Free Motion Quilting – Stops and Starts

Starting and stopping a seam when you are using a traditional presser foot is easy. You just reverse and stitch over the beginning stitches a couple of times. But how do you start and stop a seam when you are free motion quilting?

The answer is really simple, but if you have never done free motion quilting, it might not be so obvious to you.

You will need to stitch over the beginning and ending stitches of your seam, just like when you are straight line quilting.   But when you lower the feed dogs to allow you to move the quilt where you want it, you lose the option of reversing.

It is still possible to stitch over the beginning and ending stitches. Actually it is easier than reversing and forwarding back and forth. When free motion quilting, start the stitch and simply stitch over it three or four times before moving the fabric.  Do the same when ending. Just leave the fabric in place and stitch over several times. This locks the stitch in place and secures the seam at both ends.

There is no need to stitch forward then backward when you are free motioning a start or end stitch. Free motion starts and stops eliminate the concern of backing up slightly off the first stitches. Because you do not move the fabric until the stitches are locked, there is no chance of the stitches getting out of alignment.

Those who are just beginning to do free motion quilting should practice on small projects or test quilt blocks before moving onto the first project. Practice the stops and starts; then, move onto practicing your quilt patterns.

Stippling is usually the easiest free motion quilt pattern to do. Stippling is a series of squiggles or loops that never connect. One builds on the other without ever closing. In a way, each line echoes the previous.

If your stippled project were to be judged, it would be important for none of those lines to touch or cross and for the width between them to be consistent throughout. If you are quilting for fun and practice, don’t fret over such minor details. Intersecting lines add character…when you are not having your quilt project judged in a competition.

Once you have the hang of moving a quilt sandwich around with the free motion technique, you can move onto quilting specific patterns. The easiest way to do this is to mark the patterns directly onto your project using a water soluble writing utensil. Simply move the quilt sandwich, carefully planning to sew on the quilt lines you have marked.

Quilt stencils are a very easy way to transfer a quilt design to your project. Since they are generally made from plastic sheets, they last a good long time and can be reused numerous times.

You might also trace a pattern from a book, magazine, or Internet resource to use for your free motion quilt pattern. Keep the patterns you choose to transfer simple at first. They will be both easier to trace and to stitch. Transferring these kinds of patterns is a little trickier than using a plastic stencil. When you work with paper, there can be a tendency for it to slip.

In just a little time, your free motion quilting skills will improve from beginning to end. You will transfer patterns more quickly and accurately. Your stippling stitches will become more even, and your projects will take on the look of those done by an experienced quilter. And you know they will be sturdy because you know the proper way to lock in those start and stop stitches, too!

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