion on free motion quilting over on flickr

there are binding tutorials here and here. I'd recommend cutting your binding strips 2.5" wide.
Label your quilt and enjoy! Oh, and if you want to instantly age your quilt, wash + dry it and enjoy the puckery goodness.

A few winners:

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all of you who quilted along with me. It's been quite a journey, and I appreciate each and every one of you who have been on this journey along with me. It's been lots of fun and I appreciate you cheering me on and encouraging me along the way. It has FAR exceeded my expectations.

I'd like to send a little something to the following people, picked randomly from the participants: Suze and Mikilana.

Now, dare I say, any questions?


Anina said...

Yes! What if my needle keeps breaking? Is it my stupid sewing machine??? It's like the needle is too close to the hole in the base plate and when it bends just a little as I'm quilting it hits that plate and SNAP! Very scary!
Thanks for the video. Cool!

Clair said...

Well...your tips are helpful. Cathy and I were talking about machine quilting on Saturday.

Jodie said...

Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou so very much for all of your wonderful advice...
WOW!!! You can go so super quick with your free motion quilting... How do you keep your stiches all around the same size??


anne said...

Thanks for the info but I cannot watch the video as it say something about this account has exceeded its data transfer limit....... not sure what this means. Help

Beth said...

How much are you pulling on the quilt? When I have tried free motion quilting I feel like it takes a TON of muscle to push and pull the quilt. That then seems to make my stitches all different sizes. I have to admit I haven't used a darning foot but just a clear regular foot so maybe that is part of the problem. It just looks like you are moving your quilt with a lot more ease than I have been able to do. Maybe I need to go to the gym?

Thanks for sharing this. Your work is amazing.


Lina said...

Thank you so much for sharing all this. The video clip was well worth your effort - much appreciated. You have answered all my questions about free motion quilting (which, incidentally, always sounded like an extreme sport to me)! I've finished my quilt along and posted on flickr, but for my next quilt I'm definitely investing in a darning foot!

Sue said...

AmandaJean, what can I say but thank you for the whole quilt-a-long, it has been so much fun. My quilt top is very close to finished and I will have to put it aside for a bit but I know I will finish it. Then today you read my mind, and post info about free motion quilting, just when I wanted it. I'd love to see a picture of your finished quilt unfolded.

Sarah and Jack said...

Taking a free motion class is next on my list. I cannot seem to get the tension right. Argh. LOL

Kieny The Dutchlady said...

Thanks for all the advice. I am still working on my top (borders) but I'm getting there. I have to buy fabric for the back and binding. And then it's hand quilting for me, my sewing machine can't handle any quilting. So it will take a while before I am finished but I'll put a picture in the Flickr photo group when I'm done with it. The video is indeed not working.

Anonymous said...

Your video is so useful! When I first started free motion quilting, I kept hearing about "rev it!" and "pedal to the metal!" Finally, I realized that people meant to push the pedal down to get a decent speed going but NOT to push the fabric through fast. Your video helps us see a great rhythm.

Quick question about the needle breaking -- I've had a big problem with using monofilament thread lately and a 70/11 needle. The thread breaks a lot. I'm wondering if the hole is so small that it saws the thread in half. Do you use monofilament thread? If so, what kind of needle do you use?

If you use cotton thread, what kind do you use? When I use Coats & Clark cotton machine quilting thread (the kind that is about $5 and comes on huge oversized spools), the thread feels like it is laying on top of the quilt and looks, well, thready ...


Jeanette said...

I haven't started yet, but I am going to, so I will go ahead and ask my questions now...

#1-I too would like to know what type of thread you used.

#2- Have you ever tried the machine quilting gloves? They are really thin gloves with little sticky dots on the palms to help you grip the fabric easier.

#3 you make that look so easy! I have quilted a couple of table runners so far, that is all and I am gritting my teeth and swallowing curse words the enter time, you make it seem so smooth. I had a hard time handling the bulk of a simple table runner, the idea of a whole quilt terrifies me.

Peg - Happy In Quilting said...

Great tips, and as for the video...fantastic....thanks so much for sharing, big thanks also to your DH....

