Free Motion Quilting Skills and Drills: Swirls & Swoops


I am having so much fun creating these free
motion machine quilting tutorials and these skills and drills and sets. It is an absolute
blast trying to think backwards from what I’ve been doing naturally for so many years
to create in the simple step by step process so today we’re doing swoops and swirls.
I bet you’re dying to get started. Now our goal with these tutorials is to help
all of us that are new at free motion machine quilting kind of walk through the process
of learning how some of the basic shapes turn into awesome motifs down the road. A couple
things I want to point out and recommend. I love this book by Angela Walters. It’s
loaded with all kinds of great motif and design ideas. But it really talks about taking your
quilt and just looking at it one piece at a time. So I’m trying to think that way
when I’m trying to break down swoops and swirls one piece at a time. If you drop down
into the description or the link below we have these printables for you as well as you
can get your supplies there if you need, like your sew slip mat for your machine. Maybe
your Machinger’s gloves that I wear all the time. I love these things for grip. So
we’re starting on a basic, it’s like a puzzle piece. Or it’s more of a like a stippling
but it’s wide open. But it’s going to help us kind of tipping from a straight line
into a curved line, ok? And I’m going to walk you into the swoops I’m calling them.
And then from the swoops we’re going to start to break ourselves into kind of a pointed
or a, what could also become a flame style shape and we’re going to work through those
but we’re not quite going that far today. And as a quick reminder, we have a quick tip
that points out how to use your free motion machine compass if you’re having problems
with your skip stitches or shredded threads or broken needles, those kinds of things.
We’ve got an awesome quick tip that will give you a bunch of info on how to control
your body mechanics a little bit better. Ok before we get started here on the sandwich
or the little sample we’re going to practice on, we never practice on the real quilts,
right? We always practice on a little sample and we always warm up before we get started.
I want to point out some of the bad before we point out some of the good. Look at this
real closely here. Now we’re on the back of the project right now so you’re looking
at the bobbin thread. This orange was from my needle and I left it there on purpose because
that is what happens if we begin free motion machine quilting and our presser foot is up.
The presser foot controls the open and close of your tension disks. And it’s really hard
to tell with a hopping foot, check this out on the machine. This is a spring loaded hopping
foot, right? So when it’s up versus down, it’s very hard to see when the quilt is
on. So if you get a bunch of crazy noise like loose marbles in your machine, you might have
to cut this out. You wouldn’t normally want to leave that but I just wanted to leave that
to point out the difference between poor tension and no tension. So that’s no tension. Now
what we’re going to do again, we’re going to start on this basic puzzle piece shape
practicing kind of our moving from side to side. Kind of our fluid water style motion,
right? And then we’re going to go into some swirls and then we’re going to start putting
some sharp points on those swirls. Those are the three skills we want to work on today. Now I have my feed dogs down because I am
in free motion mode. I have my spring motion foot on. I’m going to sit down so I’m
a little bit more comfortable here. And we’re going to get ourselves started. Normally you’d
be starting in the middle of your project as I am here today. I’ve got my presser
foot down and I want to bring the bobbin thread up. So I’m going to take a single stroke
by hand or if you have like a push button you can do that with. And then what I do is
I lift my presser foot back up and I take my thread and I literally floss it under the
foot like that. And that brings up both thread tails. If I had been using a thread cutter
I would have such a small tail I wouldn’t be able to bring that up so I just take a
few stitches in place. But we’re just going to lock this in real quick. And then I’m
just going to begin curving out of here. And I want to cut this thread because it drives
me crazy visually. And the other thing I want to point out is when we’re doing our swirls
or if we have a very large project we want to kind of think about our start and stop
points. It’s very difficult to start and stop in the middle of an arc and have it look
good. And the bigger the quilt, when we restart the more the quilt wants to shift and the
stitches can get out of sync. So I’m kind of up in the arc and as a start I have to
take a few small stitches to make sure I’m on target. And you’ll hopefully be able
to see that in the camera. So now with our swirls or our puzzle pieces
we’re just working on not actually staying in a straight line so almost more of a circular
line. And I’m just going left to right. And I’m coming around. Now some of the questions
we get is what about stitch length? Well when you’re in free motion your stitch length
is controlled by the movement of your hands. So if I’m getting really tiny little stitches
like I’m doing right now, my machine is moving way too fast and my hands are moving
way too slow. And if I get, oop, I’m going to go slow with the machine and move my hands
really fast, I’m going to get these giant stitches that won’t even lock in. See those
big giant stitches. So that means that my hands are moving too fast. So now back to
our drill. I just wanted to point that out. We’re going to take our motion and just
side to side. It’s also stippling, right? But it’s more organized than that. And the
reason I want you to get organized on that is you’ll notice maybe even on my fingers
I’m doing a lot of my control with my finger tips. And I’m just looking at the equal
distance between the stitching. This is a very easy one to start with. Now what happens
though, I’m going to start working my way to the top. And we’re going to go right into our swirls
drills. Because every now and again I’m going to come around a little too far and
now I’m in this spot right here. And instead of doing a sharp point out, we’re going
towards the sharp points in a little while. But right now I’m going to arc around and
arc back around. And then like in my straight line drills I’m just following the line.
