Tips for overcoming fear of free motion quilting

The bed runner design (there will be additional background fabric either end to hang over the side of the bed).

Phew! After much procrastination and preparation I am progressing through the quilting of the bed runner I’m making for my parents. It will be a gift to mark their Diamond Wedding Anniversary. Of course I want it to be perfect and, of course, that’s not possible.

I started writing the long version of this quilting story but decided to delete most of the details, add photos and give my tips for overcoming fear of free motion quilting 🙂

Tip 1: Begin with a bit of confidence boosting. After pin basting the bed runner I started out with some walking foot quilting: In (and out!) of the ditch stitching the patchwork seams to secure the layers followed by a change of thread and a simple top stitch design on the basket part of the Flower Basket blocks.

Walking foot quilting as seen on the back of the runner

Tip 2: Muscle memory is a real thing. Allocate time for drawing and/or stitching out designs until creating the shapes becomes second nature. I drew a full scale version of the Flower Basket blocks on paper (using a pen) and then drew out several different feather designs until I found the arrangement I liked best. Then using a pencil I drew, erased and redrew the design until it flowed with few hesitations or wobbles.

Tip 3: Check sewing machine is set up for free motion quilting and all is working well. Whilst stitching out my design on a practice sandwich I found I was having a problem with skipped stitches (where the top thread fails to catch the bobbin thread).

Leah Day has a useful blog post on the issue of skipped stitches in FMQ. From that I determined my darning foot was riding a bit high over the quilt sandwich allowing the fabric to bounce up with each pull of the needle. I adjusted the height of the foot and also changed to a new needle just to be on the safe side. Much better!

Tip 4: Set up the environment for a win! Have plenty of space and surfaces around the machine to hold the weight and bulk of the quilt. Relax your shoulders, listen to favourite music, be clear in your mind about your plan for the quilting design – which direction to stitch, any little markers in the patchwork that will guide you – take a deep breath and begin 🙂

Tip 5: Keep your drawings within eyesight. Really helpful if there’s a break in the flow or you find yourself hesitating, loosing your way or maintaining the scale of your design.

Tip 6: Take frequent breaks. Get up, stretch, focus your eyes on distant objects. Be prepared to step away for a longer break if you mind is starting to wander or you are feeling tense about the whole fmq process.

Tip 7: Don’t home in on the ‘imperfections’. When the quilting is finished step back, take in the overall effect and whatever you do NEVER point out the imperfections to anyone! 🙂

Phew! Now the four Flower Basket blocks are quilted I need to figure out how to quilt the rest of the bed runner…

I made a little video of my fmq efforts and posted it on my Facebook page.

Do you have any other tips for overcoming fear of free motion quilting?

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who are celebrating!



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