How to Free Motion Quilt (FMQ)

Are you a beginner quilter? Or maybe you’re an experienced quilter who just hasn’t learned how to do Free Motion Quilting yet? Now is your chance to dive in!

I know I’ve already written all about my trusty walking foot in my Walking Foot Basics blog post, and believe me, I still LOVE the simplicity of straight lines and will never trade my walking foot for anything. But when you want just a little more pizzaz – FMQ is for you!

I first began experimenting with Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) a few years ago. I’ve finished a handful of quilts with this technique and can honestly say it gets so much easier with practice – oh, and using an awesome machine for it certainly doesn’t hurt!

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This was my first time doing FMQ on my Husqvarna Sapphire 965Q sewing machine and it was a breeze! While I was still a little rusty and there was a definite learning curve, it was SO much fun and I am thrilled with how the quilt turned out.

Before getting ready to FMQ, you want to be sure to have your quilt top pieced, pressed, and basted to make the “quilt sandwich”.

Next, you have got to come up with a quilting plan. Think things through before even turning your sewing machine on and throwing on the FMQ foot. side note: There are two different kinds of FMQ feet; your options include Spring-Action or Free Floating. I personally prefer the spring.

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For this quilt plan, I decided to do heavier quilting in the white parts and less quilting in the colored pieces. This decision was mostly due to the fact that I knew my stitches would be FAR from perfect and I wanted the majority of them to blend in.

I do have a few pointers for you, to make the learning curve as easy as possible.
When you do get to start stitching, find a little piece off to the side to test your stitch length, speed, and get the feel for it. If this is you FIRST ever time doing FMQ, I would even suggest grabbing a couple pieces of scrap fabric & scrap batting to really get some good practice in before diving into the quilt itself.

Next, GO SLOW. It is not a race. While I do love whipping out quilts left & right, the goal here is to HAVE FUN. The stitches will inevitably be a lot more controllable if you have a slow speed set and really work on the quilting experience.

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Another tip is to use some sort of gripping tool. I personally fell in love with this hand grip sold by Husqvarna. It is so easy to  move it around as I go and it really makes is SO easy to maneuver the fabric under the needle. Being able to easily grip the fabric is essential to move it around without putting too much stress on your hands and shoulders. I posted this photo on my instagram and got a lot of other ideas too. Many quilters use quilting gloves and even one person suggested GARDENING gloves (make sure to use clean ones for this as dirt & quilts don’t mix).

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I definitely suggest working from the middle of the quilt out towards the edges, especially if you are working on a larger size quilt. Working from the middle outwards make it a lot easier and keep any bad puckers from happening.

Once you get the whole thing quilted, the next steps are to trim the edges, square up your quilt, and get the binding on. This is where you’ll definitely want to switch out your FMQ foot for your trusty Walking Foot.

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For binding, I personally use 2.5″ strips, folded in half and then ironed. I then sew the raw edge to the raw edge of the front of the quilt. Once all the edges are machine sewn down I turn the binding over and HAND STITCH it to the back. This is my absolute favorite step of quilting – partly because it means the quilt is almost done and partly because I find the hand sewing so therapeutic.

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Thanks for reading this far! To wrap up, here is even a fun photo of me enjoying my back patio, some Kombucha, and hand stitching to finish up my quilt. If you want to learn more, check out these awesome books:

I hope these tips & tricks help inspire you to do some Free Motion Quilting. Cheers!

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