More Fun with Free Motion Quilting


I have had a facination with free motion quilting on domestic sewing machines for a long time.

I love the idea of taking something and turning it into something completely different just with the use of thread and your machine.

And I can spend hours upon hours perusing through Pinterest with a simple “Free Motion Quilting Ideas” query.  I’ve even added some of them to my Pinterest board.

You don’t need much to get started! I used the free motion quilting foot that came with my Janome Skyline S9.


I use regular quilt weight thread on both the top thread and my bobbin thread. And a lot of times, I love to practice my free motion quilting on fabric panels. They are the perfect size for free motion quilting projects. And they allow you to be creative and use different designs.


I sketched out a design on this panel before I got started (although I confess… in the end I just free-styled it and I was sooo glad I did).

One of the things I have learned in my years of free motion quilting is that practice is at the heart of good free motion quilting. At lot of times it’s about muscle memory when it comes to some of the designs (like swirls and patterns with repetition).

They say doodling helps you retain information when you are listening to things; and I doodle a lot! I’ll practice different free motion quilting ideas and pretend to work on quilts on paper, filling up scrap pieces of paper and my agenda books with all kinds of different free motion quilting doodles.


With this project I started in the centre blue panel and just played around. There’s a little bit of everything in there – swirls, wavy lines, arcs, and everything in between. I just tried different designs that worked for the space.

Because you work so closely (like physically close) when you are free motion quilting, it’s easy to get caught up in the little quirks that come up when you first start out free motion quilting. You can see every little spot you might do differently or even want to get out your stitch ripper for.

It’s really important to keep the big picture in mind. First of all, it’s very rare that anyone else will look at your quilt project as closely as you do. So step back occasionally and look at your project as a whole, not just the little parts here and there. You will be excited with your progress.

And as mentioned above, free motion quilting comes with practice and everyone starts somewhere. (Whoooboy – I remember my first free motion quilting projects.)


I tried to do a different design in each section of this quilt.


And play with your thread colours. It’s fun to see how they can add further elements to an already stunning quilt. I admit, I still play it safe and tend to match my thread to the fabric. But contrasting colours, and complimentary colours, and even clear thread is amazing to work with.


When you are first starting to learn free motion quilting, one of the challenges is matching machine speed with the speed that you move your quilt around. I always keep some scraps of extra fabric to practice on. I like to set the speed control on my machine to a speed where I feel most comfortable doing free motion quilting. I find I have a bit of a heavy foot and so if I can just put the petal to the medal and not worry about how light or soft I am pressing, and get the desired speed, it’s one less thing to worry about.

Fast or slow, there’s no right or wrong speed for free motion quilting. Go at a speed that feels comfortable to you. I find that I know I’m going too fast when I feel like I can’t make smooth curves anymore. That tends to mean that I go a little slower than other people, but it gives me time to think ahead to my next steps in free motion quilting.


I was super happy with how this quilt came together after all the free motion quilting was finished.


When you are taking photos of your quilts, did you know side light really brings out the detail? That means if you are looking to highlight details on a quilt, early morning light or end of day light (sometimes called the golden hour) will really make stitching pop.


Have you tried free motion quilting on your machine?

Do you sew with fabric panels at all?

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1 Response to More Fun with Free Motion Quilting

  1. I have a Skyline S7, and I’ve done a few practice pieces but haven’t tried it on a quilt yet. I like your advice about remembering that most people won’t look at the quilting up close. I forget that. Thanks for reminding me to continue to try to learn free motion!


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