Free Motion Quilting Quick Tip-Feed Dogs

Jigsaw Puzzle, FMQ, LKennedyHappy Monday, Quilters!

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A Quick Tip on Feed Dogs…

In order to Free Motion Quilt, we need to disengage the Feed Dogs on our sewing machines.

In normal sewing, the feed dogs advance the fabric forward with each stitch.  In free motion quilting, we want to control the movement and speed of the fabric so we have to disengage the feed dogs.

There are three ways to disengage the feed dogs:

  • Lower the feed dogs with a machine lever (available on most machines)
  • Cover the feed dogs by taping an index card with a hole cut out for the needle. (Older machines only)
  • Leave the feed dogs in position and set the stitch length to “zero”-The Feed Dogs are up, but they won’t move the fabric.

Which creates the best looking stitch?

Let’s try a little experiment:

  • Make sure you have the best tension. (See FMQ, Quick tip-April 27, 2015)
  • Choose your favorite motif. (The Jigsaw tutorial may be found HERE)
  • Lower your feed dogs (or cover them) and stitch for several minutes.
  • Raise your feed dogs and set your stitch length to zero.  Stitch for several minutes.

Does either method look better than the other?

Is one easier than the other?

Is there any difference at all?

Please give this experiment a try.

Let us all know how it worked for YOU and YOUR machine.

LOVE to hear!


Now I have to go feed my real dogs, Ruby and Roxie!

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!

18 thoughts on “Free Motion Quilting Quick Tip-Feed Dogs

  1. I have a vintange machine, a Singer 201-2, and I’m happy to say that I don’t have to lower my feed dogs. It works so much better with them up. Sometimes I don’t even switch it to 0 stitch length, and it seems to work just as well. But usually I do.

  2. This is really helpful ( as always). I’ve been trying all these methods with my aged Singer, and my beloved Elnas, one of which can drop the feed dogs while the other can’t. I think you are showing us that lots of methods work, and in my experience, the one I keep practising over and over often works best. I didn’t get chance to comment on last week’s pages, as my mail junked the post!! But my mum is 97 and heads a little group of ladies who make patchwork quilts and sell them for charity here in UK. I only need to add that these ladies are, how can I say this, not experienced in needlework to show you what a super hero she is.

  3. As you point out, each machine’s “personality” is different and one machine setting doesn’t fit all. For some reason,some Janomes and Brothers seem to ‘like’ the feed dogs up with the stitch length at ‘0’ (my observations only!).
    Note…..I’ve voted and wish you the best results!!! Your posts “hit the mark” every time!!!! Hugs…………….

    • Treadle music-I have tried several times on my Brother, last week ended up putting the machine in the shop because I messed up the tension, to free motion stitch. Thanks for your advice. I am a newbie to free motion and am planning on trying free motion again on that machine. I purchased a ” slider ” I also hope to try this week.

  4. Great information, as usual. I think you do such a great service by stating alternatives for any given task since machines are so different. One of these ideas is new to me-choosing zero stitch length and leaving the feed dogs up. I have Berninas, ll30 and 530 and have used the zero stitch length with the feed dogs down. That works nicely but I am going to try the other way. I want to try it with my Singer 401 because I have never gotten good results FMQ by just lowering the feed dogs. I have so much to learn! Thank you for all you present to us. I voted for you and hope you win.

  5. I love your tutorials. I’m looking forward to your book when it comes out.
    I have a Janome 1600 P so I can do any of the 3 mentioned. I just read recently that a Singer S16 is the same as my Janome for high speed straight stitching. The article said that it was made by Janome and it is cheaper to buy.

  6. My machine is having PMS. Worked perfectly last week on seams and FMQ. Have changed thread, needle an tension. Feed dogs down. POH..Pulling out hair.

  7. I’m rubbish at FMQ but I’ve just tried your suggestions and I get a better result with feed dogs up. Never tried this before. I have a Janome MC5900. Thank you!!

    • My Janome 6500 was the same, much better with feed dogs up, stitch zero. Now I have a 7700 Janome, the reverse is true. It will not stitch smoothly unless I drop the feed dogs. Eery machine is unique, it is worth experimenting to find what works best. 😉

      • I also have a Janome 7700 but I only FMQ with the feed dogs up and stitch length zero, producing no tension problems. It does not sew as nicely with the feed dogs down.

  8. How do I get to the April 27th posting without going back through each day’s post to that date? I tried entering the date in the search and also tried various words but it kept coming back to today’s post. On other blogs when I do a search, it gives me a list of blog posts to read. Please help. Thanks.

  9. I have made many free motion quilts in the last few years and recently tried feed dogs down. Nightmare. Messing with the tension worse! Janome 6600 mode 2 feed dogs up. Tension not touched. And with my gloves. From frustrated following advise to back to naive and happy beautiful free motion stitches. No more eyelashes. Just saying.

  10. But lorie you are still my hero. Beautiful photos designs and tips. Encouraging people to create. I love free motion as it is meditative ! Your designs are so much fun and stunning

  11. where do I find “the best tension. (See FMQ, Quick tip-April 27, 2015” you mention above? Thank you.

  12. Feed dogs up and stitch length at 0 seems to work best on my machine a lower end Janome as well.

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