Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tips for Beginners: 4 Things to Fix for Better Free Motion Quilting

Here are 4 things that keep you from better free motion quilting and some tips for fixing them.

Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures 4 Fixes

Not drawing designs: Seriously, don't say you're not a good drawer or that you just want to get to stitching. Drawing really helps! I hadn't stitched out any free motion quilting designs when I was first learning to machine quilt, despite reading that all the teachers recommended it. Then hubby got cancer and I started doodling the designs in a notebook I carried to all of his appointments and the improvement in my stitching ability was amazing. So doodle, trace, draw, whatever on whatever. Use paper, a dry erase board, even a drawing app, but draw those designs. Not only does it help with the shapes and designs, but how to move around from one place to another.

One of my earliest free motion quilting projects.
Not practicing: They say it takes 10,000 hours for mastery of any skill. Do you have enough quilt tops to provide you with 10,000 hours of quilting? Don't look at your WIP or UFO pile when you answer that question! Do you want to learn on your beautiful tops? Probably not. Make practice pieces! Make place mats, dog beds, pot holders, create a cool sampler collection of your favorite designs, whatever. Or make nothing from them, just change colors often and stitch over and over on a practice piece until you can't stand to quilt on it again. Once you're confident enough to tackle real quilts, check out my post on 8 Free Motion Tips for Confident Beginners.

Look how much my girl has grown in that short time! 
You are too tense: Relax! Are your shoulders trying to whisper in your ears? Head retreating between the shoulders like a turtle? Give your arms a shake, drop those shoulders and loosen up. Take a look at your set-up and see if it's ergonomic enough for you. Is your chair at a good height? If you are using an extension table on top of the table holding your machine, you will probably need a taller chair so your arms aren't sticking out like chicken wings. Eliminate drag where the quilt rests too and make sure you aren't pressing down too hard with your hands or trying to stretch the quilt out too much with your fingers. If you need a little music or an adult beverage to loosen up, go for it. But quilt responsibly.
My quilting skills grew too.

Take a look at your hand position: Are they on either side of the needle, not too far away and not too close? Or do your hands tend to get out in front or behind the needle because you don't like to stop and reposition your hands? Are your fingers spread wide like you're trying to stretch the top? we don't want puckers, so keep the area between your hands flat, but don't stretch it. If you are quilting tiny, dense designs try using dropping your elbows on the table and try using your finger tips only in a bent position to move the quilt. Don't try to move your hands while the machine is running! Stop to reposition your hands and do it frequently.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Sorry I don't have any recent quilting to show you, but I'm working on a secret project and it's kicking my rear. Yes, the blogger's dreaded secret project that usually means fewer blog posts for you, followed by a big announcement and shameless self-promotion. LOL! I promise not to let my sharing here slide. You guys are awesome and encouraging and I hate not having things to show you. (Yes, I'm a tease.)






13 comments:

  1. Great tips! It's really hard to convince people the more drawing/doodling and just doing that you do makes a huge difference. We need to just let go of the fear and "I can'ts."

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    1. You are so right! I should have put mindset as one of the things to be fixed. Gotta kick that "I can't" mindset to the curb.

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  2. Thanks for this post! It's good to be reminded by someone who clearly knows what they are doing!! xo

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  3. I hope your secret project has something to do with a ruler class for Craftsy - I'd sign up for that in a heartbeat!!!

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  4. Thank you - I can always use some ideas and tips for free motion quilting.

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  5. Thank you for the tips and the encouragement. I need a cheerleader, you are priceless.

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  6. Wise words, even for those of us who have 10,000 hours into quilting! I get lazy and move my hands too fast (making long stitches); hold my quilt with one hand while I reposition the other hand; and don't doodle enough. One pass across a page of paper and I think that's enough. Sigh. Still so much to learn, and I sure appreciate these reminders!

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    1. I think we all need them from time to time. My issues are my posture and getting tense. I tend to drop my head down to see better, which rounds my upper back. Not a good thing.

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  7. Your advice is priceless! You are a true inspiration to the quilting community. Your quilting and ruler work are awesome and you make it "doable". Thank you Amy for all you do (and all you will be doing LOL) to help us! Kind Regards, Dianne (Adelaide, South Australia)

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  8. What good tips. I'm one who is not particularly good at drawing so I avoid it. But I could probably doodle better than I think. I'm going play with doodling before I attempt my next free motion adventure. :-)
    Question: When you were quilting on your 6600, did you use the single hole plate? It still has two holes and the actual single hole is in the left needle position. I wonder if I should move the needle over to that or did you find the center position on that plate worked ok? THANKS!

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