Rob is joined by Jenny of Missouri Star Quilt company as he demonstrates free motion quilting techniques for beginners.
Get the supplies here: https://www.missouriquiltco.com/land/mansewing/free-motion-quilting
Video Transcript (Download PDF):
Rob: I know how much all of you have been enjoying the skills and drills that we’ve created for you here at Man Sewing. Today we’re going to focus on sinc and rhythm and better than that I’ve got a special guest.
Rob: Ladies and gentlemen if you do not recognize this wonderful lady next to me, this is Jenny Doan from the MSQC.
Jenny: Hi Rob.
Rob: Hey Jenny, thanks for being here. And she is playing the role of free motion quilting guinea pig today. Did you know that?
Jenny: I didn’t know the guinea pig part. But, but I’m definitely a beginner.
Jenny: A pre-beginner actually.
Rob: And I am so thankful that you decided to come and do this with me. Literally, we were chatting about what would be fun. And she said, “I would kind of be interested, maybe in trying free motion. It looks fun but I have never done it at all.” I didn’t even let her practice or warm up. So you are getting Jenny’s very first free motion quilting stitching. One of the things we hear so often is how do we deal with rhythm and sinc and consistency in our stitches. It’s one of the first things whether we’re good or different than good at it. It’s something that folks often grade themselves or critique themselves on. And so I want to hopefully, really just help you get some real basic body mechanics and just a little bit of stitch rhythm.
Rob: And what I’m hoping is going to happen, and remember this is an experiment, is we’re going to all see you improve with each and every stitch as I believe we all do.
Jenny: Whew! I hope so.
Rob: It’s a lot of pressure. Can you handle it?
Jenny: I can handle it.
Rob: She can handle it.
Jenny: Well I’m game to try anything, right? I’ll try anything once.
Rob: Fantastic. I love that.
Jenny: Well not anything but most, most things.
Rob: So is it true that you have never free motion quilted?
Jenny: No, it is not true.
Rob: Ok, good. But you’ve tried a little bit.
Jenny: I have tried a little bit. So if I quilt on my machine it’s going to be straight line.
Jenny: Because that I’m comfortable with. I’m not a doodler.
Jenny: I tried to free motion quilt and I made some shapes that kind of looked like Kokopeli and that was like about eight years ago.
Jenny: So it is not, I would say it is not my thing. Can I be taught? Let’s see.
Rob: Probably, we’ll see.
Jenny: We’ll see.
Rob: Ok one of the easiest things to do for me as an educator is to literally hand you the loaded gun.
Rob: And see what happens. So I’m going to slide this. And before we go further, I apologize, I realize that some of you might be watching the first version of free motion skills and drills for you, even though we have several other videos out there that I want you to check out. So before we go any further on the bed of the sewing machine already, and I have an extension bed out here on the machine.
Rob: Folks at home don’t worry about this little black box. We are recording live everything Jenny is going to do. It’s a camera. So don’t worry about that. You don’t need that on your machine at home. The Sew Slip mat is like the Supreme Slider. It is a teflon on the top and it’s a silicone just so it sticks to the bed.
Jenny: Oh cool.
Rob: So this is going to turn our sewing machine into an ice skating rink.
Jenny: Oh cool. Ok, well that’s helpful.
Rob: It is because the more friction or drag causes fatigue. The more fatigue based on either friction or drag or body mechanics, the less time we get to enjoy our craft.
Jenny: So can any machine free motion quilt?
Rob: Yes actually it can.
Rob: But not all of them with as much ease. We do need to often get the feed dogs out of the way. That’s a whole other conversation for another day. Some folks like the feed dogs up actually because they can feel the rhythm.
Jenny: Oh interesting.
Rob: They’re not moving. They are at zero but they can feel the pace.
Jenny: I’ve never been much of a dancer.
Jenny: No rhythm.
Rob: I’m not allowed to dance or sing. Anyway
Jenny: So, so do you have your feed dogs down?
Rob: The feed dogs are down right now.
Jenny: And then you have this other foot on here?
