It usually takes about 5 minutes to prepare my sewing machine for free motion quilting…I follow these seven steps:
1. Clean and Oil-Take apart the bobbin case and use a soft paint brush to remove lint and threads. Oil your machine regularly–it seems to need more oil for free motion quilting than for regular stitching…but always consult your owner’s manual (do you know where it is?)
2. Insert a single-hole throat plate. Improves stitch quality. Not absolutely necessary, but I think it makes a difference.
3. Tape down a Supreme Slider––The Supreme Slider–I always use a Supreme Slider. It is a teflon sheet that helps the fabric slide while stitching. It is essential! It comes in two sizes now–I have the small one and would consider the larger one if I ever needed to replace mine. The down side -it would require more tape. The product description claims that the Supreme Slider is self sticking—mine does not stick anymore– so I tape it down with 3M painter’s tape.
The photo below: My Supreme Slider with enlarged cut out opening– The self sticking didn’t work and I stitched the teflon sheet onto the back of a quilt! —Hence, the taping!
4. Insert a new needle–(More about needles in an upcoming post.)
5. Attach the darning foot–My favorite is Bernina’s off-set darning foot #24. I believe other sewing machines have a similar foot. Any darning foot will work. (You can even free motion quilt without a foot–but it’s a bit more tricky.)
6. Machine Adjustments: Lower the Feed Dogs and Set Needle Down Position–In normal stitching (feed dogs up or engaged), the feed dogs advance the fabric. For free motion quilting, the feed dogs are lowered (disengaged) and the quilter controls the movement of the fabric. Some quilters set the stitch length to zero and leave the feed dogs engaged–give that a try. For my machine…my stitches are better with the feed dogs lowered.
Many sewing machines now have the option to set the position of the needle when stitching stops. In older machines, whenever stitching ended, the needle returned to the “up” position–the needle was out of the fabric. In free motion quilting, it is preferable for the needle to stop in the “down” position–with the needle in the fabric. In that way, the quilt can be repositioned and when quilting resumes, the stitch line remains fluid (at least that is the goal).
7. Adjust the top tension–I usually need to lower my top tension. Stitch a sample and adjust the tension every time you start a new project. The tension is affected by thread, fabric, needle, and batting. I think it may also be affected by humidity. I usually leave a wide border on my projects so that I can do the test stitches right in the margin of the project.
The Seven Steps:
- Clean and Oil
- Single Hole Throat Plate
- Tape down Supreme Slider
- Insert a new needle and thread machine
- Attach Darning Foot
- Lower Feed dogs, Needle Down
- Make tension adjustments
Voila! You are ready to take your trusty sewing machine for a little twirl–or if you prefer, try a spiral or a curl, or a Greek Key or…..check out the “Quilt” Tab above for tons of free motion quilt patterns to try…