Leave free-motion and ruler quilting frustration in the dust with 5 preparation steps. Successful machine quilting can seem daunting and elusive. Some have concluded it’s not worth the effort or it’s only for the talented. However, with a sewing machine capable of free-motion quilting, anyone can learn free-motion machine and ruler quilting. It is achievable with the right preparation skills, tools and techniques. Like any skill, it requires patience, persistence and practice.
The practice of free-motion machine and ruler quilting begins with repeatable preparation skills and techniques. Let’s not leave it to chance. Instead put these practices in place for consistent repeatable results.
1 - Fabric Preparation - Fabric behavior under the quilting foot influences stitching results. Control it with two steps. Wash fabric to remove processing chemicals and saturate with starch. I recommend using a starch concentrate and mixing your own. Starch stiffens fabric to minimize fabric movement when cutting, sewing and quilting.
2 - Tool Knowledge - Get the best machine quilting tools you can afford. The right tools will help produce consistent results and reduce frustration. Why hammer a nail with the end of a screwdriver when you can use a hammer. The key here is to know your machine quilting tools. Know what they can do and for what purpose they were made. What is the correct machine quilting foot for the style of quilting? There are several styles of free-motion machine quilting feet. Does your sewing machine manufacturer make a machine quilting ruler foot? What kind of acrylic rulers are best? What features should we look for when purchasing rulers?
An important feature of acrylic rulers are reference lines. Reference lines are a key to design and repeatable patterns. Not every acrylic ruler is alike. Before you purchase a ruler or template, check for "etched" reference lines. They can be vertical and horizontal lines with 1/4-inch increments combined with 45, 60 and 90-degree angles.
Why hammer a nail with the end of a screwdriver when you can use a hammer? For example, the right size and type of ruler foot is essential for creating accurate and repeatable designs. Not all machines are well-suited for free-motion quilting. Read your machine manual and check with the manufacturer to learn if they recommend your machine for free-motion quilting.
3 - Necessary Accessories - One of the biggest concerns is the ability to freely move a quilt under a home sewing machine without it being a wrestling match. There are three things that will help. 1) Place sewing machine inside a table for a smooth extended surface beyond the sewing bed. Or use an acrylic sewing machine extension table. 2) Use a synthetic sheet over the sewing machine stitch plate. The sheet should cover the seam between the sewing bed and tables. This creates a smooth surface for a quilt to move across.
Free movement of a quilt under a sewing machine also involves the quilter's ability to hold and move the quilt in the desired direction. There are several accessories, like gloves, pads, rings and more that are designed to help us "grip" and control the movement of the quilt. Find one that works for you. I like gloves.
These three are the basic necessary accessories. However, there are other quilting accessory tools that help create a smooth ruler quilting experience. Creating a machine quilting environment for success reduces frustration. It also allows us to enjoy the process.
4 - Thread, Needles & Tension Adjustments - We must take time to learn about thread quality and weight as well the appropriate needle size and type. There are many things that influence thread and needle combinations for each project. Getting this right reduces frustration.
Don't be afraid of adjusting thread tension. This is the key to using all those beautiful threads you have collected. First, practice adjusting tension with the same thread—both the top thread and in the bobbin. Learn and master thread tension for all types of threads and thread combinations.
5- Stitching Speed Control - Do you remember when you had your first driving lesson? I remember. I was nervous. You are the driver. Practice and master hand movements and machine stitching speed. This controlled combination is key to consistent stitch length, the ability to consistently stitch a design in large and small spaces on a quilt and stitch large and small scale design variations.
Would you like to learn how to put into practice these five master quilter preparation skills to help gain confidence in free-motion machine and ruler quilting? Learn these beginner skills in Stitching Lane Society's Beginner Steps to Mastering Machine Quilting course. The course helps you achieve repeatable results and increase your quilting confidence. Stitching Lane Society full courses include this BONUS course.
By the end of each Stitching Lane Society course, you will have a repeatable machine quilting preparation routine for future success and increased confidence. Achieve what many quilters have achieved in my classes and workshops. Soon, many will have the same rewarding experience with Stitching Lane Society Machine Quilting Mastery courses.
If you are like me, we have many quilt tops that need finishing. What is holding you back? When I took time to improve machine quilting skills, finished quilts increased. I am excited. Get ready to get those UFOs done and gifted.
1 - BONUS: Beginner Steps to Mastering Machine Quilting course
2 - Quilt pattern(s) and/or ruler pattern(s)
3 - Step-by-step instructions with diagrams
4 - Instructional and/or demonstration videos
5 - Stitching Lane Society Course Discussions
Start with building a solid free motion quilting foundation. Take the Alphabet Design Course.
By the way, I'm sure you probably want to learn more about me, my teaching history and style. I recently wrote, How I Began Teaching Machine Quilting. Learn not only what motivates me to help quilters, but also the series of events that led me to leave an established photojournalism career to pursue quilting.