Because this appears to be a big issue for many online quilters, I have decided to devote a page to free motion quilting. I don’t really have anything to say that hasn’t been said before, but here are some basics I have learned:

Start small.

  • Practice samples under 12 inches square are just fine to start with. You can always bind them to make trivets, super-size potholders, etc.
  • Small practice pieces don’t need to be basted. They can sit right next to your sewing machine for any free moment (perfect for the first warm-up of the sewing day or the last step before you wind down.)
  • You can use scraps, which will alleviate some of the fear in trying a new technique on a “real” quilt.

Don’t think random should be easy.

  • It isn’t. We are orderly creatures. It’s not so easy to just “doodle.” It takes practice. So doodle on napkins. Doodle in journals. Get your hands and your mind comfortable with the concept of “no set pattern.”
  • When first teaching your hands and your eyes to meander, you may want to have a set pattern that you follow — either traced onto the fabric or on a piece of stabilizer or paper that lies on top. It will become more natural.

Change the needle!

  • It is amazing how hard free motion stitching seems to be on needles, but I replace needles on a very regular basis now, and it makes things move much for easily.
  • Oh, and while we’re at it… clean out the fuzz and lint after every practice session. The lint bunnies become lint monsters and make good work impossible.


  • I know. Easier said than done. But nothing makes my stippling more jagged than tightening up. Good posture. Relaxed body. Good light. They are all vital to both attractive stitches and to enjoying the work.


  • It’s an on-going process. Never stop practicing. Before you start a new project, practice. If you’ve been away from the sewing machine for over 24 hours, do a little warm-up before returning to the project.

Good luck. Remember no one is perfect the first time out (and rarely the second, third, or even fourth time). Just remember that we’re all in this together, and that you are doing this because it makes you (and others) happy.

Some sites to help you on your way.

Diane Gaudynski’s Quilting Tips

Threads Magazine video of Gaudynski stippling Stippling Tips

Free-motion doodle designs from Patsy Thompson

Crazy Mom Quilts free motion quilting example

365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Blog