Friday, July 6, 2012

Free Motion Stitching

Before we begin, let's just get one thing straight - I am not a seamstress in any way, shape or form.  I DO have a sewing machine, it's nothing fancy, and I DO use it to sew an occasional tear in clothing or a blanket.  I have, on occasion, used it for a craft project. But most of the time, it's sits idly catching dust.  I have a few dear friends that own very nice free motion quilting machines - because THEY QUILT!  That is an art form I cannot wrap my head around...too much measuring! I can, however, wrap my head around a messy, free form looking stitch!  You will need to have these things on or for your machine: 

#1:  A Free Motion Quilting Foot.  
#2:  Retractable feed dogs.
#3:  Tension dial.

First off, this is what my machine's version of a free motion quilting foot looks like.  It easily replaces my everyday pressure foot. See that small screw on the left?  It comes with it's own screw-driver!

I didn't get a picture of my tension setting.  But, my machine dial rotates to the number 8. I like to keep my setting around a 7 or just below.  If the tension is too loose, you have loopy back sides (oh! the funny jokes that just popped into my head! loopy back sides!) ...and if you have the tension too tight, your thread will fray and snap. Play around with your machine and see what works best for you.

The next two pictures show the feed dogs. You will see the top picture shows the feeders UP - as you would have them in normal sewing.  The bottom picture shows the feeders DOWN - this is what you need for free motion stitching.  Most machines will have some type of switch for you to lower the feed dogs.  Mine is directly in back of my pressure foot - on the rear of the machine (what is with all the "rear and back side jokes going off in my head???)

Don't be envious of my photog skills...


You want to make sure that as you start stitching you are holding the fabric with both hands. Some people use rubber gloves or gloves with some type of grip so that they can have more control over the fabric.  I like the really "organic" look to mine - yeah, that's what we'll call it..."ORGANIC".   Even though you are holding the fabric, you may feel a little out of control.  Just take your time, try a few practice runs!  I chose to stitch a simple heart for this example. You can really start any place on your shape that you want, what ever is comfortable for you. With the heart, I started at the center point and worked upward.  When stitching flowers, I start with the petals.

See how "organic" my stitching is? (insert raucous laughter here)  I usually go over my shape 2 or 3 times, just for dimension and interest.  But, many artists just do one simple line which looks great.

After you have finished stitching you will want to trim all the excess strings. You can then trim your shape with a straight edge or get creative with scissors or fraying, etc.

Once the piece is finished, you don't notice the major imperfections, you just notice that the piece has "personality".

To simply finish it off, I used permanent ink to stamp the lettering, and added some vintage bakers string. This could be a gift tag, ornament or just a hanging thingamajig.

Some other fun things I've made are these bunnies.  My children and I made them Easter morning from a hand drawn pattern.  Before sewing the body together, we free motion stitched his little tie and belt.  The flower was stamped with blue paint, then stitch over the top.  We had so much fun making them.

Isn't her one snaggle tooth hilarious?  She must think a large flower will detract anyone who might stare... 
No, that's not a sock around my neck!  It's a TIE!

It's also been fun making flowers for headbands, pins, garlands, etc.  These particular flowers were hand painted onto black fabric.  Then, stitched over the top.  I then single crocheted two long strands of white cotton thread and attached the flowers to them. It ties at the base of the neck.

Now onto some good eye candy...enjoy these other ideas for free motion stitching...and then...GET OUT YOUR SEWING MACHINES!!!


Happy Stitching!

My youngest child and I - feeling the LOVE!!  Can't you see it in his face?


  1. This is an amazing post, I didn't know you owned a sewing machine, and the bunnies are adorable, I cracked up with the little comments. Great post. Love Ya Em!!

  2. inspiring emily, I love the look of the free motion stitching, it's seems so random, yet its art.
    still...I will NOT get out my sewing hates me.
    thank you for sharing.

  3. Very cute.Free Motion embroidery/thread play has so much more potential to create. Enjoy!


  4. Such a great post! This inspires me to want to learn how to use my new ( several years old, new ) sewing machine that I'm unsure what happened to the manual. The picture is amazing too! It looks like you!
    XOXO, Shannon

  5. I love this idea! I have been wanting to learn this for awhile now.... thanks cutie girl, I heart you!