Have you ever tried free-motion quilting? Free-motion sewing is a special technique where the feed dogs on your sewing machine are disengaged by lowering (or covering) them, and a special presser foot is used (like a darning foot or specialized free-motion foot) to allow you to move the fabric under the needle freely in any direction. There are several variables that work together to create a great free-motion stitch, so we’ve put together a list of the top five tips to help you be a successful free-motion stitcher:
1. THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB
Using the right presser foot for free-motion sewing jobs will help you get the best results. If you plan on quilting several layers together you need to use a different foot than if you are doing a little decorative stitching or embroidery. For free-motion stitching or embroidery, use BERNINA Darning Foot #9, Embroidery Foot #15, or Free-motion Embroidery Foot #24. For free-motion quilting use BERNINA Quilting Foot #29/29C, Echo-quilting Foot #44C, or use the BERNINA Stitch Regulator if your BERNINA sewing machine is compatible. The large, flat soles of these feet compress the puffy quilt layers around the needle, making it easier to see where you’re stitching.
2. STEADY YOUR PACE
While free-motion quilting or stitching, the fabric is constantly in motion under the needle. Sometimes while pushing/pulling the fabric, the needle is bent slightly – just enough to keep the machine from making a proper stitch. Too much pushing or pulling can result in skipped stitches and possibly even frayed or broken thread. Slow down while moving the fabric under the needle and aim for an even, steady pace to create more even stitches and reduce the risk of skipping or broken threads.
It will take some practice to get the hang of moving the fabric while keeping the speed of your machine even. Try starting with some small projects, like mug rugs, to build up your confidence before moving up to a bigger quilt.
3. CHANGE THE NEEDLE
Changing to a larger needle with a little more rigidity (like a Jeans needle size 90/14) can help improve the quality of your stitching. The bigger needle is more rigid and will resist bending while stitching, which can cause skipped stitches and broken threads. Don’t worry about the larger needle size leaving bigger holes in your quilt project, if you are using 100% cotton quilt fabric any holes will close up after your project is finished with a hot steam iron or when you wash your quilt.
4. MORE MOMENTUM
The speed of the needle moving in and out of the fabric will also affect your free-motion quilting or stitching. If the needle is moving too slowly in and out of the fabric, it can result in skipped stitches and frayed or broken threads. Speed up the machine and try to keep the momentum nice and even; avoid slowing down and speeding up to keep your stitches consistent.
5. USE THE BERNINA STITCH REGULATOR
The BERNINA Stitch Regulator (BSR) is much more than just a free-motion accessory foot. The BSR helps maintain a consistent stitch length during free-motion quilting or stitching for you as you sew. Instead of concentrating on keeping the machine speed and movement of the fabric in harmony (which can take hours of practice), you are free to concentrate on your creativity. The BSR will even coach you to slow down by beeping if you are moving the fabric too fast!
The BSR has two operational modes. Mode 1: The needle moves up and down as long as the foot control or Stop/Start button is engaged, continuing to stitch –slowly– when the fabric stops moving. Mode 2: The needle moves up and down only when the foot control or Start/Stop button is engaged AND the fabric is in motion; it stops moving when the fabric is still. Try each mode with different techniques (stippling, outline quilting, echo stitching, etc.) to see which you prefer for each one.
The BERNINA Stitch Regulator is compatible with our 8 Series machines, all of the new 7 Series machines, and all of our 5 Series models. See a video showing the BSR in action, and visit your local BERNINA Dealer store to find out more about the BSR and take a free-motion BSR test-drive!