Rob: Yes, I do, thank you. That is what’s considered a spring or a hopping free motion foot. There are several different versions out there. This is the most generic style foot. And it is my favorite because it literally goes up and down with each stroke.
Rob: And so you can feel and get a little bit more rhythm from that too. So.
Jenny: And do you have a video on how to like put this on and
Rob: I have videos, yeah.
Jenny: Ok because that would be, that was what would stop me right there. It would be like, well that foot, you know, so.
Rob: yeah, yeah, no I get it. And it’s so funny because I forget how much of this stuff some of us know. So thank you for asking those questions.
Jenny: Well it’s natural for you. You do it.
Jenny: This is what you do.
Jenny: It’s not natural for me.
Rob: No and watch because I literally am going to give her very little instructions. Although I’m going to bring in this stool behind you because for body mechanics I want you to be comfortably seated.
Jenny: Oh good. I want to sit. People always ask me, Is it easier to sew standing? Because I have videos where I’m standing. And I’m like, No, no, no, no. Alright. Hands?
Rob: Now as you get into the machine. yeah your hands. You’re the director.
Rob: Not only are you the talent but you’re the director, right?
Rob: So you’ve got your hands here. I often scoot them a little closer to the needle as I become more confident.
Rob: When you’re first starting a lot of folks want to do this and be further away but that can cause a lot of pucker and ripple in the quilt.
Jenny: Oh yeah I would just actually be probably pretty close to that needle.
Rob: Right, right. And then this is the Jane machine. There is no speed regulator on this one so it could go really fast when you get started. Let’s start with the very, very first thing which is a start and a stop. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to hang onto the needle thread itself.
Rob: And you’re going to take one stroke. And a lot of folks will do that
Jenny: Like that?
Rob: Yep. But I left you in needle down mode
Rob: So go ahead and take it out of needle down for a second. Perfect.
Jenny: Oh this one right here.
Rob: Either way. Now like a dental floss, slide that piece of thread under the foot and it’s going to bring the bobbin thread to the top.
Jenny: Oh just.
Rob: Let me show you if I can. I didn’t give you very good instructions. So we’re going to take this kind of holding it with both hands.
Jenny: Oh ok catch it.
Rob: And you’re going to catch it like a dental floss there, except I went over the foot.
Jenny: There we go. Ok
Rob: And what that does is that brings our bobbin thread up to the top too.
Jenny: Which keeps it from a globby knot on the bottom
Rob: Correct. Now we actually got two stitches in there. So go ahead and take a couple of more stitches to start. Ok. So then after we sew out of that position we’ll cut those thread tails.
Rob: So you’ve effectively done a start and a locking stitch, a knot basically. And you have your thread tails on the top so you’re already that much more successful.
Jenny: Whew! Holy smoke.
Rob: See, wasn’t that easy?
Jenny: I’m almost a pro.
Rob: Ok and we’ll see you next time at…
Jenny: No, no let’s learn
Rob: Let’s learn. Ok, so why don’t you try to just free motion a bit of a straight line. And I’m not going to tell you to go towards you or away from you. I want to see what you feel like
Jenny: Ok, I’m going to go this way.
Jenny: And my stitches aren’t the same size.
Rob: It’s ok.
Jenny: Whoa. Oop, I went right over them.
Rob: That’s ok. I’m going to stop you right there like that. So one of the first rumors we have at home is that if you cross threads bad things will happen. I want you to notice. Jenny and I both have slightly curly hair but we were not struck by lightning.
Jenny: Well today anyway.
Rob: That’s right. We locked the studio door so there’s probably a pile of the quilt police outside trying to get in to offer us citations but it’s not going to happen today.
Jenny: No, it’s not going to happen today.
Rob: No. and what’s neat is they can see that at home and what they
Jenny: Can I cut these?
Rob: Yeah, there should be little scissors next to you.
Rob: Ok, fantastic. Now with that
Jenny: So it’s ok to cross?
Rob: It’s ok to cross. It’s ok to do anything you like. Just like everything else you teach in quilting, it’s your thing. It’s what you want to do.
