I love free motion quilting. I dream about it at night. I study quilts, and quilters for hours. I watch endless technique videos, own many books, have bought several Craftsy classes. There are a million and one tips and products out there to help you get the most out of your quilting.
I’m not claiming to be an expert, but of all that I have read, studied and watched, here is my number one tip.
Are you ready for it?
Step AWAY from the sewing machine.
Yes, I know that seems to be a little strange, but bear with me. The one thing that has made a difference to my quilting, which has helped me go from stippling to feathers? Stop trying so hard. Don’t stress about wasting fabric and thread. Don’t google one more gadget which is guaranteed to turn you into a kick-butt quilter overnight.
Get some paper and a pencil. I keep a spiral bound art journal near me most of the time. When I’m stuck in bed and I can’t get to my machine, when I’m waiting at the doctors, or in the car. I draw.
Play with shapes and lines, and teach yourself how those shapes interlock, how they repeat. How they stack or stagger, and how you move around them.
I find it ridiculous that I can stitch feathers, but can’t get my brain/eye co-ordination thing around swirls. Surely they are a quilting basic?
Ahhh, swirling feathers. That’s nicer. You can see, I just don’t care how these look. I’m playing with the shapes, with how they interlock. Seeing what changes in scale may do to them. I will practice a drawing over and over again, page after page, until I feel comfortable with it.
Only then will I grab some scrap fabric and batting and try stitching it out. Sometimes it just clicks, and sometimes I get hopelessly lost. Then I go back to my book and draw some more, working out where I went wrong and what I need to do differently next time.
So there it is, my number one tip for better free motion quilting. Just draw. No pressure. No judges. Page after page of swirls or feathers, stipple or pebbles. If you are struggling with quilting, I would really encourage you to give it a try. If it helps you, I’d love to hear it!