Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Favorite Free Motion Quilting Tools

Besides having the basics like a sewing machine with the ability to drop the feed dogs, a free motion foot, a table at the correct height for you and comfy chair, these are the items that I rely on the most for achieving awesome free motion results on a domestic sewing machine.


These are the tools I use every time I sit down to free motion quilt (that plus a seam ripper too.) They are in no particular order and no one tool is more important than the other. Together they create the ideal conditions for my success in free motion quilting. They may or may not work for you, but hopefully one of them will.
  • Light
  • Silicone Spray
  • Sketchbook
  • Practice quilt
  • Foam stack
  • Sew Slip
  • Quilting gloves
Light: You definitely need good lighting in your sewing area. One over head light fixture is not going to provide you with enough light to see, especially if you quilt at night. Invest in some lamps to brighten your work space. I have 2 torch lamps ($8 ea. Target), 1 table lamp ($9 Target) , and the goose neck lamp you see pictured ($3 Walmart)  in addition to the builders grade single light bulb fixture on the ceiling. I like to keep the goose neck lamp right by the sewing machine and I move it around to different spots and can get the light right where I need it the most. The tiny little light bulb that comes on your sewing machine is nowhere near enough light for sewing. While you are at it, swap out all your bulbs for Reveal/daylight/full spectrum bulbs, you won't regret it!

Silicone Spray: This stuff is great for slicking up your machine bed and sewing table. I have to warn you though, this is NOT at all like the silicone spray at the hardware store. The stuff I use is from Sprayway and it is a dry spray, won't stain, and doesn't have a smell either. This stuff is used in the garment making industry so yes it is safe for fabrics and for your machine. Don't believe me? Alex and Ricky seem to think it's good stuff. You also have to be careful about over spray on wood floors. No it's not bad for wood, in fact it's a great polisher but it makes those wood floors super slick, especially in socks! It's not expensive at all ($5-$8.)  It is kind of hard to find locally but you can buy it online. The bad part is that it has to ship via ground mail so the shipping price is $6-$9!! If you are buying 1 can it won't be worth it but maybe you can get together with your guild or Local Quilt Shop and order a larger quantity to make it worth it. The other down side is that your husband will be stealing it to use it in his workshop!

Sketchbook: Success in free motion quilting will come if you practice practice practice! You don't have to sit down at the machine every time. Sketching your quilting patterns over and over is as useful as doing it with the machine. Doing this will make your patterns second nature and they will just flow when you actually sit at the sewing machine.
One of my many sketch books, I won this one from Ashley, and it matches the fabric I won from Ryan.

Any sketchbook will do as long as you can write on it. I even use the cheap composition books with the Kindergarten writing paper in it. The lines are useful for practicing feathers and loops. Keep it with you so you can sketch when you see a really cool pattern or to practice when you're waiting for something.

Practice Quilt: I've had the same practice quilt for over a year now. As you can see from the picture it is well used. It measures about 20"x20" and it sits by my sewing machine. Anytime I am going to free motion I start on this quilt first. It helps me loosen up and to get into my groove! It also helps me figure out any tension problems before moving on to the actual quilt. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to skip this step and move straight to the main quilt. This is always a huge mistake for me. If I try to skip the practice quilt I will end up with birds nests, tension problems, or uneven stitches.

Foam Stack: Yup, you read that right and it's exactly as stated, a stack of foam! Basically I purchased a sheet of craft foam and cut several pieces about the size of a business card and then glued them together with Elmer's glue. I used seven layers of foam in my stacks. What in the world is this for? Think of it as a Quilter's Mouse (and no you can't take my name!) It is meant to sit just under the palm of your hand just like a computer mouse. The foam is extremely grippy and you don't need much pressure in order to move your quilt around. I like this a lot because my hands feel more relaxed than when I try to quilt with just gloves. It may sound absurd but don't knock it 'til you try it! Sometimes I quilt with a mouse in each hand and other times with one, it just depends on what I'm doing.

Sew Slip: This is a Teflon coated sheet that sticks to your machine or your craft table with out tape or glue. I really like the generous size when compared to other sheets out on the market. I tried both the Supreme Slider and the Sew Slip

Quilting Gloves: Last but not least are my red quilting gloves. Yes they have to be red. The blues and yellows don't work nearly as well as the cute red ones! Really the only thing necessary in quilting gloves are the little white gripper dots on the finger tips and the palms. A pair of gardening gloves would probably work. A pair of footed pajamas would work if you wanted to give it a go at quilting with your feet. I use both my quilting gloves and my Quilter's Mouse together 95% of the time. It just gives me that extra grip I need.

That's what works for me. I'm always open to suggestions though. What free motion tool can you not live without?

~Norma

5 comments:

Gene Black said...

Oh! I had forgotten about the "Quilter's Mouse" - you told us about that at a guild meeting.

I have to make a couple of those. I wonder if I can find the foam I have, or if I will have to go buy more! LOL.

I used rubber gloves last night, they worked but they made my hands sweat.
I have a supreme slider AND the genie bobbin washers. (I also love my basting gun, it really helps keep the layers together while I slide the quilt around.

Ms Muffin said...

Thanks so much for this! I am totally new to quilting. I am working on a baby quilt and will have to actually quilt it at some point! :-) (To be honest - pretty horrified of it!) I am not too sure yet whether I will do it free motion or just go straight - as it is my first. We'll see. But your post has been so helpful. Most of the things I have never heard of (as I am not in quilting) like the gloves or the mouse ...

robingal1 said...

could you please post "how to use a 'craft mouse'"? thank you.

Wood Floors Frisco said...

No it's not bad for wood, in fact it's a great polisher but it makes those wood floors super slick

a.niza said...

I googled and came here..
May I know..which one of these Sew Slip & Supreme Slider would you recommend? I'm on Bernina Aurora 440QE with the plexiglass table extention and I do FMQ up to Kingsize quilt. It would be a great help if you'd do a review on your blog on those two product. THanks in advance!!

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