Rob: But there are some things that people look for in free motion machine quilting so right now your stitches in my opinion are just a little bit longer than most free motion machine quilting stitches.
Jenny: Which means I’m moving it too fast with my hands or I’m not sewing fast enough with my foot? Which?
Rob: I thought you said you’ve never done this before.
Jenny: Which one is it?
Rob: It’s both. Ok that’s exactly what I wanted to talk about. And if we could just focus on that concept for the rest of the video this would be awesome.
Rob: It is the rhythm or the dialing in of the stitches so yes. It is the balance between foot speed and hand speed. So what I teach folks to do is learn to run the machine slow.
Rob: Until they feel like the stitches are getting big.
Jenny: Alright, oh slow. Slow
Rob: Oh those are nice. That looks good. Ok and then if you start to feel like you’re waiting on the machine is when you start to pick up your foot speed but then you also have to increase your hand speed.
Jenny: I feel like I’m dragging it.
Rob: Ok, great so give it a little more gas pedal. And then after a few seconds you’ll start to try to feel that catching up of your hands.
Rob: You are awesome.
Jenny: I don’t feel awesome.
Jenny: I feel, I feel. I’m not a doodler, you know.
Rob: I have put you in the worst possible position ever. I gave you a blank piece of fabric and said, Do something that you’ve never really done before.
Jenny: No and I think it would be easier for me if I were like in a little box.
Rob: Meaning a, a, a patchwork box
Jenny: Like, like this feels like this huge space
Rob: Yes it does.
Jenny: It feels like no boundaries
Rob: Yes it does and a lot of us teach this way. And I did this to you on purpose as well because that can be
Rob: I know. Aren’t I rotten? And in fact it’s just the same so I can’t even flip it over and show you the beautiful floral that I want you to follow on top of the floral.
Rob: So yes, if you’re setting up sandwiches for the very beginning. Let’s try something else. Will you hit the thread cutter for me, please? Thanks. Let’s trade out
Rob: Ok. Because what I also have one of my squares or my blocks that didn’t go so well. So you can see here that I’ve ripped this out so many times I can’t get all the thread tails out. I have always found that quilting like this on a giant wide open canvas is very intimidating.
Jenny: It does feel intimidating.
Rob: You don’t know where to do. You don’t know what to do. And a lot of folks want to practice and they want to try. And they’ve always heard just start with a muslin sandwich. And that just doesn’t work because it’s so wide open.
Jenny: It feels too…
Rob: It really does. So I like to start people with like a big floral print like a fun…
Jenny: So then you follow
Rob: You just trace
Rob: You’re just tracing
Jenny: That’s a great idea.
Rob: And I don’t have that for you here today but what I also have found a lot of times we teach not looking at the whole design or the whole quilt. Like I’m not going to quilt the whole queen size quilt
Rob: In five minutes. But I might be able to quilt this triangle in 15 minutes. So I”m only going to think of this triangle right now. And the other thing you can often do, like you said you’re not much of a doodler, right?
Jenny: Uh, uh
Rob: You can do straight line work just as well. So I still want to keep talking about stitch consistency for folks but I want to show a couple different things. So one of our other good quilting rules is we start near the middle, ok?
Rob: I’m going to drop your presser foot for you because I put in up and I didn’t tell you that.
Rob: So why don’t you go ahead and practice your start one more time. And that was with pulling that needle thread out
Jenny: Ok so I need like two stitches
Jenny: And then we’re going to pull this. And I should have had more thread, shouldn’t I?
Rob: Uh huh.
Jenny: You’re like, uh huh! But I got it.
Rob: And I’m hoping it doesn’t work for you because I might be able to show you another trick
Jenny: It didn’t work.
Rob: That’s ok because the other trick is, yeah go ahead and try again with a little more thread. There you go.
Jenny: And put it underneath or stitch?
Rob: First take another rotation by hand
Jenny: Ok a rotation by hand. Ok.
Rob: There you go.
Jenny: That was a fast rotation. There we go
Rob: Uh huh. Sometimes I’ll pull the whole quilt to the side and then it will bring it out.