Gretchen said...

Thanks so much!

I am so inspired by your work.

As soon as I clear up some of my wips, I'm going after your quilt-a-long!

Kicsoda said...

I really love your quilts and already learned a lot from you, thanks. But I`ve never seen your label, do you make any? What do you `write` on them?
BTW do you know this site?

jacquie said...

Thanks so much. Great video. I stepped my toe into machine quilting this weekend for the first time...only straight line so far. MAYBE,just maybe I'll give free motion a try. Seems really intimidating even with your video.

Shelli said...

Anina - and others - here's my "doh" moment w/ needle breakage, having gon through about 4 needles in about 1/2 hours' time - JUST this evening.

I switched DOWN to a 12, from a 14, I blew out the dust in the bobbin case, with one of those can thinggies from staples, and here's where I really stopped breaking my needle...

I sped up my foot, and slowed down my hands, if that makes sense. Pushing and pulling the fabric too much bends the needle, and now I have a few "gauges" on my plate, but at least I've stopped breaking needles - check out my flickr pictures for more info.

And it's on my pinwheel quilt, which WOULD NOT be possible w/o the quilt-a-long, because, you know, I was deathly afraid of triangels before. And now? not so much.


Andy said...

I finished - yay! Thanks for such a cute project. Here is a link to pictures.

dutchcomfort said...

Thanks Amandajean for this wonderful tutorial. I have my first machine quilting class this week...

mariarrosa said...

Thank you very much!!!

Three Birds Inspired said...

I have one more border to go around on my quilt and then I will be ready to FM. Mine looks so different from everyone else's but I think that is part of the fun in creating something as a group project...just seeing what everyone comes up with! Thanks for doing this sew along. I am really looking forward to the next one as my sister is a fanatic about stars and it will be a birthday gift to her.

Jules said...

Thank you for all your wonderful effort and talent. I am enjoying this. I have yet to sew on my borders but I have never quilted on the machine before and your video has been ever so helpful. Thank you again.

Jenny said...

That was so, SO COOL! I've actually never seen anyone quilt on a regular machine before and am so excited to try this! Since this first quilt will be for me, I won't be as worried about mistakes.

Thanks so much for all of your instruction and tips - you didn't have to do it, but it has helped so many people; including me.

Thanks Amanda!

kat | Taylor Made designs said...

Thanks for the video - I am even more impressed with your skills!
You are such a great resource Amandajean!

Jen said...

Fabulous video!!

I didn't get to listen because I'm at work, but I watched your video and WOW, we could be stippling twins, I think I go in the same "pattern" as you!

Have you ever tried a basting gun instead of saftey pins? You don't have to start and stop so much!

Marcia said...

Thanks for the great video. I'm still trying to learn to do this well. One of the best tips I got was to set my machine speed to low, that way, there isn't any reving and speed changes/stitch changes. I do want to quilt this quilt myself. I am going to take a class before I attempt it though. Thank you so VERY MUCH!!!!
You're the best!

sulu-design said...

I'm sending out good luck thoughts to everyone working on their final quilt stages. I'm super impressed, Amandajean. Video and all. This has been one amazing project.

Liana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chara Michele said...

Thanks for the tips & the video Amandajean!

Philigry said...

your husband is sweet. I can't wait to see all the finished quilts!

Liana said...

While I'm excited about winning something, I'm a bit disappointed I'm having trouble viewing the actual video :( I'll try again later when I get home. (maybe this is a good clue to get back to

still loving that green quilt. I'm definitely planning on taking a few classes as soon as I find someplace local. thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the video and tips. I want to try this now with my new machine. You have given me the nudge to try it. Thanks again
Fiona (Dragonfly-Crafts)

Amanda Jean said...


other things to check (besides what shelli suggested) is the needle position. sometimes there is a side to side adjustment-not sure about your specific machine. I do know how frustrating needle breaking is!

jelly wares-

to keep your stitches even, try to move your quilt at a consistent speed and keep your foot on the pedal at a consistent speed. this is what takes practice. going fairly fast on the foot pedal and a medium speed moving your quilt should be a good place to start.


