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.
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:
- The feed dogs need to be disengaged.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.