Thinking of trying free motion quilting but don’t know where to start?
What tool(s) would you need?
Well, honestly there is only one tool that you need to get started.
and that is — the FREE MOTION QUILTING FOOT or a darning foot.
…of course you’ll need your sewing machine too but that is obvious right?
A standard basic machine may not come with a free motion quilting foot, but there are generic brands that fit most machine or you can find the one that is made for your machine ( Brands like Janome, Bernina, Brother, Singer may have their own brand foot which would suit better to their machine). Make sure you get the right one that suits your machine (low shank, high shank, horizontal bobbin etc matters in some cases).
Read on to decide which foot should you get.
Low Shank or High Shank?
Types of Free Motion Quilting Foot
Spring formed free motion quilting foot – hopping mode
A free motion quilting foot allows the fabric the be moved as you pedal through the stitches. Most of the domestic machine will have a hopping mode free motion quilting foot which means that the foot will hop as you press the pedal, allowing the fabric to be freely moved when the foot is hopping up.
The hopping of the foot is controlled by a spring mechanism. If you look at the free motion quilting foot, you will see a spring coiling around the foot and there is a small bar perpendicular to the foot. This small bar is made to rest on the machine screw bar as in the photo below.
As the needle bounce up, the screw bar will lift the foot allowing the free motion movement to be possible.
Instead of spring, some free motion quilting feet may have a slightly different mechanism. For an example, does not have spring but instead an arm that rests on the screw bar to work in similar way. The arm that rest on the screw allows the foot to flick up and down as the needles bob up and down.
Non-hopping spring foot
There are also those free motion quilting foot that does not hop – they are basically floating too. They do not have the bar but may have a spring to allow slight bouncing. I love this type of foot as they are great for ruler work. Besides, hopping is kind of distracting. However, this type of foot does not work with all type of machine. I have a convertible free motion foot which does not hop as much and I love it. More on that later in this section.
Open toe, Closed Toe
Open toe or closed toe types are the common choices available for various free motion quilting feet.
Generally, you will want to choose an open toe to see better of what you are quilting. Especially if you are doing custom quilting and are particular about seeing where the needle punch. If you doing an allover quilting, this may not be necessary. However, I find that once I bought my open-toe foot, I never really used the closed toe anymore. They are kind of redundant. So, if you would only want to buy once, I recommend buying the open-toe one.
Convertibles free motion quilting foot
With my current machine, Janome Horizon– there is this option of a convertible foot. This is also available for low shank Janome sewing machine. The great thing about this is that, you’ll get all 3 types of foot to cover different purposes.
I personally love the large quilting foot as it can go over thick seams easily making it smoother to move the quilt about as you free motion quilt.
If you can’t seem to find your suitable free motion quilting foot, I recommend checking here. Use this link and code “fivepercent” to get 5% off your order. They have various sewing machine feet for all kinds of machine and they have great service. Just pop and ask!
Free Motion Quilting on a standard domestic sewing machine
I started free motion quilting on my Janome DC2050 when I literally knew nothing about free motion quilting. All I know is I can't afford to send my baby quilts and small projects to the long-armer, so I'd have to learn this machine quilting thing myself. I watched a couple of youtube videos and I saw this foot hopping up and down from the machine and I didn't have that foot with my machine.
So, what I did next was that I bought the free motion quilting foot for my Janome DC2050 as it did not come with one, and started quilting and practicing on small projects like potholders and placemats. I was happy to see the foot hops around I was practicing from that moment.
Once my skill was bearable, I moved on to quilting real quilts.
Here is my Janome DC2050 with the quilt that I quilted like crazy. I had lots of fun and practice with this quilt. The printed fabric hides most of the mistakes so, I was getting practice with less stress. You should try to do so. I find that solid fabrics tend to show up the worst which will be discouraging to keep going.
Practice free motion quilting on busy prints, they hide imperfection so you'll be less stress and won't be discouraged.
Here is the finished quilt from that practice, I still love the quilt and it is hanging at my mom's home as a feature wall.
Read more about the quilt here.
I guess, what I am trying to convey here is that you don't need a fancy machine to start free motion quilting and you can quilt a real quilt even on the classic standard sewing machine. The only thing you need is the free motion quilting foot. If you have one already - you are ready to start!
Of course, as I go through more and more practice and learned from trying and errors, research and reading through all the available tutorials out there I have found a couple more tools that helped me better my free motion quilting. I have listed some of that in this post and how they can help. Check that out if you have more budget and keen on free motion quilting, OR if you have started and would like to improve your skill and ease free motion quilting.