Building A Rock Solid Routine-Machine Set-Up for Free Motion Quilting

Acorn and Oak Leaf Free Motion Quilting

Good morning, Quilters!

Hope you all had time to doodle and stitch yesterday’s free motion quilt tutorial:  The Oak Leaf and The Acorn.

If you didn’t have time, perhaps today’s discussion will help!

We are on #3 in our series:  Building a Rock Solid Routine for Free Motion Quilting–Machine Set-Up

One of the stalling points to the creative process is just not knowing how to begin.

So, to quote Julie Andrews…Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.  When you read you begin with A-B-C when you free motion quilt you begin with…

Corn Stalks Free Motion Quilting

Sorry, it doesn’t rhyme…Clean and Oil.

While that sounds like work, let’s not belabor the job.

Get it done fast…If you’re not sure how, pull out your manual.  (It  is in your newly organized Box of Free Motion Quilt Supplies and the page for cleaning and oiling is already marked.0

CHECKLIST-Ten Steps to Free Motion Quilting

  1. Clean and Oil
  2. Attach a single-hole throat plate (OPTIONAL-you might notice better stitch formation)
  3. Insert a bobbin (I like 50 wt cotton in the bobbin–use what you have.)
  4. Secure a Supreme Slider (I tape mine, but if yours is clean it should stay in place without tape.)
  5. Insert a New needle-(I usually start with a Topstitch 90-adjust according to your thread and fabric.)
  6. Attach Darning Foot (Bernina #24 is nice.)
  7. Thread machine (I like Sulky and Robison-Anton 40 wt Rayon–again use what YOU like.)
  8. Lower the feed dogs (or cover them)
  9. Needle down position (Whenever sewing stops, the needle will be in the down position–not available on all machines.)
  10. Test and adjust tension

I recommend that you copy these steps (in your neatest handwriting, of course) on to a nice piece of paper and keep it in your FMQ Supply Box.  Tape it to the lid if possible.

 The Checklist should be available for quick and ready reference–until you have it memorized.

Now here’s The Challenge:

My mom used to beguile me into cleaning my room by  telling me she’d time how long it took me to make my bed… This technique is very effective.

  • It increases focus.
  • It makes a boring job seem fun.
  • Teaches one to do menial tasks quickly so you can get on to the Fun Stuff.

Corn Stalks Free Motion Quilting


Time how long it takes you to set up your machine for free motion quilting.  Try to get it down to under three minutes.  If you are organized and know the steps, that should be easy.

Then–the next time you have ONLY 15 minutes—You will be stitching for 12 full minutes--at that’s enough to get a good start!

“Sew–A needle pulling thread.  La-A Note to follow Sew…”

Singing and Sewing,



Building a Rock Solid Routine Series

  #1-Find and mark your sewing machine manual

  #2-Supply List and Organizing the Supplies

PS…All tutorials, information and images are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, Pin and Share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!

20 thoughts on “Building A Rock Solid Routine-Machine Set-Up for Free Motion Quilting

  1. One thing I do is set myself up ahead of time. What I mean is, when I have a small gap of time, I set up my machines with thread, the right feet, wind bobbins, oil, etc. for whatever tasks are planned. I set the fabric or quilt next to the machine. Then, when I have a bigger chunk of time or motivation, I start sewing as everything is ready to roll and I can just focus on the project. When I am done, I reset things up and walk away until the next time. Hope I explained this ok.

  2. Just spent all last evening “digging out” again…man that cutting table piles up in a hurry! So good time to check the oil and air the tires so to speak. I’m awful about stopping to do this until funy noises guilt me into it. Thanks for the nudge! (oh and Linda…I’m sticking my tongue out at you…haha!) Good tips though….I’ll try.

  3. Lori, I am assuming you FMQ daily. Does that mean you oil your machine every day? I oil my machine once a month and now I am wondering if that is not enough. Except for this summer I sew almost 4 days a week. This summer we are renovating an old house and it is taking all my time. You are my link to my passion and I am practicing each of your patterns. Thanks for all you time and energy to do for all of out here.

  4. 1) Love, love, love your new header 😉 😉
    2) I never oil my machine, and it doesn’t seem to work poorly. (Anyway, I promise to give it a try)
    3) I need to have my mind set to what I have to do. It depends on the size of the task. If I feel I won’t be able to finish, I better not start, because I know I’ll rush, and therefore I’ll need to unstitch. I’d rather not start anything if I know my mindset is not up to what I need to do, as it won’t be productive.
    4) I’m doodling pumpkins…

  5. To Ana Perna,
    I know first-hand that not oiling your machine can be expensive. I used to neglect this step and thought, “I will do this tomorrow.” Too many ‘tomorrows came and went. The part that became abraded cost almost $40.00. I learned real fast to oil the hook race in my machine.
    I am appreciative of this series because of the encouragement to focus on the task at hand. Now that we have moved and I have a larger space I have two machines set up-one for FMQ at the ready and one to do the piecing and applique and mending!

    • I would make sure first it is a machine that is supposed to be oiled. There are some sewing machines you are instructed to not oil – like my Janome embroidery sewing machine. I have never oiled it. It is self-oiling. Still works beautifully after 12 years.

      My Bernina is very different. She is a very fussy eater, but I love her too!

      Bottom line: Follow Lori’s advice about the instruction manual. If the instruction manual is missing, one can probably be found online.

  6. My father always used to say “A place for everything and everything in its place,” and I find if I always keep all those necessary things in the same place, setting up for FME is much easier! And, of course, when practicing, needless to say it’s always great if you have ready-made quilt sandwiches on hand so you can just start!

    • Hi Connie,
      A Supreme Slider is a teflon sheet that you lay down on your sewing machine table. It allows the quilt to move more smoothly. There are generic versions available, but I haven’t tried them yet. I don’t like a lot of quilting gadgets, but I think this one makes a big difference. The company name is LaPierre and is available through Amazon.

  7. I am an avid fan of yours, enjoy your tutorials, comments and comments from others who follow you also. I have went from small home machine to big plus for me, does lot of things etc. my other machine didn’t do but dearly love it. Have followed you for about three years or so. Will check all that out but quilting is great good stress relief and fun way to occupy your hands, brain and other things. Thanks, for all your tutorials and great ideas.

  8. By the time I unscrew and remove throat plate, remove bobbin race, clean with small brushes (not canned air) then reassembled I have used up about 15 minutes. I do this at the end of a project unless the fabric is very linty. The rest I can do fairly quickly. Thanks for the post. It is a great reminder.

  9. Hi Lori! Do you adjust stitch length before you start? I have been told to either set it to zero or leave it alone. I stitch on a Bernina. I would love to know what you recommend. I love your blog…thanks!!!

    • Hi Laura,
      I do not adjust my stitch length. Because the feed dogs are lowered stitch length is irrelevant–unless you are using a stitch regulator. If you can’t lower your feed dogs-not available in older machines, then set your stitch length to zero.

      • Thanks for the clarification Lori. I stitch on a newer Bernina and can lower my feed dogs. I truly appreciate the response and all you do! I am really enjoying your blog and hope to get better at FMQ! Thanks again! Laura

  10. Just catching up on mail- cast on hand. I am printing out the 3 steps and am going to put these and my manual in a binder. I am just setting up my sewing center and all these tips will help me do it right. I love your tutes and all the tips from everyone else!

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