Jenny: Oh ok.
Rob: Yep so you can see where it came from over there. And it’s a little easier to get your hands and work with. So what I want you to try to do is go ahead and just lock that stitch in for me.
Jenny: Right there where I’m coming out?
Rob: Uh hum.
Jenny: Ok because I’m not right in the middle.
Rob: That’s ok
Rob: And then just drift over to this line close where that line. Perfect is right on the outside of your foot right there. And then while you’re stitching this time
Jenny: There we go.
Rob: I’m going to ask you to watch the edge of the foot along the seam. Now you have a guide.
Jenny: Alright. Wouldn’t this be easier to do with the feed dogs?
Rob: Absolutely. If you’re doing straight line stitching. But I wanted to point out something to you.
Rob: I took your mind off of the design.
Rob: Look how great your stitches are. Check this out. They’re perfect.
Jenny: I am amazing.
Rob: And your feed dogs are down.
Jenny: The feed dogs are down.
Rob: So remember as artists when we get overwhelmed in the concept of what, we get stressed about, we tighten up.
Rob: Body mechanics have to be loose. So you are being a wonderful guinea pig for me because this is what I was hoping. Because I have a feeling a lot of people at home that are watching the video are feeling this way. And they don’t have this interaction because a lot of times you watch the video you look at the book or whatever but you don’t quite get the Oh wow in that situation that’s how he did it. So now that you’ve been able to show yourself that you can really do it, right? Then what you start to do is practice getting that rhythm of the machine and the rhythm of your hands in a motif or design that you’re comfortable with. So whether you’re tracing
Jenny: So you ever draw a design on there?
Rob: I do often.
Rob: And sometimes I’ll draw it. You want to try that? I’ve got a chalk pencil
Jenny: No, it’s alright. I mean I would. I would probably feel more comfortable tracing a design.
Jenny: But I think for me part of the stopping thing is that, is that I don’t have a design. And you know I wish I could just sit down and play
Jenny: You know, and I don’t feel. That’s something that I would like to learn how to do. I don’t
Jenny: Feel comfortable with that.
Rob: You know there’s a couple of other
Jenny: All of us could trace.
Rob: Absolutely. John Flynn teaches it this way. He says get a coloring page that you like. Let’s say it’s Christmastime.
Rob: And you wanted to do a cool Christmas motif, say holly
Rob: Holly leaves and berries and stuff. Get that coloring page. Take a pencil and trace it 20 times on a pencil. Then go to a blank piece of paper and start drawing it. Then you immediately return to the sewing machine.
Jenny: That’s the muscle memory.
Rob: You’ll get the muscle memory. And if that doesn’t work you could always draw the holly over and over again on the quilt sandwich. Now for me when I mark I get into the overwhelmed feeling because the marking that I want to stay on the line. So my marking are sometimes are words. I write into this block, I might write the word swirls.
Jenny: Oh interesting. Right.
Rob: And therefore when I get there I know I’m doing swirls because the other was straight line and maybe I went through and I chalked it out that way.
Rob: So one of the hardest things to do in free motion for me especially being so wild and ADD is that I can’t stay focused long enough unless I do set a rule. So let’s say in this particular square I’m going to make three straight lines and then a curvy line. So let’s try that for the end of the video. What I want
Jenny: Now do I just go backwards?
Rob: yeah let’s try that.
Jenny: Or do I have to turn this around.
Rob: No. But you could. All of these questions, maybe we can make like a four hour video because you have so many great questions.
Jenny: I don’t think they’d like that very much.
Rob: Look at you adjust. That was awesome, Jenny. Did you see how you just adjusted right there?
Jenny: yeah because it was too slow.
Rob: Right. So while you’re playing with your three straight lines I’m going to point this out. Big, big stitches come from a slow machine and fast hands. You’re moving your fabric too quickly. Tiny, tiny stitches, they come from a very, very fast machine and very slow hands.
Jenny: Oop, I forgot to turn. I can’t get my curves. I’m going wrong. On the straight line.
Rob: Oh I’ve got another question I’ve got to ask you. One of my followers out there is a left-handed person. And if I remember correctly you’re left handed, correct?
