First Free-Motion Attempt

Last night, I pieced the back for Dad & Janet’s quilt – hadn’t planned on a pieced back, but I ended up about 8 inches short on my backing. It worked out well, though; I really love the effect of a pieced strip on the reverse side. I chose one of my favorite Snow Blooms fabrics (a gorgeous, deep red) and another from that line, as well. Once that was taken care of, I thought about the quilting process. Tying it would probably be quickest, and thus, wisest. However, I also thought about doing my first free-motion quilting. Putting the darning foot onto the Singer for the first time, I quickly basted up a scrap sandwich and had at it. Here’s the result, all non-stop til I ran out of bobbin thread:

Getting an even “wandering” effect is hard, as I suspected, as is maintaining an even stitch length. I started out with a fairly tight pattern and loosed up as I went along, but I seem to fall into the same pattern constantly – little fingers, as opposed to nice puzzle pieces. The top is simple layer cake squares, so I’m not sure free-motion quilting would look good on it. It seems to say to me, “simple straight lines.” Sadly, that’s going to take the longest, I fear… so I’m back to tying. But first… I gotta baste the sucker. Damn! Fortunately, it’s only 48″ x 48″, so perhaps it won’t be quite so bad… maybe? Maybe wandering, straight-ish lines… bah, wish I had more time to figure this out!

The hardest part of the free-motion quilting for me was the fabric sticking intermittently to the throat of the machine – it was hard to move smoothly. This piece was only about 20″ x 15″… can’t imagine wrangling an actual quilt around skillfully in there! Practice, practice, I guess. Once the holidays are passed, I can pull out the Seaside quilt maybe, and try my hand on that one. I’m looking forward to just doing stuff I wanna do again. 🙂

Also, I did figure out how to bind off last night – I think the leap of faith was just “dropping” the stitch once I’d pulled it off the right needle. I also figured out how to regulate tension a bit better by pulling on the working yarn. Bound off the dish/wash cloth, dropped down to a size 7 needle to see what smaller/tighter knitting is like. I think I’ve got a bit too tight, though, as it’s a bit stiff moving the stitches around on the needles. Still having weird looseness problems on the endmost stitches… I seem to be doing it wrong.

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13 responses to First Free-Motion Attempt


  1. I think your stippling looks great! I have only tried once and it was a total failure. I don’t have a darning foot yet.

  2. Hey, that looks damn good for a first attempt! I’ve put aside the mammoth quilt I was trying to stipple, and have been doing placemats instead. Gives me all the pleasure of piecing and quilting, with quick results, and I can stipple the bejeezus out of them in no time flat.

    • Erin

      Aw shucks, thanks, Megan. Placemats definitely have a lot of appeal – they’re small and doable, but still let me practice. Still, Mike and I almost never eat at the table, so they wouldn’t get used… I reckon I could just give them away. 😀

  3. I think your knitting sounds like typical newbie issues that clear up with more practice.

  4. I love this! It reminds me of coral, really beautiful!

  5. looks amazing. My SIL has a machine that she can move across large spaces.. is it called a long arm or something..
    Did you do this on a regular machine?

  6. elcie

    Hey – I have been lurking here for a bit. I am a self-taught, come-to-it-late, non-girly quilter myself, so I can relate to so much!

    Two things (well, three) – first, for a first shot your free motion looks fabulous. Second, your “sticking fabric” problem is probably because you are sewing too slowly. I know that seems anti-intuitive, but the slower you sew the harder it is to control your fabric. You need to go at a good medium pace (fast but not too fast) and you won’t have that problem. Third, if you are unhappy with the shape of your meander, try to practice with pencil and paper. Doodle, doodle, doodle until you are happy with the shapes you are making and then go to your machine. Once you have the shape in your head and your hand it will transfer to your sewing, I promise! (Okay, I’m done being pedantic now.)

    Merry merry to you, and happy quilting!

    • Erin

      Yay for crafty non-girly-girls! 😀

      Y’know, regarding the speed thing, the guy at the sewing machine shop told me “the faster the better,” but I just nodded and smiled, thinking he was insane. I’ll have to try speeding things up a bit to see how it goes. Your idea about doodling is a good one, too, I wouldn’t have thought of that since I’ve never been much of a drawer.

      And you’re not being pedantic! Thanks for the help and for reading. 🙂

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