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Free Motion Quilting 101: Getting Started with a Fun and Rewarding Technique

Free motion quilting (FMQ) is a technique used to add texture and personality to a quilt as well as hold the fabric in place. Unlike traditional quilting, which involves stitching in straight lines, FMQ allows the quilter to move the quilt sandwich under the needle in any direction to create intricate and unique designs.

To produce the best FMQ, it is important to use the right equipment, practise, experiment with different designs, practise, and then practise some more.

Here are some tips to help you produce high-quality FMQ:


To get started with FMQ, you will need a few pieces of equipment:

  • a clean sewing machine whose feed dogs can be dropped or covered (essential),

  • a free motion quilting foot suitable for your machine (essential – don’t get a cheap version),

  • quilting gloves (very useful),

  • a decent needle (Schmetz Super Stretch 90/14 needles are great)

  • decent thread (I prefer Aurifil 50 weight) and a quilting hoop or frame.

  • Free motion slider sheet (some people find these useful but, I don’t use one)


Free motion quilting requires practise and patience. And get used to not twisting your quilt, you are in charge of moving the quilt under the needle in all directions.

Start with simple designs and meanders, then gradually work your way up to more complex patterns as you gain confidence and skill. Practise on A4 size fabric or small projects before moving on to larger quilts. It’s tempting to practise with your more inexpensive fabrics and threads but you won’t get the same results, so always try to use the fabrics and threads you will use for your project.

When you are first practising any design, use a thread that contrasts with your fabric so you can see where the pain points are. When you are doing the real project, use a matching thread then any stitching mishaps won’t be seen.

To get even stitches, you will need to learn how fast to move your fabric and needle. This only comes with practise and will be unique to every quilter and machine.

Slow stitching is not always best! But neither is too fast!!

When you first start, you may get ‘eyelashes’ on the back of your quilt. Before you start changing the tension on the machine try re-threading then speeding up or slowing down. If you are still having trouble, try adjusting the tension in small increments either way before practising again.

The benefits of free motion quilting are many, including:

  1. Creativity: FMQ allows quilters to express their creativity and individuality through their designs. With endless possibilities for unique designs and patterns, free motion quilting can be a fun and rewarding way to explore your artistic side.

  2. Personalisation: Free motion quilting can add a personal touch to your quilts that cannot be achieved with traditional quilting techniques. By incorporating your own designs and patterns, you can create a one-of-a-kind quilt that reflects your personality and style.

  3. Texture: FMQ adds texture making it more interesting and visually appealing. By experimenting with different stitch lengths and designs, you can create a tactile experience that enhances the overall look and feel of your quilt.

  4. Quilting efficiency: Free motion quilting can be a more efficient way to quilt, especially for large projects. Because you have complete control over the movement of the fabric, you can quilt in any direction and complete the project faster than with traditional quilting methods without having to turn and wrestle your quilt under the machine.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different designs and techniques. Try out different thread types, colours and patterns to see what works best for you, your machine and your project. Keep track of your progress in a quilting journal or label your practise pieces to help you refine your technique over time.

Become a member and let us know how you get on in the comments.

Happy Stitching!


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