Jenny: I am.
Rob: So when you’re free motion quilting do you find that you have a lead hand? I mean I know you’ve been doing it for all of eight minutes or ten minutes or whatever that little thing says across the bottom of the screen right now but
Jenny: I wouldn’t say I have a lead hand. I would say I need a massage.
Rob: Is that, is that a request?
Jenny: There we go.
Rob: A request. I was feeling like, as a right handed or a left handed machine quilter, just like an automobile pilot, I drive. I don’t steer left handed or right handed. But I cut right handed. You know what I’m trying to say.
Jenny: I cut right handed too, that’s interesting.
Rob: yeah, so I don’t know that free motion has a left handed right handed thing
Jenny: You know I think you’re pretty evenly
Rob: It’s like driving a car
Rob: Ok, I wondered if you felt the same way.
Jenny: yeah I think pretty evenly, especially if you put your hands, now when I’m sewing sometimes I do this. But I wouldn’t
Jenny: Do that free motioning because I’m worried about the fabric being nice and flat.
Jenny: I think.
Rob: I can’t stop. You’re asking so many good questions. Ok, so when I put you in the director’s mode, you are automatically basting. You were automatically smoothing for me.
Rob: Ok, the other thing I want to show is because you asked another great question and I think this is another myth we need to dispel right at this moment. Go ahead and drop your needle down position on for me. Do a few more stitches if you will. Oh I’m sorry go and travel. Ok. So there you are and now go ahead and stop. You’ve got yourself into a terrible spot. You asked earlier, can I rotate the quilt. My rule of thumb is if the needle is not moving and down in the quilt, you may certainly rotate the quilt any direction you need at this point.
Jenny: Ok so, so then if you wanted to
Rob: Absolutely. Maybe if you found that you’re better forward than backward or backward than forward. You can always adjust the quilt so that you’re driving down your best possible road.
Jenny: You know what it looks like to me, it looks like I do good as long as I keep going but when I stop my stitches get really big.
Rob: And you know what for me when I start up again I often take a couple of little stitches in the same place and you’ll see that in my work too. And so yeah, you’re learning to get the pace of the machine and have your hands adjust. Like you did in that first or that second run when you adjusted.
Jenny: And honestly so for me, you know people say all the time, they’ll compare themselves to other quilters and I tell them this is their journey, you know and, and it’s all about practice. And if they sew an hour today tomorrow they’re an hour better. So is that actually the same thing completely true with this. It’s really just practice.
Rob: I believe that 99% true.
Jenny: So you think there’s people who have a talent for it?
Rob: I think that people like even maybe myself because I love to draw. I took to machine quilting fairly quickly I believe. And fortunately that was a good thing for me because I really, that’s what I wanted to try. And so the free motion quilting for me is what got me into quilt making. So I’m glad that the Lord blessed me with
Jenny: Oh interesting.
Rob: Free motion quilting as a skill set because that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to piece. If you’d given me piecing as my skill set I would have been so bummed.
Jenny: Alright, what about, what about like I would never, ever think this was good enough. What about that critical, you know how you’re critical of your own stuff and you’ll see somebody else’s sometimes and you’ll be like, well mine is not too bad.
Rob: You know, yeah, I have seen quilting that I look at and say if I could only. If I could only be like that someday. And then I remember that there’s a lot of different skill sets and a lot of different levels. I don’t think comparing ourselves as artists to other artists is healthy. I think being inspired by other and motivated by others is a good thing. But I don’t think trying to make my work like somebody else’s work is a great thing because it’s not my work, if it’s their work. You know what I’m trying to say a little bit?
Rob: And I will also say that there are times where I have had bad days. I’ve tried to machine quilt when I was in a real hurry and/or when my body was really tired and stiff. Maybe I’d been out playing too much and my shoulders and neck. And so there are
Jenny: Have you noticed that I’m like guiding this with my arm?
Rob: Yes, yes and that might be, yeah you start to push
Jenny: I’m like, ok wait, this can’t be right.
