3 Mistakes Quilters Make When Starting Machine Quilting

When quilters talk about free-motion machine quilting, the discussion often leads to negative assumptions about learning the skill. When some conversations feed fear, many decide it’s not for them or the “brave” give a half-hearted attempt to learn.

As a beginner, I was in one of those conversations. It made me wonder why is it hard? Why would they discourage me from learning free-motion machine quilting? Were they looking out for me? Did they want to spare me inevitable frustration and failure?

In an earlier post, "How I Began Teaching Machine Quilting" I share how I avoided 3 mistakes quilters make when starting machine quilting.  I hope my experience encourages you to begin your journey with machine quilting. Some of these experiences are shared in another blog post, "5 Beginner Steps to Mastering Machine Quilting". Learn about my desire to help others gain confidence and win at machine quilting.

Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes

1 - Believe free-motion quilting is too hard and quit before starting.

When we hear about the real or imagined challenges of free-motion and ruler quilting we decide not to learn. Free-motion and ruler quilting is a skill that is developed over time. Although it is not a decorative stitch programed into a sewing machine, it is a skill that can be learned.

Before we can run, we learn to walk and before we walk we learn to crawl. There are several developmental things happening when a child is crawling. A Google search reveals:

“Crawling boosts gross and fine motor skills (large and refined movements), balance, hand-eye-coordination and overall strength are just a few. The development and refinement of these skills will assist your child later in life with activities such as running, jumping, writing, fastening clothes, and throwing balls.”

It’s not only OK to crawl when starting free-motion and ruler quilting, it’s beneficial. Be kind to yourself and lower your expectations. Focus on small incremental improvements over a period of time. With this change in mindset, free-motion quilting is possible.

2- Make half-hearted attempts to learn free-motion machine quilting.

A defeatist attitude is worse than an all or nothing attitude. This is a purposed plan for failure. It’s a reason to say, “See, I told you, it’s too hard. Why bother?” The truth is free-motion quilting requires time and effort, like learning how to play an instrument.

3- Give up because beautiful stitches and designs don’t instantly occur.

Many give up because they don’t see big leaps of improvement in a short period of time. This is unrealistic. It is self-imposed pressure to perform. Let’s be candid about this type of thinking. Would it be plausible If I said my crawling infant was going to try out for the Olympics before she could stand, walk or run? Of course not! However, if I said we plan to slowly develop her athletic skills over years with the Olympics being a goal, that would sound like a good plan. 

We’ve seen long-term learning and skill development in Olympic champions like Venus and Serena Willams. No, we are not training for the free-motion and ruler quilting Olympics. However, the skill development principles are the same.

A Mindset Adjustment

YOU can be on the road to successful free-motion and ruler quilting. Yes, you can. First, start in your lane. Don’t think about what others are doing or where they are in their machine quilting journey. Focus on your goals and stay in your personal lane.

Where to Begin

Begin with a good foundation of machine quilting practices. There are 5 Beginner Steps for Mastering Machine Quilting. The steps are:

1. Fabric Preparation

2. Best Tools for the Job

3. Necessary Accessories

4. Thread, Needles & Tension Adjustments

5. Stitching Speed Control

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Your Stitching Lane

Do you drive a car? If so, do you remember when you did not know how to drive? Do you remember the feelings you had before, during and after each driving lesson? Those feelings did not stop you from learning the skill. Instead, you continued practicing because you knew the end goal would be the door to freedom and so much more. Like driving to quilts shop! Today, as an experienced driver, the challenges and difficulties of learning are long forgotten. Now, you just drive. It’s second nature. However, it took time to reach this level of confidence.

Learning free-motion and ruler quilting is similar to learning to drive a car. Just as we need a driving instructor, we need a free-motion quilting coach—a coach with experience and a history of helping others succeed. A Machine Quilting Friend and Coach with experience and a history of helping others succeed. Do you want to save hours, weeks, or months of frustration learning free-motion and ruler quilting?  If so, get help from a coach who will be your cheerleader too.

Happy Quilting!


How I began teaching machine quilting

Categories: free motion quilting, machine quilting