Level One: Select Proper Machine
Free motion quilting, also known as thread sketching, is an artistic technique done on a sewing machine. It involves moving fabric over a metal free arm of a sewing machine while looping, straight or curved stitching is done. Like all types of quilting, it requires skill and practice. To get started, it is beneficial to understand the mechanics of a good machine and how to properly manipulate it. Fortunately, free-motion quilting can be achieved by most basic sewing machines.
Depending on the type of free-motion quilting project being created, a home sewer will have to consider the type of machine to use. Although most regular sewing machines offer the capability to stitch by hand, some machines are not suited for intricate quilting patterns. According to experts, however, most electric sewing machines with needle up/down control and a quality feed-dog system are suitable for free motion quilting. When choosing a machine, be sure it has quality tension, speed control, smooth top surface, and a well-constructed feed-dog system.
Level Two: Getting Started
Once the proper machine is found and set up, the free-motion quilting is ready to begin. Most machines come with either a dust cover or an expandable quilting arm which prevents fabric from falling away. Depending on the design of the quilt, either absorbent or batting will be necessary for the quilting process.
Moreover, a variety of threads and embroidery needles should be chosen for the project. It is beneficial to work with matching thread and needles, to ensure a uniform quilting style and design. For a decorative look, one can combine cotton or silk threads together or select one type of thread and shade to match the material. In order to get started on a quilting project, fabric and thread must be tensioned properly. Begin by securing the thread and knotting the end. Next, create a tight stitch to secure the material by sewing in a straight line, this will keep the material in place.
Level Three: Different Quilting Techniques
Now that the basics are covered, free-motion quilting can begin. There are three main quilting techniques: hooping, ditching and pivot quilting. Hooping is a basic method, usually done along the edges of the material, to ensure a secure shape and stitches. Ditching is when the needle is moved down and back up, thus creating a ditch effect with the thread. Lastly, pivot quilting is when fabric is moved in different directions and the machine is set to stop on its own. Each of these techniques should be practiced regularly to master quilting.
The key to success when it comes to quilting, is practice and repetitive motion. To properly execute a quilting design, experts suggest stretching out the fabric, pushing it away and pushing it back in, to give the fabric a uniform pattern. The advantage of free-motion quilting is that the shapes are free-form and not limited to mechanical styles.
Level Four: Tools and Tips
To further enhance free-motion quilting, many tools can be used. To help create different designs, tools such as walking foot and open toes help with pattern accuracy and uniformity of stiches. Moreover, it is important to consider the right needle for the project. Sharp needles are a must for detailed and embroidery quilting since ball points can snag and tug the material. Other tips and techniques wise sewers used to improve their quilting results include constant practice, using rollers and wax paper to help feed fabric, improving tension, and even using spray starch to help fabric hold its shape.
Level Five: Finishing Touches
Once the quilting project is finished, the last step is to secure the material. If a bind-off set is available on the machine, use it to secure and neaten the edge of the fabric. This will create a clean and polished look. To finish the quilting project, trim any excess threads, press or steam the material. For the ultimate quilting design, add fading protrusions, bells and whistles, or intricate patterns.
Level Six: Troubleshooting
The most essential advice wise sewers offer with free-motion quilting is to be patient and practice. Quilting is a process that requires trial and error to perfect. If a mistake is made or a thread breaks, do not panic! Sensitive materials such as silks and fibers require a stronger and precise hand, to avoid any pulling of the material. To minimize dragging and skips, sewers can use a gathering foot and reduce the speed of the needle.
In some cases, the fabric might cling to the needle plate or even wrinkle. To prevent this from occurring, use a water-soluble thread. If a bobbin thread is not matching up with the top thread, use a bobbin thread with a different weight. In addition, use thread conditioner, since this helps reduce skipping, jumping, and breakage.
Level Seven: Maintenance
Finally, to keep the sewing machine in tip-top shape, do not forget to regularly maintain it. This includes cleaning it, oiling it, and properly storing the machine before and after use. To avoid any risk of breakage or wear and tear, unplug the machine whenever not in use and replace any worn out parts as soon as they are identified. A well-maintained machine will help keep quilting smooth and professional.