Rob: No so there are days where my body is not ready and my brain is not ready to free motion quilt and nowadays I am learning to stop when that happens. I go back to working on a different project.
Jenny: Oh ok.
Rob: So if I’m overwhelmed and I can’t release whatever is in my brain then I learn not to do the machine quilting because the machine quilting is what I enjoy the most and it, it, why do it if you’re not really prepared for it.
Jenny: Do you find if you’re a fast sewer that you’re probably a fast machine quilter?
Rob: I’m not afraid of the machine as much because I’m used to it running fast. Does that make sense?
Rob: yeah, so
Jenny: Well like right now I’m trying to make this little loop-dee-loops and
Jenny: And my stitches are super big and I’m thinking it’s because maybe my machine isn’t running fast enough. My hands
Rob: I would agree.
Jenny: Are going faster than my feet. Is that right?
Rob: You are absolutely correct.
Jenny: Ok. Whew! This is, this is
Rob: Are you addicted already?
Jenny: Well no, no I’m not. But it’s, it’s a, it’s a lot more body work. You know you’re, you know I already feel worn out, I guess is what I’m trying to say
Jenny: So you know for me I would have to practice this a lot to be comfortable with it.
Rob: Yes and I like the hour everyday that you put in of sewing you’re getting an hour better. I totally agree with that. On some of our other skills and drills videos we have printouts where people can do just like John’s idea where they can go and they can trace.
Rob: They can sew, they can sew right on top of those. They’re skill builders. And I actually start those videos in straight line and then we do some swirls and work up to feathers. Those kinds of things.
Jenny: I wonder, I wonder if people get chapped lips when they do this because I’m always
Rob: Biting the lips and whatnot. I think we all get a little hyper focused when we, when we get into doing it.
Jenny: So one of my favorite patterns are the pebbles, the little pebbles.
Jenny: And I’ve tried a few here and they’re just not pretty. Is there a trick to those?
Rob: There’s two tricks
Rob: Might be easier if I show you
Jenny: Awesome. At least then I’ll know that we’ll have like two good pebbles or three good pebbles on this piece, right?
Rob: No, not necessarily. Remember I’m going to do this here. So the first thing I’m going to show you is a drill set that we have that’s called big circle, little circle and it’s on our free motion basics
Jenny: Oh good, good
Rob: Video we have.
Jenny: So you can go watch that
Rob: Yes, and it’s training your hands to be able to do a circle in one direction and a circle in the opposite direction.
Rob: The key to pebbles is completing the circle. A daisy is a circle with half circles on it. Pebbles go all the way around.
Rob: And then you might be more interested in cobblestones because those aren’t all circles.
Rob: Cobblestones are squares, triangles and circles. Right so if I’m going to do this, I’m just going to come over here So I can see. Now my big circle this way, then I follow it through. Then I go into a little circle. Oop, hear me getting a little away from myself there. Big circle.
Jenny: Ok so if you were on a quilt and you did that, would you just keep going?
Rob: Heck yes. Yeah, yeah I wouldn’t stop.
Jenny: Ok, alright, alright.
Rob: And then for your pebbles and I’ll let you do this. Then what we want to do is those same kind of circles and then you can do different sizes. But instead of stopping here we’re going to come all the way around, find ourselves another little opening. Did you see how I did that?
Jenny: I did. See I love those. I think those are really cool looking. And that’s really, you know it’s just practice.
Jenny: And you have a video on that?
Rob: I do. We have a video with the pebbles. And especially with that big circle little circle drill and it’s really great because if you can quilt a circle you can just do anything. I really believe that.
Jenny: Oh awesome so that’s good practice.
Rob: You want to
Jenny: Yeah. I don’t think you’re going to get me off of this anytime soon.
Rob: I was afraid that was the case. So you work on your pebbles and I’ll go ahead and start prepping out the next videos. I don’t think she’s going to stop everybody. So I’m going to say, thank you Jenny Doan for being here.
Jenny: I don’t think I am. Thank you for having me.
Rob: My pleasure. You are awesome. We’ll catch you all next time right here at Man Sewing.