Quilting with a Free-Motion Foot: Irregular Designs

Let’s look a little more at free-motion quilting, so you can have a better idea of what that means. Simply put, free-motion quilting is done by covering or lowering your feed dogs in order to have unrestricted movement under the needle as you sew. You can go any direction you wish, and switch as quickly and as often as you like, because the feed dogs are exerting no pressure on the fabric. It’s very freeing (no pun) to quilt this way, and leads to some great designs you can’t get using a walking foot. The video below reviews some of the basics–like bringing your bobbin thread up above the quilt top when you begin and tying a knot, plus looks at a bunch of images to get your brain working on how you might like to play with quilting this sampler. The site referenced at the end of the video is The Free-Motion Quilting Project blog, which has a zillion different shapes and ideas for you to try.

Clover asked in the comments about thread selection, and I think it’s such a great question. I think you can begin to see how this is such an aesthetic decision, and with all the threads out there, you can really pick any one of a number of threads and have a great finished project. The simplest rule of thumb is that if you want the texture to take center stage, choose a matching thread; if you want the shape of the quilting stitches (the actual design you select) to take center stage, choose a contrasting thread. From there, you can determine if you want a variegated thread (which changes color along its length) or a solid color; a matte thread or one with some sheen (Sulky makes some lovely choices that really catch the light, if you’re trying to draw attention to the quilting stitches rather than have them disappear, as a matte thread tends to do); or a thicker vs a thinner thread (I tend to quilt with just my regular old Gutermann sewing thread, but there are folks who swear by a thicker thread for quilting, as it creates a bit more depth and texture in the final quilt). The most important things to remember are that if you don’t like your quilting stitches, you can take them out with your seam ripper, no harm, no foul; and that NO ONE ever “ruined” a quilt by picking the “wrong” quilting stitches or thread–it’s all learning as we go!

**UPdated! Angela Walters, whose book I reference in the video, did a post on thread and her selections. Good reading!

For these samplers, I’m recommending that you try various designs in sections of the quilt–some straight-line quilting in one block, some free-motion in others, and something else altogether (or maybe nothing at all) in the sashing or borders, if you have them. Let the quilting be a sampler, too, in addition to the patchwork! See more in the video, and have fun!