While you have the option to hand quilt, machine quilting is my favorite way to finish a quilt. Specifically free motion quilting. Free motion quilting, in particular, opens up a world of possibilities, enabling you to create stunning designs and textures on your quilts. 

Free-motion quilting is a technique where you manually move the fabric under the needle of your sewing machine, rather than relying on the machine’s feed dogs to move the fabric forward. This technique gives you complete control over the direction and movement of your stitches, allowing for endless design possibilities. 

You can free-motion quilt using a domestic sewing machine with the right technique and finish your quilt with various designs. It is possible to quilt even large quilts on your home machine. Finishing your own quilts on your home sewing machine is satisfying and cost-effective. 

You can watch the video tutorial below on how to get started with quilting a large quilt on a home machine, but I also break it all down in the post below:


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Setting Up Your Quilting Space for the Home Machine Quilting:

First, clear a spacious area for quilting, ensuring you have enough room to maneuver your quilt sandwich. This means clearing out the area around the sewing machine. I recommend quilting on a large table if you can or have your table against the wall to ensure your quilt does not fall off and drag the movement. 

Quilting without long arm machine

Do you need a special domestic machine to quilt?

Not really. however, the large machine does make it easier to quilt. You can see some options for the larger throat machine HERE>

The throat space was one of my key features when I upgraded my sewing machine. However, even with the basic sewing machine you absolutely can finish quilting your quilts too. It will be a little harder and take longer to complete as you’ll have to adjust a lot more as compared to quilting with a larger sewing machine.

I recommend that you try free motion quilting on what you already own first and start practicing with smaller projects like a baby quilt or a throw quilt.

Preparing Your Quilt Sandwich:

Basting your quilt well before quilting is very important as this will ensure no puckering as you quilt. I like to spray-baste and double-secure it with pins as well. Make sure all the three layers, the quilt top, the batting and the backing fabric are flat as you baste. I baste on the floor these days as that is what is easiest for me at this time, you can check that out HERE> 

You can also opt for wall basting like this HERE> or baste on the table by sections like this HERE>

Choosing the Right Needle and Thread:

Select a quilting needle appropriate for your fabric and batting. I like to use 90/14 needle size with the larger eye (top stitch) as this is best for free motion quilting. My recommendation is this needle HERE>

As for threads, use high-quality quilting thread that complements your fabric and won’t break easily during quilting. I recommend using Superior Thread or Aurifil thread as these two have NEVER failed to work well for my quilts. 

Setting Up Your Sewing Machine:

Lower the feed dogs or cover them with a feed dog cover plate to disengage them. 

​You can also use the extension table if you have one as the extension table will help support the weight of the quilt and you’ll have more areas of quilting at one time as a lot more of the quilt are on the same level with the needle plate. 

Attach a darning foot or free-motion quilting foot to your machine, allowing the fabric to move freely under the needle. There are various quilting foot in the market, so make sure you get the one that fits your machine. My machine is larger and has a high shank and I prefer to use a clear foot or an open-toe foot so I can see the stitches as I quilt. 

​Put on a Supreme Slider Teflon Sheet to help reduce friction between your quilt and the machine. I highly recommend this as it does make a difference in how smoothly you can move the quilt. 

Adjusting Tension and Stitch Length:

Once you’ve got those setup, Test your machine’s tension settings on a scrap quilt sandwich to achieve balanced stitches.

Set your stitch length to zero or as low as possible to disable the feed dogs. and practice easy wavy motions to see if the tension is right. 

Practicing Your Technique and Free Motion Quilting Designs:

Before quilting on your actual project, practice drawing the design on paper to familiarize yourself with the movements required. To minimize stopping and starting. Usually the design revolves around getting continuous line designs.  When you practice doodling, notice where you can stop and start to get smooth transitions. This makes a big difference too! 

What design should you quilt?

This will depend on the look of the quilt you’re looking for, the textures, and the time frame for the quilting process. Custom quilting generally takes a longer time and overall quilting is much easier to complete especially the larger motif and scale. 

Practice on a small practice quilt sandwich. Find a quilting speed that allows you to maintain control over the fabric while achieving smooth, even stitches.Practice quilting in different directions—forward, backward, and side to side, and see which one is the easiest for you to do. 

You can find 20+ design to try HERE>

Quilting Your Project:

Find the middle of the quilt and make a mark so that you can find it later. You’ll want to begin quilting in the center of the quilt and work your way outwards to prevent puckering. You can see how to do this in this blogpost HERE>

If you have a big quilt, try and squish the bulk of the quilt in the throat as tight as possible. When quilting from the center out, you’ll be sure to work your way out from the hardest area towards the edges which is easier to quilt as you’ll have less bulk in the throat area of your regular sewing machine. 

Before starting on a large quilt, it’s helpful to break down your quilting plan into manageable sections.  In general, you can quilt a quarter of the quilt, but if you’re working with a large quilt, even a quarter of the quilt may require a couple of sittings. This approach makes it easier to tackle the quilting process step by step, reducing overwhelm and ensuring consistency across the quilt. 

Quilting a large project can be physically demanding, so it’s essential to provide adequate support for the weight of the quilt. Consider using a large table or quilting frame to support the bulk of the quilt while you work. Additionally, invest in quilting gloves with grippy palms to help maneuver the fabric smoothly under the needle, reducing strain on your hands and wrists. And remember to take breaks!

Quilting a large project can be time-consuming, so don’t forget to take regular breaks to rest and recharge. This not only helps prevent fatigue and strain but also allows you to step back and assess your progress with fresh eyes. Use breaks to stretch, hydrate, and admire your work-in-progress from a distance to ensure you’re on track with your quilting goals.

Use both hands to guide the fabric smoothly under the needle, maintaining a consistent stitch length and tension. and remember, you are only working to cover a small section at a time. Make sure the palm of your hand is moved accordingly and remember to stop now and then to evaluate your motion.By working on small sections, focusing on those small sections at a time,  you’ll be able to finish the entire quilt with ease. I promise. Just don’t overdo it when it comes to pushing through the finish line, especially for a large quilt. Good things take time. 

Now, though if you’re a total beginner, I highly recommend that you start with smaller quilts or baby quilts. The quicker finish will give you more encouragement to later work on larger quilts with your home sewing machine. 

Finishing Touches:

Once you’ve completed quilting the entire project, take the time to inspect your work for any missed stitches or areas that need touch-ups. Use a handheld mirror or camera to check hard-to-reach areas and ensure consistency across the quilt. It is also time to tie off thread ends and trim any excess threads once you’ve finished quilting your design.

For more quilting tips, make sure you also check these blogposts out:


Free motion quilting is a skill that requires practice and patience, but the results are well worth the effort. With the right tools, techniques, and practice, you can create beautifully quilted projects that showcase your creativity and craftsmanship.


  1. Mea Cadwell Reply

    I’ve seen some people prefer to do FMQ with their sewing machine perpendicular to them as opposed to the normal way of sewing. I haven’t tried it yet but am thinking of doing so to see if it makes it easier.

  2. Pingback: Together Quilt Finish: A Heart Quilt – The Little Mushroom Cap: A Quilting Blog

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