I am pulling on the quilt some, but not a lot. I think what helps with this is that I have a few feet of desk to the left of my sewing machine where the bulk of the quilt rests. this helps a ton. in some places, you still do need to pull the quilt. I try to grip only parts of the quilt that have already been quilted so that it doesn't shift the layers. I doubt that you need to go to the gym. ;)

kristin f.,

I have used monofilament thread on one quilt. I know that when using monofilament thread, it is better to only use it on the top and use a regular thread for the bobbin. (this is the one time I would suggest using 2 different kinds of thread for quilting.) not sure what size of needle to use if you are using the monofilament thread. I would think the smaller the better.

about the thread that I use: I order all my thread from I use their essential thread, which is 100% Egyptian Cotton. It is very similar to the Coats & Clark machine quilting thread. I do use Coats & Clark thread when I run out and need some in a pinch.


see above about the thread.

I have not used quilting gloves. I do like to grip with my left and guide with my right works sufficently for me without using gloves.

it is not easy to manage the bulk, but it does get easier with practice.


about labels...either I add them in the corner, so I only need to whip stitch one side by hand...there is an example here:

or else I just add a little square in the corner about 2" from each side of the binding. I write
title of the quilt, (if there is one)
with much love: amandajean

I try to keep it simple and sweet.


I have not tried a basting gun. do you like yours?

anne and kieny,

I have no idea why the video isn't working on your computers. sorry! I would suggest trying another computer if possible.

Roxanne said...

WOW!! Getting so high tech over here! ;) It was really fun to watch!

Kieny The Dutchlady said...

Amanda about the video I tried to watch it on my notebook but it still doesn't work. The video screen on your blog says:"Sorry, this account has exceeded its data transfer limit". I will try again on my husbands computer.

Sherry said...

Thanks to you & your DH for the video on the free motion quilting. Very helpful. I always love to see how other quilters do "their thing"! I'm so glad I found your blog awhile back, it has been very helpful & inspiring to me. Keep up the great work!

kawagamanana said...

Well amanda, I have finished my first quilt. I just cut out a million squares it seems, and did do it all in a simple orange and white triangle pattern. I made a lot of mistakes, but went onward and upawards. It looks amazing once finished.
So I did the quilting on the machine. I put the needle through my nail and finger while ajusting the quilt. Yep it was painful, and blood on the quilt, enough for DNA, my granddaughter who is getting this will tell her grandchildren. My corners look kinda round, but next time. I will know.
thanks for having such a great site.

Anonymous said...

The first time I tried to view the video it didn't work. A couple of weeks later, I tried again and voila! It worked.

You made it look so effortless...

Anonymous said...

Boy, wish I had come across this post earlier today before I started free motion quilting my son's quilt for the first time! Thanks for the video and tips, they are really helpful. Your site is very inspiring to me, as I am just getting into quilting and loving it. Thank you for all your great tutorials and posts!

Blogful said...

It looks like you're starting from the edge. I was always taught to start in the middle and work out to avoid puckers. Can you tell me more about where you start and where you end? I've been doing free-motion only a short time and your blog is most helpful!

One Happy Tree said...

Wow what a great video. I am currently creating a quilt for a well deserved mommy of! I really want to free motion quilt. I like the puckering look. I have a question though, where do you start and stop and how? Email me at because I'm stumped about this!
Love your blog!

Leslie said...

when you say wash and dry your quilt, it makes me you prewash your fabric before hand? Might be a silly question, but worth asking for a newbie like me.

Leslie said...

wow, i am just blown away by how easy this looks when you do it. I am having a wicked time trying to learn. How do you make it look so smooth and even? I can not get my stitch lengths to be even near the same.

Anonymous said...


laura said...

I wish I'd found this a year ago when I decided to 'quilt' a dozen place mats! You would have saved me a ton of time. I'm amazed that I actually figured it out on my own and they turned out very nice. One thing I did find. If you want to use a metalic thread you may need to put it in the bobbin only, but then you have to sew your project 'bottoms up'! I found that out when using a flat (like Christmas tinsel) metalic thread. When I switched to a better quality thread I was able to use it in my machine along with a regular thread in the bobbin.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this tutorial. It was mesmerizing watching you stipple. It was really good to see how small your meandering is, mine is usually bigger, and doesn't look as nicely as yours. Also, loved to see the speed at which you stipple. I'm inspired now to give it another go.

