The art and meditative nature can be addicting. Having all of the control right at the tips of your fingers, guiding the fabric, watching the repetition of the needle up and down. Beautiful, however it does require a little set up, I’m here to help.
Setting Up Your Machine
First, we will need to remove both the needle and the foot from our electric domestic sewing machine. The foot holds down your materials as you sew, keeping constant pressure, which means our stitch length and tension will be even. For free motion quilting, we will need to replace our regular sewing foot with one meant for FMQ. These feet can usually be found with your sewing machine, standard pieces and parts, or purchased separately through a third party like amazon.
This foot, also known as a darning/mending foot, will, once installed onto your machine, hover above the material and bed of the sewing machine even when the presser foot is lowered completely. Now that the foot is installed securely replace your old sewing needle with a brand new one, yes a new one, sharp matters!
Almost there, just one last thing, our feed dogs, those little almost sharp teeth. These guys live under where our foot normally sits, we need those guys to not do there job here. We need to disengage them. All domestic machines, whether they come with a button, a switch, a lever, or a plate to cover them up, there is a way to have your feed dogs be unused, check the manual for your machine, if you are unsure how to disengage your feed dogs.
I hear you, you threw out your manual or your machine, never came with one, simply look up the model number and maker on a search engine of your choice (Google) and you should be able to get a step or 7 in the right direction on where to purchase or view your manual.
Alright new needle, correct foot, no feed dog interruption ( do not let the dogs out…ha-ha, …)perfect, now on to the quilt sandwich.
This is not lunch after all of that, this term quilt sandwich, means for me the pieced top, middle batting and bottom backing of our quilt all nicely together, pinned and ready to be stitched upon. This term and building applies to both my practice sandwiches, as well as my finished works. To begin my free motion quilting session, I like to start with a 24×24 inch practice piece. Build your practice piece and trim to 24x 24.[INSERT HOW TO BUILD AND WHAT IS A QUILT SANDWICH PRACTICE PIECE]A Quilt sandwich, for our purposes, is made of three pieces.
3 Pieces of the Quilt Sandwich
The top fabric, usually the pieced together cotton quilt top, then the second layer is our batting. There are many types of batting out there that apply to many scenarios [Batting types and uses] but my all time favorite and go to is cotton natural batting. The last layer is our backing fabric, this is most commonly also cotton, one piece to two pieces and typically coordinates with the top of the quilt in some fashion.
To build our 24x 24 practice sandwich we begin with fabrics either 24×24 or slightly larger, both our top and bottom cottons should be washed and pressed in order to remove any sizing or dirt in the fabric from storage.
Lets start with our backing or bottom material, correct side down, facing away from you, on a clean and smooth working surface. We then take our middle batting layer of our choice, laying the piece on top on the backing smoothly. We then have our final top layer which we will lay with the correct side of the material face up, backside of material touching batting.
Again always being mindful to keep each layer free of wrinkles or folds. Pin from the center out toward edges. I use a weight in the center of my 24×24 and pin around it, this removes the taking the pins out of the center area where we want to begin quilting, just to make sure our sandwich is nice and neat and flat.
I hear some of your saying, “Really, all of this and it’s the practice square lady” but believe you me, I assure you that all of this will be essential to success in your quilting endeavors. I mean, who ever said quilting was a quick and speedy pastime, no one in the history of ever. That being said now that our quilt block 24×24, or close, as close as possible close, we can start to stitch. ] BAM
Now that our machine is setup and our quilt sandwich is prepped and ready lets get stitching. I start, normally where my pattern suggests I begin, but for practice, or my own sanity, whichever, I like to start In the middle and work my way out to the edges. With my sandwich positioned under my needle at the starting point of my design, and with the needle at it’s highest position, I turn my hand wheel toward myself, so that the needle goes into and out of the fabric, back to it’s highest position.
This will reveal your bobbin thread and bring it to the top of your quilting sandwich, allowing you to physically secure the thread tails ensuring that they will not tangle up underneath of your piece of art, where you can not see them until it is too late.
Holding your top and bottom thread ends securely, always being sure to stay clear of the needle, we can begin stitching, and manually moving the fabric around and around, top to bottom, side to side. Write words, or draw a picture, swirl, it doesn’t matter, make tiny grapes that sit on top of one another, it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing something fun. The more you begin to fill in with different colors, now you are into embroidery. Check out different quilting patterns, all different motifs are offered online, many of which are free. Look at what is out there and then try and copy, that will make it effortless. The possibilities are endless, stitch on my friends.