Quilting Blog

Yes, You Can Free-Motion Quilt on a Regular Sewing Machine!

Would you like to quilt your own quilts on your regular home sewing machine? What if I told you that you can add beautiful texture to your quilts without investing in a specialty machine? If your machine can sew a straight stitch, it can be used for machine quilting.

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Believe it or not, you can do free-motion quilting using a regular sewing machine.

Free-motion quilting is a technique where quilting stitches are added by sewing in any direction on the surface of the quilt.

Two things are needed to perform free-motion quilting:

  1. The feed dogs need to be disengaged.
  2. A free-motion quilting foot needs to be used.

If you think these options are not available to you on a basic sewing machine, think again! In fact, there are a growing number of quilters who quilt on their antique Singer Featherweight machines. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Covering the feed dogs

Most modern machines let you disengage or lower your feed dogs to get them out of the way. But if your machine doesn’t have this capability, you can cover them instead.

My favorite way to cover the feed dogs on my machine is with a special piece of material called a Supreme Slider. You can temporarily adhere this specially made plastic to the bed of your machine, covering your feed dogs. It also creates a slippery surface on which your quilt can glide.

In fact, some machines may actually perform better using this technique, instead of using the machine settings. Even if you can lower your feed dogs, try with and without engaging them and see what you prefer.

Using a free-motion foot

quilting with a free motion quilting foot

If your machine does not come with a free-motion foot, you can get a generic darning foot that’s made to fit most sewing machines. Craftsy instructor Leah Day put together a video tutorial showing how to modify the foot to help it perform better on your machine.

Don’t forget, free-motion quilting isn’t the only option on a regular sewing machine.

If free-motion quilting is still not for you, there are other options for quilting using a regular sewing machine.

Straight-line quilting

You can add plenty of amazing texture to your quilts with simple straight line quilting. A walking foot or built in even-feed system works well for stitching straight lines. However, if you don’t have either of these options, you can still quilt straight lines with your favorite all-purpose sewing foot.

 

Matchstick quilting

Another great way to add interesting quilting with a walking foot or regular sewing foot is to stitch a series of straight lines spaced very close together over the surface of your entire quilt. This is sometimes called “matchstick quilting” and is a very popular design to use for modern quilting.

To machine quilt matchstick lines, simply start on one side of the quilt and stitch a line from one end to the other. Don’t worry about keeping your lines completely straight. Organic, imperfect lines actually add more interest to the quilt!

Continue stitching in the same direction all the way across the quilt. You can periodically mark a straight line with painter’s tape to keep the lines going in roughly the same direction.

Spaced-out lines

Quilting lines spaced further apart look great on quilts with large amounts of background negative space. They can be quilted at a diagonal angle across the quilt to add interest and break up the space. So don’t feel limited if you can’t or don’t wish to free-motion quilt your creations. The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity, and it all starts with a straight line.

Quilting wavy lines

You can quilt slightly wavy lines with a walking foot as well.  The lines don’t have to be even and they don’t even or planned out to add dimension to your quilt.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2014 and was updated in January 2018.

21 Comments

Karen Seitz

Another great post to encourage us to quilt our own quilts! Thanks for the hand-holding. 🙂

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Karen A Thimot

Awesome info thank you

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furtdso linopv

excellent points altogether, you just gained a brand new reader. What would you suggest about your post that you made a few days ago? Any positive?

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Sewing machine

Thank you for the information such a great content about sewing machines.

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sandra snowden

Lots of good info about quilting will help me alot.I haven’t tried machine quilting but I will now.Have one ready to be quilted .Thanks

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Pat Hezel

you make it sound very simple. Thanks a lot.

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teresa Goshleski

good info. and ideas I can apply thank you

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Val

My husband loves Featherweights and has over fifty of them. He’s a crazy colecter.

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Debra Dickson

I have been making machine quilts for 20 years now. Always wanted to know of simple way to add additional texture and make my projects more complete. Thank-You for all these helpful suggestions! I also finish some of the backs with fleece, it makes for a cozy warm throw with the quilted top.

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Christene

My fancy Janome Memory Craft absolutely will not quilt with fleece–well at least I blame it on the machine. I’ve used every thread and size of needle, thread shreds no matter what and I have to put the tension down to 0. Does fine with thin cotton batting.

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Romila

WOW love these tips, i’ll have to give it a go.
I have a round metal darning foot with my machine that has a metal arm sticking out that goes over the needle pin so it also jumps all over the place. So I bought a clear generic foot very similar to the one in the video. the main problem I have is I go fine for a while then the upper thread starts to loop and make a mess on the underside of my work, and has to be removed and done over again (I have checked and adjusted the tension) same thing happens ;o)

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Karen Smith

You are quilting only the top and batting I presume but the backing as well so it doesn’t matter what the underside looks like as it will be hidden.

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Annette

If you decide to quilt on a Featherweight, I highly suggest leaving the machine light OFF and using an Ott light or other lighting. Ask me how I know! Burned a whole in a quilt I was working on. I didn’t realize the quilt was sitting against the light. I also have a few burn scars on my wrist from the light.

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Christene

This is especially encouraging to me as I have finished piecing lots of throws and quilts but I can’t fmq worth a flip–and I’ve been practicing for years. Today I did straight lines, one way and then across the other way in one portion, cool. Thanks.

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Deborah Rogers

Too afraid. It takes enough just to make the quilt and not enough confidence to quilt the quilts donated to Victoria’s Quilts. I will practice on quilts for the dog.

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sdorttuiiplmnr

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Sylvia Conner

I have a stamped baby quilt printed to embroider which I will do. How do you think I should machine quilt, I am a beginner.

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Stevie

I would recommend practice before you do a baby quilt. You can do it, I did it and I’m not the least artistic. I would take a class though, they are ever so helpful.

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Helene Beadman

I have a 27 year old kenmore sewing machine from Sears. I have a darning plate and I can embroider and do darning but I have no free motion foot. It’s very cheap to order but with shipping and us fees it costs three times the price, should I just use the needle and darning foot..must try..what do u think??

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Nesazane

These tips sure are helpful. Thanks!

I’m browsing around for a good sewing-machine that doesn’t cost too much for a beginner. Your tips are putting my mind at ease that I can start with a basic one and experiment. Thanks a lot.

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