Free Motion Quilting aka Free Mo is Preemo!

Free motion quilting is indeed preemo, let’s discover why.

When we last left our too-small T-shirt, it was on its way to a new life as a piece of quilted wall art. Today, let’s make a quilt sandwich of well-pressed foundation fabric, batting and the quilt top.

The foundation fabric can be simple quilter’s muslin or a large piece of lightweight cotton. I like to use cotton quilt batting for art projects because it’s relatively flat and can be quilted quite closely without bunching.

Smooth out any wrinkles in the quilt sandwich and pin with safety pins. You could do this with straight pins, but moving them through the machine is a dangerous and painful plan. You could also spray baste with 505 Temporary Fabric Adhesive to baste the layers together, or use a fabric glue stick.

I tend to pin larger quilts and use temporary adhesives on smaller projects. I like all the methods, but the safety pins might be my favourite because you have to stop to remove them now and then. It makes me a be a bit more careful when I am machine quilting a design.

The wall art can be quilted in any method you choose. If you want to use your machine’s quilting foot, install it according to the directions and quilt in the ditch along the seam bands.

There are several ways to baste the layers of the quilt sandwich together before you begin free motion quilting.

I decided to use free-motion quilting.

Free Mo gets a bad rap. It’s not that difficult, but it does take some practice, and some familiarity with the accessories that came with your machine. Once you get the hang of free mo, you’ll think it’s preemo.

If you can drop the feed dogs on your machine, do that. If not, look for the darning plate that came with the machine and replace the plate according the sewing machine manual.

Now, install the darning foot on your machine, according to the manual. Set your stitch length and width to 0. This is because you are going to control both.

Pin a practice quilt sandwich together with safety pins — or whatever basting method you like. Free Mo requires a good grip on the fabric. Machine quilting gloves look a bit like gardening gloves, and the ‘grippy’ material on the palms maintains good control of the fabric.

Tools used in free motion quilting include quilting gloves to provide a good grip on the fabric.

Do your practice run on remnant fabric. It matters when doing free motion quilting.

Raise the darning foot and place the practice material under it. Lower the foot. This seems weird because there’s so much room under the foot, even when it is lowered. Do it anyway. Thread issues will ensue if you don’t.

In Free Mo, the needle is moving fast, but you are moving the material relatively slowly in a random pattern. This takes some practice. You can do a meandering pattern, swirls, loops — whatever strikes your fancy. You’ll have to stop to remove some safety pins as you journey around your quilt top.

There are those who say you should never cross stitches and loop back over them. I am not one of those people. For me, it’s more about achieving a good stitch length and having fun.

If you’re comfortable with the idea of free motion quilting, go ahead and rock out on that T-shirt quilt top. Pick a matching thread, just in case you make a mistake. If the thread matches, no one will notice.

Come back tomorrow, when we dig up some embellishing ideas, and print them onto fabric.

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