And a lot of times then I’ll wrap it around one time. So say now look it’s like a spiral.
And then I’ll come back out here and I’ll start to do it all over again. One of the
things I”ve always felt was important with machine quilting is even if it’s a mistake,
make it look intentional so that you’re making it so that is happens over and over
again. You can tell that it’s very hard for me to talk and machine quilt at the same
time. And it’s really hard for me personally to stay within a motif. So this has been a
really fun exercise. So curving it around. You can make big ones and small ones. Now
from this point on, once you master that kind of comma shape or that swirl, let’s work
our way over to another section. And we’re going to start to put in those flames, right? So as I come around, I shouldn’t say flames,
at least some sharp points. But as I come around this time I’m going to stop at the
point and then I’m going to arch it back around. So that is not a rounded tip at all.
That’s comes in, comes again and stops. Now when we’re doing our corners we want
to make sure we don’t spend too much time in the corner because what it will often do
is it make a real big ball of thread on the back of the project. So you want to be able
to with your free motion both be able to go rounded and back around. As well as to come
out and do sharp points so that you can continue to build on all styles and different motifs
just using the basic swoop or swirl. And then that pointed line of course is going to go
into flames if we want to. And then we’re going to break those down for you in a little
big longer. What I really enjoy doing is actually doing combinations of both. The swirls with
the sharp points included like this one right here. Oh I’m having so much fun. Now I could
do this all day long on this little sample. And I really suggest you do it until you’re
really comfortable with it. But what I also want to show you really quick here is one
of the ways we can do this on our bigger quilts because that was the challenge. This is where
I started this whole series of tutorials. Is what do you do when you’ve got a ginormous
quilt? And like I said with Angela. She wants us to focus on just one small section at a
time. And right now because I’m over towards the
smaller edge of the quilt, even though I have these cool bicycle clips holding the meat
of the quilt wrapped up out of the way, I don’t need to put this underneath the quilt
right now because I’m getting closer to the edge. So I’m just going to bring my
quilt around this way. This would be what we call the fluff and stuff method. So I have
a little bit of this in here fluffed in location. And I’m just going to work back to where
I was quilting. Because we want to quilt from the middle outward. That pushes all the batting
and the loft back out, ok? Now I did use my thread cutter just a moment ago so I won’t
have the opportunity to bring that, that stitch up. But look what I’m going to do here I’m
just going to focus in here on these, maybe this one triangle shape. Maybe I’ll continue
to carry it through. I’m not worried about the whole quilt right now. I’m just thinking
about what I’m going to do for this one motif. And I’m going to start where I stopped
before. Take a few stitches. I want to double check to make sure that presser foot is down
because I don’t want a caterpillar on the back of my project. And then I’m going to
immediately come out of here into a nice arcing swirl. I’m going to stop at that point because
then I can cut my threads. And remember I said it’s hard to get a good start and stop
point. So instead of making this round, this is going to be one of those hooks. Coming
back out. See how nice that looks. Now I can either continue to hook so that my motif remains
consistent. Coming down off of the bottom coming to my hook. Back around. Coming down
to the bottom, up to my hook. Back around. But I can also bring around the soft side
of it this way. And maybe I can do myself one of my swirls. Follow that hook, back around
with another hook or two because I want to get myself where I can do another swirl. So
there’s nothing wrong with mixing your motifs as you work. So you can see how easy free motion machine
quilting can be even on a big project if you’ll just take the time and focus on the basic
elements of your design and your motif as well as just look at one small section of
your quilt at a time, not worry about the overall project. I want to remind to please
bounce below into the description. Print out these skills and drills printables. They’re
there for you to use. You can even take a pencil and draw across the top to the designs,
right? One of the keys to that is don’t lift the pencil up. Because that way you’re
practicing it just like you would be quilting it. And we’re getting that motor memory
going. And as I said I have all kinds of other tutorials we’re building around this concept
of the basics of free motion. So make sure you’re following along and we’ll see you
next time at Man Sewing