It helps to take some time to learn about your sewing machine. In the five years I've had my machine I've learned a lot through trial and error. For instance: most of the free-motion quilting references say to lower your feed dogs. I never could get the tension to come out right on my machine when I did this. While researching tension problems I came across this post about feed dogs by Leah Day of the Free Motion Quilting Project, and it completely changed my experience with tension. On my Janome it is essential to leave the feed dogs up. If I put them down the tension is just a mess. I just have to set the stitch length to zero and all is well. I've also learned to get comfortable with the small harp space (it's about 6" wide and 5" tall) on my sewing machine, a Janome DC3018. This picture illustrates it pretty well, I think :o) Yes that is a grapefruit!
|Free-motion quilting supplies|
In addition, I used a few 40% off coupons at Joann Fabric to purchase several free-motion quilting books.
|Free-motion quilting books|
If you are like me, and are truly starting from square zero I found it helpful to read through more than one book. Each author is so encouraging and shares many helpful suggestions. Each of these books divide quilting designs into categories and show how to build on previously taught skills. I also took their suggestion to use paper and pencil and draw out the design I wanted to use so my muscles would get used to the flow of creating it.
In the past I always thought that doing a stipple/meander design was where one should start when learning to free-motion quilt. I tried this on a few quilts with okay results, but just was not comfortable. Many times I would find myself backed into a corner - surrounded on all sides where I had already quilted and no way to get out. In Natalia Bonner's book, Beginner's Guide to Free-Motion Quilting, I selected a design called Loops and Poppies. It is similar to the stipple design, but just as the name implies it includes loops and flowers.
|Loops and Poppies design by Natalia Bonner|
I'm stitching this on a pretty large scale and I find I'm not so good at using my hands to frame the area I'm stitching...as a matter of fact, my "technique" definitely needs some work. I'd like to practice on some smaller items like pillows or wall hangings where the scale of the quilting can be a lot tighter. I think doing this will allow me to improve my hand/arm position while quilting. I'm actually looking forward to it!
I hope this has encouraged you if, like me, you have felt overwhelmed by learning to free-motion quilt. Sequential building of skills (and a few of the right tools) make a big difference! I'd love to hear any tips you have to share with me...we can continue to learn this together! Happy quilting :o)