March 12, 2011

Silly String Quilting - Beginning Free Motion Quilting Tutorial

Remember silly string from when you were little?!?!? That stuff is the BEST! I'm calling this the silly string quilting tutorial, since that's what beginning free motion quilting kind of looks like :) Free motion quilting can be intimidating at first but you can’t let those thoughts cross your mind. It’s just quilting after all, and we’re here to have fun. I always wanted to do free-motion quilting but I had no idea that you could get a special foot (for ANY machine) and just go to it! Man, I wasted a lot of time thinking that free motion quilting required a fancy pants sewing machine and other magical equipment.

A few months ago, I ordered myself a fancy pants sewing machine and while I was waiting for it to arrive and I ran across Leah Day’s AWESOME blog called The Free Motion Quilting Project. She has all of these beautiful designs that she makes videos for with really relaxing voice over explanations. One of the best parts of her site is that if you scroll down on the right side, she has all her patterns searchable by difficulty level (Beginner, Intermediate … you get the idea!). On top of that, she has a great primer about all the things you need. This lists the attachments you’ll need, answers questions about thread tension, feed dog info, it’s all there!

SO you read the primer, you watch some videos and you think to yourself, “No problem, I’ll be a free-motion quilting star in no time.” Well, that may be true if you have a natural ability but you are more likely to end up with something like this:
This was my first attempt. Oh man, look at all those squiggles and big stitches LOL! Not nearly as cool as Leah Day but I kept working and now I can do lots of cool things and I bet you can too! But before you make a little quilt sandwich and pull out your quilting foot, I recommend you try a little exercise using pen and paper.

WARNING: I’ve been thinking about this a lot so there might be too much information, please don’t hesitate to ask a question if you want more information!

Before we start, think about what free motion quilting actually is. In free motion quilting at your sewing machine, the thread stays stationary and you draw by moving the fabric. That’s important to think about because when you are drawing with a pen, the paper stays stationary and pen moves. SO our minds are set up to write / draw by moving the pen not the paper. In free motion quilting, we need to switch our mindsets up a little so that we are moving the paper to draw, not the pen!

To do this exercise, we are going to move the paper, not the pen. You can hold your pen with one hand and move the paper with the other.

After you practice drawing a while, you are ready to start sewing. I recommend that you just try to make random lines at first. It’s going to look squiggly and beautiful, just go wherever the machine takes you. Your stitch lengths will probably be funky, that’s ok. You won’t know how fast to let your machine go, that’s ok. You’ll probably make mistakes, THAT’S OK. Just keep practicing.
Make loops, make hearts, write your name, make squiggles! And once your square is filled with lots of loopy, jagged and crazy squiggles, you will have a beautiful Silly String Square. HOORAY!!!

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