Free Motion Quilting Quick Tip

Stars.FMQ.LKennedyGood Morning, Quilters!

To create the perfect free motion quilting stitch, we often have to adjust the tension.  Most machines (and threads) require a lower tension while free motion quilting.  (I believe this is due to all the pushing and pulling we do.)

This week, I’d like you all to try a little experiment.

  • Choose a favorite pattern or motif.  (Starry Night is shown above.)
  • Stitch the motif for several minutes.
  • Lower the top tension 1/2 step.  Stitch for several minutes.
  • Lower the top tension 1/2 step.  Stitch for several minutes.
  • Keep repeating this until you can no longer lower the tension.

Which tension looks best?

Get to know what a good stitch looks like. 

If you need to adjust your tension higher, try that now.

Each time you begin sewing, you will need to adjust the tension, and it won’t always be the same number.  

Many different factors influence tension…thread, fabric, batting, needle, humidity, your tension level, how fast you’re sewing.

Give this a try!

Please let me know if this helped YOU…

LOVE to hear!


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


25 thoughts on “Free Motion Quilting Quick Tip

  1. Once while quilting, which looked fine on top, I discovered that I had loops of thread on the bottom. What caused that?

  2. You say “get to know what a good stitch looks like” and sometimes I have difficulty with that. Do you find that you also have a “feeling” with the right tension? For example, is there a smoothness that you feel while moving the fabric that helps you decide the right tension?

  3. I’d like to nominate you for an NQC blogging award. What category best fits?

    Nominate your favorite blogs in any of these seven categories:

    Best Traditional Quilting Blog
    Best Modern Quilting Blog
    Best Quilting Patterns Blog
    Best Fiber Arts Blog
    Best Art Quilts Blog
    Most Humorous Blog
    Best Overall Quilting Blog

  4. In my practice last week, (after watching your webinar twice!)I adjusted my tension to several different settings. Since this was only my second time to FMQ, my difficulty is in matching my hands and foot with the tension. Any suggestions?

    • The tension should be set before free motion quilting. Get that fixed first. Then work on timing.

  5. why several minutes for each level? Does it have something to do with the thread working it’s way through the machine?

  6. Lori, I have an Elna 7300. I have always been told to leave the lower tension unadjusted. However, I have a second bobbin casing but would need to adjust it with a fine screw driver. There are no numbers in the bobbin area so adjusting would be guess work. This lower tension is often critical, especially if I wish to use a different coloured thread on the back f the quilt.
    this means that I would need to do this every time as batting, etc. changes with each project. What do you suggest I do? I’ll treasure any hints you have for me. Thank you, thank you, in advance.

    • I only adjust the bobbin tension after adjusting the top tension fully. Don’t be afraid to adjust the bobbin. Usually once it is adjusted you can go back to adjusting the top tension for daily variations and small tweaks.

    • It was suggested (I can’t remember where) that you draw a diagram of the screw on your bobbin and then put it in a clock diagram so that the original tension is at 12 o’clock and you mark how far you move your screw 1,2,3 o’clock so you have a way of returning the tension back to the original place. It has worked for me.. Thanks again Lori for your inspiration. J.

      • Thanks for this information! That really helped me not be afraid to adjust the tension.

  7. I recently read a tip to use two layers of felt (can be the cheap kind) instead of making a quilt sandwich to do practice stitching on. It is inexpensive and doesn’t involve the time to make a sandwich. What do you think of this?

  8. Just want to say a big Thank You for inspiring me so much. I finished a quilt with freehand quilted sailboats and clouds in the border and I owe it all to you for showing my how it can be done. End result is sew cute!

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