Ever since my Mother-in-law gifted Quinn a beautiful baby blanket featuring Free Motion Quilting, I have been obsessed with learning how to do it and then showing you Prudent Mamas. Imagine my delight when I found that Vanessa from Lella Boutique and Heidi from HoneyBear Lane had already done the work for us. Thanks ladies! Don’t forget, any comment you leave this week could win you some Sparkly Kreinik Thread.

Learn all about Free Motion Quilting after the jump.
Take it away! 
My name is Vanessa and I am thrilled to be sharing my machine-quilting tutorial with you today!  I’m from Utah but currently reside in Florida where my husband attends law school.  We have been married seven years and just had our first baby, Olive, six months ago. I am lucky to be home to take care of my sweet family and have spent the last six months trying to figure out how to best share my creativity now that time will allow it.

I have been quilting since I was sixteen but had little time to do it because of my former full-time banking career.  I created Lella Boutique and am slowly adding items to my Etsy shop where I accept custom orders for quilts, stitcheries, and other decorative items.  I’ve also started a blog to document my crafting adventures while sharing the tutorials with you.  I just found out that a couple of my stitcheries will be featured in McCall’s Quick Quilts in the upcoming May issue!

One of the first things people notice about my quilts is my swirly, freehand quilting.  This machine-quilting method is not only stunning–but surprisingly simple.  It is perfect for small projects like baby quilts and table runners.  For larger projects, I recommend taking your quilt to a professional who will be equipped with a long-arm quilting machine.

Let’s begin!

Careful basting of the quilt beforehand is absolutely essential so the quilt layers won’t shift during freehand movement.  Here are a couple of tips to help ensure successful basting…

  • Prior to basting the quilt and batting layers together, iron the quilt front and back pieces with a starch spray.
  • Make sure the back piece and batting are slightly larger than the quilt top.  (If any kind of shifting occurs, you’re covered!)
  • Use a good quality basting spray.  I love Sullivan’s Original Quilt Basting Spray.
  • As you baste each side to the batting, smooth away any wrinkles.  For particularly difficult wrinkles, lift that corner of the quilt and gently lay down again–smoothing it as it lands on the batting.
  • Once the quilt is basted together, insert safety pins throughout the quilt–another precaution used to prevent shifting.

The next step is to prepare your sewing machine.  Not just any presser foot will work–you need to change to a darning foot.  (If you don’t have one, check with the manufacturer of your machine to see if they make one.) Lower the feed-dog on your machine to allow free movement of the fabric.

Position a corner of the quilt under the machine. Lower the foot onto the fabric.  Activate the “needle stop down” feature on your machine so the needle will stay in the fabric when you need to take pauses.

Using both hands, move the fabric around in a random swirl pattern.  Make frequent pauses as needed to adjust the surrounding fabric, remove safety pins, etc.

Don’t let your quilt hang over the edge of the table–the weight of the quilt will pull on the needle and cause unnecessary tension, not to mention make it difficult to work.  Keeping the quilt on the table (or at least your lap) will make it easier to maneuver.  Here’s a video to help show you what this process should look like.  (Do NOT feel the need to go as quickly as I do–that’s how fingers get run over and quilts messed up.)

Practice, practice, practice!  Before you attempt this on the quilt you have been laboring over for weeks, do a test run on scraps until you feel comfortable. Also check the back side periodically to make sure no fabric has bunched up. (Your careful basting will help avoid this!) Should this occur, you will need to pick the stitches out, smooth the area, and resume.

Ta da! Congratulations!  Now you will want to quilt everything in sight.

Thanks Vanessa and Heidi! I can’t wait to try this out. Don’t miss out, visit HoneyBear Lane for great step-by-step tutorials and Etsy shop advice.

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