Slip Sliding Away...or Not: Free Motion Quilting Tips

It's a beautiful, not too hot, fairly humid day in Virginia (US). I've got a few extra kids over and one of my kids is at my mother's. Everybody is playing outside and I thought I'd knock out a quick design for a class I'm developing. Since I've been piecing on my machine, I dropped the feed dogs and switched out the foot for my free motion quilting foot set (with the ruler foot on it).

free motion quilting tips

I started quilting and right away I noticed that the motion of my quilting was difficult; jerky and not smooth. I felt tense too. What in the world was the problem?

combining ruler work and free motion designs

I neglected to use my Supreme Slider ! It was just a small sample and I figured there wouldn't be much drag, but I was wrong. The slider smooths out the bed of machine, especially where the machine joins the insert for my table. This would be similar to where a machine meets the edge of an extension table too.

And that humidity I mentioned earlier? It made everything a smidge tacky. So I had to use more pressure to move the quilt, which emphasized the bumps of the cracks between machine and table. I toughed it out since it was just a sample, but it was a reminder of how much that smooth slick surface aids my free motion quilting. I had my Machingers on as I always do, but the "grip and slip" work together and the slick was lacking.

If you find that free motion quilting makes your shoulders hurt, your hands cramp, or your quilting is herky-jerky, take another look at your surface. Is it smooth, flat, big enough to keep the quilt from hanging off the edges? If you don't have a table that your machine can sit flush into, you might want to consider these two options: SewEzi Portable Table and my DIY Sewing Table.

Also look to see if a Supreme Slider, Sew Slip mat, a teflon baking sheet, or even a polish or silicone spray might help. If you use the puddle method of stuffing your quilt under the machine like I do, your don't need to have a gigantic area covered my such slick covers or coatings, just the area under your hands and immediately around the machine bed. Some machine beds are smoother and flatter than others. That's something I miss about my Janome 6600. I love my 8200, but the bed has some ridges that really need that Supreme Slider.


  1. Good tips! Look at that beautiful quilting!

  2. Lovely quilting ideas and also good to hear what you thihk about the supreme slide - I've obly ever used my applique mat as a substitute but really noticed it when I thought the job was too quick and small to be bothered pulling it out!

  3. Great post. I had noticed that humidity affects the feel and movement of a quilt.

  4. That's good to know about the Supreme Slider. Ugh! I got mine all chewed up in the stitching, and was wondering if I should replace it or just try FMQ with out it. A teflon sheet would be less expensive, would it work as well? ... Must remember to tape down which ever I decide to try!

  5. I haven't had that problem yet, but will keep it in mind. My Ms Juki is sitting in a Sew-Ez table and so far it's been smooth going. You FMQ is lovely despite the drag.

  6. I have literally just started free motion and have only been quilting for about 9 months. I pray that someday mine will be as beautiful as yours.