August 21, 2010
Free Motion Quilting Basics: Supplies
#1: A darning foot. The entry ticket into this quilting party is a darning foot, sometimes called a free motion foot. This is a darning foot for my Singer.
This is the darning foot for my Bernina. One is plastic, one is metal. One is a square, one is a circle. They both do the job they need to do - keeping the fabric down against the needle plate while the machine is stitching, for a nice consistent stitch. Find a darning foot that fits your machine. There are a lot of different darning feet out there, if you are just getting into free motion quilting just find the standard darning foot for your machine. As you progress in free motion quilting you may decide you want to try other free motion feet, but do not stress about this right now. If you are trying to choose between two darning feet, choose the one that gives you the most visibility.
#2: A quilting journal. Here's mine:
I made it, as I'm sure you can tell. That was before you could buy this sort of thing all over the interwebs. I suddenly feel old. Anyway, I try to take this little thing with me whenever I expect to be inspired. It is full of ideas for quilt blocks, quilt tops, quilting designs and notes taken during talks.
I want you to have this available to write down all the great inspirations you get for quilting designs and things you need to remember like tension details. You are a quilter. Give yourself a quilting journal. Maybe the first page should look like this:
Less romantic, but still important are the following supplies:
Needles - starting a quilting project with a new needle can save a lot of frustration. Many people have fine luck with Universal needles but some machines need a specialty needle. Quilting needles or topstitch needles, size 90/14 are a good place to start. In recent struggles, I needed a topstitch needle to stop my machine from shredding my thread. If you experience problems, one thing to try will be a different needle type or size.
Thread - many different types of thread can be used for free motion quilting. I have the best luck with cotton threads. Threads that are made from "long staple" fibers are less likely to break while quilting. They also shed less lint, and lint is the enemy of a smoothly running sewing machine. Two brands I like using are Aurifil and YLI. Feel free to start with any brand of thread you would like, but be prepared to try a different thread if you are experiencing problems.
Basting pins - I use curved quilt basting pins. They are easy to find and long lasting. A package of 50 should be enough for a small project. If you have another way you prefer to baste your quilts (spray, basting gun) that will be fine, though I have no experience with these methods.
Masking tape - the kind used when painting. This will be used on the quilt to guide some quilting designs. Ours is in the basement. I'm too lazy to go down there just to take a picture of it.
Something for marking quilt tops - I have a couple of pencils like this - a white one for dark fabrics and a silver one for lighter fabrics. You can use anything that you can draw with that will show up on your fabrics without leaving permanent marks. You will only use this occasionally.
Grippy gloves (optional but strongly recommended) - any lightweight glove that will help you get traction on the quilt top. I've used flag bearer gloves and quilter gloves with the dots and they behave entirely the same. I've also heard of people using latex gloves, rubber office supply fingertips, dishwashing gloves, utility "glove liners" or even a special kind of lotion. My toddler insists on wearing these gloves anytime they are in her field of vision. So I have two sets. The white ones look grungy because they're old and they've picked up color from the fabrics of the quilts I've used them on. I've quilted 7 or 8 quilts with them, they last a long time. Don't feel bad about investing in these, they really make things easier. You need something to help you grip your quilt top.
Scissors - a small pair of sharp scissors should be at your side while quilting to snip threads. Even better, wear them around your neck and you'll always know where they are! I put mine on a length of elastic ribbon.
There are other products marketed to free motion quilters, and if you want to try them, go for it! Rest assured that the only supplies I think are essential are the ones I've listed above.