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Free Motion Quilting 101

Free motion quilting is all about practicing...playing really...with your sewing machine, thread and fabric. Our focus here is on unmarked free motion background fill patterns to help you gain skill and confidence in your stitching abilities.

If you are truly new to free motion, I strongly recommend that you follow the topics in order. This information is taken directly from my Beginning Free Motion classes that I teach locally in Illinois.

Only information that is necessary for the beginning free motion quilter is presented in the pages in this section.

Now, if you've quilted before but just need a refresher, use the Table of Contents to find your topic of interest.

Let's get started!

You Learn Best When You Learn Why

I firmly believe you learn best when you learn 'why' something is done.

Click to get to the Free Motion Quilting Checklist to download

That way when you're having a problem in the middle of the night, you have the skills to figure it out for yourself.

As you read along, if you have questions, please do ask them at our Quilting Forum. I do my best to answer your questions in a timely manner and to the best of my ability. No doubt, if you've got a question, someone else has it too, and we all benefit!

Attitude Adjustment

We quilters can be such a persnickety lot. Expecting perfection immediately! Even if it's something brand new. Keep it real. Let's start in the right frame of mind to learn!

  • You’ve got to practice free motion stitching to become proficient (not perfect). We tell our children, “Practice makes perfect”. Anymore it's too many responsibilities, not enough playtime. Don’t short change yourself. Give yourself the gift of time to practice and learn. You're worth it!
  • Perfection is overrated. If you wait until every stitch is perfect, every line exact, you'll never finish a quilt. Just do the best you can for where you are NOW.
  • Lighten up on yourself. In the beginning, I just plain had to laugh at how incredibly crappy my free motion work was. With the feed dogs down the sewing machine might as well be a skill saw. It's a totally different animal. Be prepared to start from scratch and laugh, or at least chuckle.
  • You are your own worst critic so close your mouth after saying, “Look at what I just finished!”, and accept the compliments. We quilters seem to apologize for all our mistakes. Just remember, zip your lip when something negative about your free motion work tries to escape your mouth. Just say, ‘Thank you’ and smile.
  • RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS AND BREATHE!!!!!! You don't want your stitch tension or YOUR OWN tension too tight. Neither makes for good stitching.

And finally, remember nothing you do here can’t be undone, so...

Just Enjoy! Be Adventurous! Have fun!

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

365 Free Motion Quilting Designs by Leah Day, available from

On to the Nuts and Bolts

Before we begin, you'll need to assemble your quilting supplies and notions. Next it's on to the set up of your quilting room or workspace. Then it's setting up your sewing machine for quilting. We'll discuss several of the techniques essential to free motion quilting and end with machine quilting tips to further aid you in your free motion odyssey.

Next: Free Motion
Quilting Supplies

Table of Contents
Free Motion Quilting 101

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