Quilting experts know that there are a few basic free-motion quilting supplies every quilter needs in their tool kit. From the very basic essentials to those items that are nice to have, here are some suggestions for your free-motion quilting supplies stash.
A free-motion foot, also called a darning foot or embroidery foot, is the first thing you'll need to buy for free-motion quilting, if your machine doesn't already include one. Research your machine and see if it requires a low-shank or a high-shank foot before purchasing any additional accessories. My Bernina 440 sewing machine comes with a standard free-motion foot (pictured in the lower left).
I purchased an additional foot, which is called a stitch regulator (upper left). A stitch regulator is a free-motion foot that plugs into the machine and helps regulate the tension of your stitches. It will not keep your stitches all the same length (if you move the quilt too fast or too slow, the stitch length will vary), but is still one of my favorite free-motion quilting supplies. Not many sewing machines include the option of a stitch regulator.
A new sewing machine needle is necessary to get great results when free-motion quilting. Because of the stress that free-motion quilting puts on your needle, a size 90/14 universal needle is a great choice. Replace your needle with each new quilting project to avoid skipped stitches or other free-motion quilting woes.
In order to start free-motion quilting, you'll want to make sure your sewing machine has the ability to lower or drop the feed dogs. This allows the quilt to move freely, without having the sewing machine feed the fabric through. If your machine doesn't have this function, don't worry. There are some people who are still able to do free-motion quilting with their feed dogs raised. In fact, some quilters say they can't notice a difference! If you do experience friction while free-motion quilting, cover the raised feed dogs with an index card, taped down to your sewing machine.
Choose a strong, high-quality thread for free-motion quilting. Cotton threads in a variety of brands are recommended, and some quilters also have good luck with poly thread. Make sure you choose a thread that's meant for machine sewing and not hand sewing.
Make quilt sandwich like the sample above (backing, batting and top fabric) in order to test your free-motion settings before you get started on your actual project.
For me, a pair of quilting gloves falls into the "nice to have" category, because I simply learned to quilt without them. But for others, quilting gloves are a necessity! Your needs will probably depend on how detailed your free-motion quilting pattern is, as well as the amount of time you'll spend at your machine. Leah Day, instructor of the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers, Vol. 1, uses gloves to help get a firm grip on the quilt and feed it through the machine without much tension. Gardening gloves, rubber fingertips (found in the office supply store) or latex dishwashing gloves are also fine free-motion quilting supplies.
A flat surface where you can guide your quilt without the weight of gravity pulling it is a great tool for free-motion quilting. Try a second machine table with a hole for your sewing machine, so the quilt and table are level with the needle plate. If you can't afford a new sewing machine table, try stacking phone books or other objects around the base of your sewing machine, to raise your quilt up and support its weight while you work.
Some free-motion quilters like to freestyle their designs. Others may prefer to mark their pattern, which is especially fun when quilting with stencils. If you decide to invest in some quilt marking tools, you'll probably want a disappearing pen and some masking tape. You can also try a fabric pencil (white for darker fabrics, or a darker color for light fabrics). Whatever you choose, you'll just look for something that can write on fabric without leaving a permanent mark.
What's the one item in your free-motion quilting kit that you can't live without?