Learn to Free Motion Quilt for Beginners

Kimberlee Tanner

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners

Last week we made our Floppy quilt, a super easy quilt pattern perfect for the beginner quilter. We included a tutorial to teach you how to make your first quilt top. This week, we are ready to quilt your first quilt.

There are different ways to finish your quilts. You can use a walking foot or regular foot and simply sew straight lines across the top. You can also hand quilt it, tie it, or send it off to someone else. However, if you want to explore the world of free motion quilting, this week we have you covered. We are sharing a tutorial on a very basic free motion quilting motif that is perfect for the beginner quilter.


Quilt Backing and Batting

Before we can quilt our quilt, we need to prepare the backing and batting. I recommend cutting your backing 6-8 inches bigger than your top, this will give you ample room for error and make sure everything fits. When making a backing, you can either buy a wide back fabric (108″ wide approximately), or make your own by sewing two pieces of fabric together along the selvage. This will give you a piece between 80-90″ long. If using these methods, often the length of the quilt will fit on this length, and you will simply need to account for the width. For our floppy quilt, the finished top should be around 58″ (measure your top to make sure you have an accurate measurement), so you’ll need one wide back piece at 64″ or two regular widths of fabric at 64″ each. Then, I like to sew them together with the selvages still attached to make sure I have a straight line. I’m going to use a super wide seam, close to 1″, to sew them together. After they are sewn, I’ll trim them down to about 1/2″ and make sure to iron the seam and my backing really well.

When the back is done, now you need to prep the batting. Batting comes on a roll you can buy in yards, or in a package. I like to cut my batting 4-6 inches bigger than my top. I’m recommending a cotton/poly blend for your first quilt. It’s affordable, easy to find, and a great all purpose quilt batting. I recommend hitting up a quilting store to purchase your batting. Don’t just go for the cheapest option, it’s worth it to invest in a quality batting for the inside of your quilt. Some brands I’ve used and recommend are Hobbs, Warm and Natural, and Quilter’s Dream.

Layering the Quilt

To baste the layers together, you can either use a basting spray or safety pins. If using safety pins, you’ll want to put them about 5″ apart all over the quilt. I prefer to use a basting spray, it holds well and eliminates the need to take pins out as you quilt.

Find a flat surface and lay out your backing. If using spray, spray a light coating all over the back. I like to work on a half of the quilt at a time. After it’s sprayed, lay your batting down and smooth it out, ensuring there are no wrinkles in the backing or batting. Then do the second half. If you are using pins, you’ll simply be layering here, no need to apply the spray. After it’s layered, a quick hit with the iron will set the spray. Then repeat the process with the quilt top, again ironing it after it’s all smoothed out.

If you are using pins, you’ll put them in after all three layers are together.

Quilting the Quilt

Now we are on to the fun part. Quilting the quilt. You’ll want to make sure you have a free motion quilting foot on. Also, I recommend filling extra bobbins from the start. I would start with at least 3-4. This way you won’t have to stop and fill one each time you run out. I used a basic white thread for my top and matched the bobbin thread to the top. You could also easily use a light gray or yellow, both of which should blend with multiple colors easily. Lower your feed dogs, and we are ready to go.

I like to roll up the excess quilt, it keeps things neater. I also recommend starting in the middle, that way you are working the extra fabric out from under your throat as opposed to having to fit more in. After you’ve doodled the design and feel comfortable with it, pull your bobbin thread up and just go for it. We are going to quilt this design in rows, so start on one side of the quilt and work your way all the way to the other border. Don’t worry about if it stays perfectly straight, mine didn’t and you can’t even tell. When you get to the opposite end, I recommend breaking your thread and moving back to the other side. You’ll secure all the loose threads in the binding, so don’t worry about them. After you’ve finished the first half of the quilt, flip it around and start back in the middle, working your way through the other half.

That’s it, you are done! Don’t forget to relax your shoulders, take breaks, and remind yourself that you are a beginner and that’s a great place to be! Getting your quilt done is more important than it being perfect at this point. The more you quilt, the more comfortable you will feel and the better your quilting will get.

Next week, we will learn how to machine bind your quilt and then it will be ready to use! Don’t forget that you can get the pattern in our subscriber library. If you still need to subscribe to our emails, you can do so below. If you post photos of your top on social media, please tag us @onwilliamsstreet. We’d love to see it and we are an awesome cheering squad.

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