Land of the Free (motion)

Happy Canada Day
(& July 4 to our U.S. of A. friends…)

We were all out of the office for our Canada Day Holiday on July 1 (So a big belated red & white shout out to our Canadian sewists.)
Today, we cruised the colors of red & white (and a little bit o’ blue) and stumbled upon a most lovely blog: Old Red Barn Co.

They have such crisp and colorful photography… a real inspiring treat! Of special note today, is Dana’s Free Motion Tutorial (being a day to celebrate freedom afterall).

Dana posted this a while back. In it, she walks you through the steps for setting up for free-motion quilting and preparing your quilt as part of a fabulous “How to Make a Quilt” series (complete with a large Flickr Following.)

Dana is using her MC6600P for the demo (complete with a brief video view), but most any Janome will do the job for you.

Here are a few tricks for free-motion success:

  1. RELAX! Nothing makes free-motion sewing more difficult than tightly clenched hands or shoulders. Remember to b r e a t h e, and your quilting will look all-the-more free flowing and smooth.
  2. Lower-Lower-Lower- Lower your feed dogs, lower your presser foot, lower your needle (so if you need to stop and pivot, rest or sneeze, your fabric will hold in place). If you don’t have a needle up/down button, try to stop with the needle in the fabric or turn the hand wheel. And, don’t forget to lower your shoulders!

    A button like this will set the needle to stop in a downward position when you pause sewing

  3. Travel the straight and narrow: Set your machine for straight stitching in the centre needle position (generally). Check your manual to be sure, but some darning feet are set for a centre stitch position. Other wider feet will accommodate different positions OR a zigzag stitch. (YES, you can free motion zig zag for fun results.) First, master straight stitching to become accustomed to the body movements involved (building good muscle memory here). Then, try zigzag free motion.
  4. Check your options: Janome offers a variety of feet to Free motion stitch with. The newest accessory foot is our Convertible Free Motion Foot. This single shank has three foot options, open-toe, closed-toe and large acrylic. It moves independent of the needle bar, with an adjustable foot height to suit low to high loft quilts.
    Previous to this, most machines used our traditional styled darning foot for free motion stitching. It moves with the needle bar and comes in open or closed varieties. This foot tends to have longer contact with the fabric surface during each stitch. You may find that you like a different foot, depending on the project, fabric or thread being used.

    Convertible Free Motion Foot set available for high and low shank models

    Available in Open or closed toe variety, this foot moves up and down with the needle bar

  5. Draw your bobbin thread to the top of the quilt before starting to prevent tangles at the back. You can do this by holding the needle thread and dropping the needle down through the quilt and back up in the same starting position. Do this just ONCE. By holding the needle thread, you will pull the bobbin thread up in a ‘lasso.” Next, take a few quick ‘packing stitches’ in place and proceed to stitch. When you can, pause to clip the both thread tails close to the quilt and carry on!

    A popular WWII slogan applies here

  6. Sew like you Drive (we hope…), by looking ahead. Plan where you will dip and turn, and try not to box yourself into a spot with no easy way out.
  7. Glide, yes— Tug, no: Try to keep your movements fluid. It is a bit tricky to get used to controlling your fabric under the needle. Imagine that the needle is a pencil, being held in place and you are moving your sketch paper underneath. Holding the paper (fabric) lightly will give more fluid stitch lines. Tightly tugging the fabric from side to side will not only give jagged lines, but it will also lead to increased fatigue and possibly even shoulder or jaw pain.
  8. The short and the long of stitches: Try to use a steady speed while sewing. Use your speed control slide bar if you have it. Maintaining an ‘average’ speed and ‘average’ fabric movement should yield ‘average’ length stitches. (Average is a variable determined by your sewing style.) At the same machine speed, overly slow fabric movement will yield small stitches (the needle is moving up and down at the same pace, but covering less fabric distance). Conversely, overly fast fabric movement will yield long, choppy stitches (same number of stitches over a longer fabric length).
  9. Rules? Declare your independence... The only rule for free motion is that you enjoy you sewing! You may have heard that you should not cross a stitch line. What would happen if you did? Practice on scrap fabric and batting bits and see what stitch patterns that you enjoy most. The pointers listed above are to help you to develop good technique. Good technique gives you the freedom to confidently create.

Happy Sewing!

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