I want to pick back up where I left off in my Free Motion Quilting – Part I – Drawing Tutorial and mention again that I always start out working through new free motion quilting patterns by sketching and drawing on paper. I recently discussed this in my post about quilting flames on my Dragon Baby Quilt, and today I worked through the process for a leafy vine pattern that I think I will use on my Namibia Tree Quilt.
I sketched a lot of different patterns today before finding a good rhythm that I felt confident I could repeat at the sewing machine. As you can see, I also tried out a few other ideas as I was doodling.
Next, I went into my stash and pulled out 2 fat quarters and made a sample pin basted quilt. The reason that I recommend using a larger sample size is that it will force you to get used to removing pins as you quilt (if you pin baste) and work away from edges, which on a smaller sample size can lead to frustration and difficulties that you probably won’t run into when working on a realistically sized quilt top.
When starting your quilting, I always pull my bobbin thread through to the top of the quilt at the beginning. This ensures that you know where the thread is located and that you won’t end up with the bobbin thread lopped through your quilting in an ugly snarl (also commonly known as bobbin barf in my household). I then repeat stitch in the same spot 3 or 4 times to lock in the thread / knot it up. I do slightly move the fabric around so that I am creating a knot and not just twisting the thread around each other. I move the ends of the threads out of the direction that I will be sewing, and start quilting. My hand gets in the way at the beginning of the video as I am pulling the thread through, but a later video will show the process a bit more clearly.
A few things that I want to point out: when I pause to re-orient my hands or remove a pin, my sewing needle is down which will secure the quilt and keep stitches from getting pulled or your location from wandering on the quilt top. I am also doing my best to regulate the speed on my presser foot to the speed that I move the fabric; this takes a lot of practice to get a feel for. Here are some photographs of how the quilting from the video above turned out, which was my first time to try quilting the repeating leaf / vine pattern:
Another thing that comes with practice is being able to repeat the size of the pattern consistently. There will always be natural variation in any free motion quilting, but with practice it is possible to gain some consistency. I don’t always want to be 100% consistent in size, though. For instance, I really enjoy varying the sizes of my pebbles when I am quilting that pattern (as you will see in an image below).
Speaking of practice, here are some samples / practice patterns that I have made in the past working through this process (draw, sew, draw, sew…):
Another pattern you may have noticed that I got interested in while I was sketching today was a line with circles or bubbles attached to it. This is another good pattern for me to demonstrate via video because it shows how I like to free motion straight lines: by either pulling the quilt toward me or pushing it away. I try to avoid moving the quilt side to side very much as it is easy for the weight of the quilt to take over and create wavy and curved lines.
Another tip for managing the weight of a quilt is to divide the quilting up into quarters for quilting. There is a post by Elizabeth Hartman on the Modern Quilt Guild’s blog on Tips for Quilting a Larger Quilt that does an excellent job of discussing this topic.
Free motion quilting will use up a lot of thread, and running out of your bobbin in the center of your quilt is not a cause for alarm. Simply pull the top thread through to the back, tie a couple of knots, and then I recommend burying the ends of the threads into the quilt sandwich. I like to do this as I go along so that I know I won’t be sewing over any loose threads. Once you have tied off and buried your threads, you can easily start back up at the location you left off by pulling your bobbin thread to the surface, and repeat stitching a few times to lock in the new started thread (just like you would do off the edge of the quilt).
And here are a few photos of the bubble vine quilting that was done during the videos. You will be able to see that I had a bit harder time regulating the stitch length for this pattern between the speed I was moving the fabric and the rate I was running the needle via the foot peddle (you can hear it in the videos a bit as well). I need to practice this pattern a bit more to gain better stitch consistency.
Finally, here are a couple of outtake photos from my quilting practice. I got all set up to run video and do the quilting, but my thread selection was not conducive to being visible during the videos. I quickly stopped and re-threaded with a bright yellow thread to offer contrast, and hopefully it shows well in the videos and photos what I am demonstrating. 🙂
Special thanks to my husband for helping set up the video for this tutorial. 🙂