Sweet Em said...

Wow! Thank you for the video. I think I might actually be able to do this! I am so excited to try.

linthouse said...

Thank you for this: very helpful information there and you are very generous to share that info. Could I ask you this: when you say you are stippling an area at a time, are you doing the whole quilt without fastening off the thread and re-starting on another area; do you know what I mean? Do you here and there cut the thread, take out the quilt and restart elsewhere? or do you leave it in and threaded and just manage to move around the whole space eventually?

Amy Wing said...

Thanks so much for the video - I might give this a try. I'm not a seamstress by any definition, so sewing tends to be intimidating for me - I just want to experiment a little on paper and some small projects. Your video made it look much less scary! Thanks!!

Bobbi said...

Thanks for the video! I tried stippling with a new quilt this week, but my thread kept getting caught, near where I adjust the tension. I'm not sure if its me or my machine. :( I was able to "quilt" it using random wavy straight lines. Moving around and around and around the quilt.

Anonymous said...

Hi...i am new to quilting. I just bought fabric panels with rabbits. Do I use this same technique to sew around the designs to get them to puff out or do I sew regular around them? As I have tried and the material keeps puckering and bunching up when I sew regular straight stitch around them. Thanks, Sandy

By the way totally love your site!!

Amanda Jean said...


i would try quilting with a walking foot for what you described. it might cause less puckering.


Leslie said...

This may be a silly question but I am a first time quilter. I order my darning foot and put it on my machine as soon as it came. When I went to put it down it doesn't touch the fabric. I know I got the right one because I ordered it off a list of accessories for my machine. Is it supposed to hold down the fabric or no???

Amanda Jean said...


i think the foot should be just above the quilt top. is there a presser foot tension setting on your machine? if there is, you may want to check that.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for all your helpful tips. I am stippling a quilt for the first time and this info is just what I needed. If you don't mind I have posted a link to this tutorial from my blog. I love your work, so inspiring. Hope you're having a great day, love Nova x

Rebekah said...

What machine are you using to quilt? I am trying to figure out what machine to get for quilting. What would you recommend? :)

I tried stippling on my cheaper machine, but it just isn't made for quilting. Your quilts turn out always so wonderful! :) Thanks for sharing the cool video!

Jensmom said...

Hi Amanda Jean,
I am just trying free motion quilting for the first time. Love the video. I know you are busy, but if you get time could you take a peek at a pic. i posted on my blog.

I could use any tips you have.
Thanks Shannon

Quilter_Momma said...

I am a quilter and I use a Brother VX-1120. I watched your video and am interested in quilting like that.

However, I'm finding it REALLY difficult to find a foot like the one on your machine. My sewing maching uses screw-ons.

Please help!

Carolyn MacKay said...

Thanks for the info and video on free motion quilting, I teach a beginner quilt class and will pass your blog on to my students. Have you ever tried using gloves, my favorite are machingers.

Beth Gracie said...

Wow you are moving a lot faster than i thought i should be going. Maybe that is my problem? no matter what i try, the tension is wrong...loops on the back with the bobbin thread not through at all. any ideas? i know i need to practice..but it seems nothing i do makes a difference!

Kay said...

Great tutorial. How long did you practice before you tried a quilt? I would like to try, I have done some practice pieces, still have mistakes do I need to wait until nearly perfect?

SewCalGal said...

Thank you. Fun to see how you FMQ and take stops to take the pins out. Thanks too to your DH. Great job to both of you.


Amalie said...

oh thank you for this post. It is one thing to read instruction about how to do this and a completely different thing to actually see someone doing it. I really really appreciate it.

Thriftyideastoday said...

thanks for sharing here are some more tips for FMQ'ing

Custom Patches said...

Thanks for this post. It looks a lot easier when seeing someone actually do it that just following written step by step instructions.