Free Motion Practice

Today’s post is related to yesterdays post about my hexagon quilt. Before jumping in and quilting the queen sized quilt (gulp!) I thought some practice to get my hand back in with Free motion quilting as I haven’t done any in a while. So I got a practice sandwich, loaded up my machine with different colours for the top and bobbin thread and went quilting.

I was quite happy with how it turned out. I definitely need to work on keeping my stitch length a bit more even, but I was also focusing on increasing my scale slightly and keeping it consistent, which I think I managed quite well.

Leah Day, of the Free Motion Quilting Project is currently running a free motion quilt along where she is encouraging readers to jump in and just give it a go. She’s written some great posts of how to get started, including some really great tips, one of which I used here with great success. In her “playing with scale” post she talks about using a reference to help you with changing the scale of a design. When I’ve free motion quilted things before I’ve struggled with scaling up the stippling, and I used Leah’s tip of using a touchstone to remind you of your scale – I used the width of my fingers as I could always see it. I aimed for the gaps between the quilting to, on average, be about the width of my finger, which they are, hurrah!

(Leah has also been encouraging readers to show pictures of their stitches, both good and bad, so that’s what I’ve done)

I definitely can improve, in the above pic you can see some examples of what I want to improve on – near the top you can see a massive variation in stitch length, and below left you can see how I need to practice smoothing out my curves sometimes.

Flipping it over and looking at the back it’s mostly ok, as shown above…

But occasionally I get some of the top threads coming through to the back. This was alleviated somewhat by increasing the upper tension a tiny bit (and I mean tiny). Again however, Leah has covered this too and has suggested making sure you go slow and steady on the curves – as if you notice it only happens on the tighter corners where i’m not going at a steady speed.

Another thing that Leah recommends is to use the same thread in the top and bottom, which agrees with Michele‘s comment on my last post. I don’t want to have navy thread poking through to my lovely cream negative space, and I don’t think the cream thread will look horrific on the back (and besides, it’s the back!)

Now to fill up some bobbins and get quilting!!


  1. Janine

    good luck!

  2. Sam

    Hey Rachel, I am so envious of your free motion quilting abilities! Seriously I can't pick any mistakes! I wish you were able to sit down with me one time and show me how on earth you do that —– tutorial perhaps???? Sam xox

  3. thecuriouskiwi

    I'm envious too! I bought a free motion foot to give stippling a try (sort of scribbly decoration on some items) but I think I expected to master it really quickly and gave up. Thanks for the link to Leah's quilt-along, I think those tips will definitely help me out and one day I really do want to make a nice big arty quilt so I better practise.

  4. Mike Pearson

    It all looks fine to me! When the quilt is finished, and you wash it then step back and take a look at it and feel it…. all the stitches will look beautiful to you, regardless of what up close pictures reveal. Interested to know how the Queen size goes. My next quilt is my first quilt bigger than a throw, and it's Queen also. I am not using a long arm, so I expect it to be more difficult than the smaller ones, but I hope I am wrong. Good luck!

    1. Rachel

      Thanks Mike. I'm really happy with how my FMQ is going. The Queen is challenging near the middle, but not too bad. And as Leah says, if you start near the middle it just gets easier! I'd love to see how yours goes when you start quilting your queen.

  5. patsroamin

    Hi Rachel. Great job on your quilting! I like Leah's tip about using the same color top and bottom. I always had the back color showing through the front and vice versa. I love that we are able to share with quilters in other countries. Good job. Can't wait to see what you do next week.

  6. June D

    Looks very nice. Will you use this as part of a quilt somehow? I'm working on QAYG but so far just doing the blocks or sections – haven't sewn together yet!

    1. Rachel

      I'm not planning on using my practice swatch for anything. It was just some cheap poplin that I used as the fabric, and some scraps of batting from a previous project. I do like the idea of making one of those QAYG free motion sampler quilts that I've seen aroudn though. I went to a seminar on joining QAYG blocks a while back and have been wanting to apply what I learnt.

  7. Sewhappy

    Your quilting is lovely, such fun to learn new skills. I am slowly working through mine. Thanks for showing your stitches……they are a very good size, well done.


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