Maybe you’ve already noticed, but I have been dedicating a LOT of time over the past year focusing on hand quilting, and before that I did a ton of straight line walking foot quilting, but I am thinking maybe I should do some more quilting on my machine – Free Motion Quilting, to be exact – also known as FMQ! I have actually made a couple quilts over the years with FMQ but I have never been happy with my stitches or designs.
Have you been wanting to learn how to Frr Motion Quilt but you’re worried your machine isn’t up for the task??If you are concerned that you do not have the right machine for Free Motion Quilting, HollyAnne Knight is here to debunk your worries and explain what the most important things are to look for in a machine for FMQ!
*read this next part with your best sports announcer voice:
Without further ado, here is a guest blog post from HollyAnne Knight, the teacher & host of Free Motion Quilting Academy:
..loud applause, crowd goes wild, etc…
I Promise (Like 99%) That Your Machine Can Free Motion Quilt
By HollyAnne Knight of String & Story
There’s this old Brian Regan joke about refrigerator shopping (check it out here if I already lost you: https://youtu.be/dUh1eGf57DY I can wait)…
So I’ve been thinking about this bit a lot recently as folks have been asking me what machine is suitable for free motion quilting (spoiler: probably yours). Now, there are a lot of good reasons why you might buy a more expensive sewing machine over a less expensive one, but getting started on your free motion quilting journey isn’t one of them. In fact, if you’re considering upgrading your machine with finishing your quilts in mind, why not make sure you really enjoy quilting your own quilts first?
Just for kicks, let’s make a list of what you don’t need to worry about when deciding if your machine can free motion quilt:
- Throat space
- Overall size
- That it’s not a longarm
In fact, assuming you need a fancy machine (fun as they can be) to FMQ is like thinking you need an Audi to drive across the country. Much more likely, that the ol’ Corolla just needs some air in the tires, an oil change, and a tank of gas.
To that end, here are the things I DO want you to consider about your machine before you start free motion quilting:
- Is my machine in good working order, or do I need to take it in for a quick tune up?
- Have I brushed out the bobbin race recently so there’s no lint fooling around in there?
- Does it need to be oiled?
- Have I changed the needle recently?
Let’s take a second and chat about these so that your lovely little machine is all ready for a new adventure!
First, your machine needs to be serviced about once a year (more often if you sew a LOT or if you sew a lot of flannel). When your machine is serviced, ye local brilliant tech (If you’re in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend Andi Barney at The Sewing Doc) will take all the covers off and clean all the machine guts super well. Then, while everything is nice and clean they can effectively check all the moving bits for signs of wear and tear, tweak anything that isn’t up to snuff, and appropriately oil/grease the moving parts. This procedure isn’t generally super expensive, but it can take some time (1-3 weeks on average). Having your machine serviced regularly can significantly extend the life of the machine, not to mention improve your sewing experience (good-bye thread nests, hellooooo free motion quilting!)
In between servicing, it is vital that you do some basic care at home (you wash your hair between haircuts, right? Put gas in the car between oil changes? I thought so 😉 ). Every time or two that you change your bobbin, take that extra minute to pop your cover plate off and brush everything OUT (lint that stays in can mean, at best, your bobbin race freezes up and throws off the timing or, at worst, a fire on your motherboard. We want to avoid those). If your machine needs to be oiled, do that when you clean the bobbin race. And don’t forget to change your needle! When I’m sewing daily, I change it about once a week. Needles are affordable enough that I’d rather change it “too often” than not enough. Dull needles can damage fabric, be a pain to work with, and can be more likely to break (YIKES!).
But HOLLYANNE, you might be thinking– my quilt is so big and my machine is so small! I know babe– it seems daunting. But take things slowly, tackle just a small area at a time, and push and shove that puppy through. Your machine is up to the task, and with a little elbow grease, y’all can have the free motion quilting adventure of a lifetime!