Fear of Free Motion

Do You Fear Free Motion?

There are many quilters out there that feel more comfortable working from the back of their longarm machine.  Just thinking about moving around to the front of the machine brings a cold sweat to their forehead.  I realize that you may think using a pantograph or pattern makes life less stressful.  But what if I told you that isn’t necessarily the case? I am here to encourage a few of you out there to give “Free Motion” a whirl. And here’s why:

Pencil, Paper, I Can’t Draw!  Are you sure about that?  Purchasing a sketch book where you can doodle until your heart’s content is a wonderful tool for discovering the creativity in yourself .  Laugh at yourself if need be, (a glass of wine doesn’t hurt either) because initially it will feel quite awkward and you may feel a bit childish.  Relax, don’t overthink what your clever mind wants to transfer onto paper.

Rid yourself of those artistic inhibitions and let your self go!  Doodle for a while, try different designs, and see where your pencil takes you.  The beautiful thing about owning a sketch book is you will be able to visually see your progress.  And yes, there will be progress!  You needn’t be a Picasso, just be open minded.  Bottom line..if you can draw it you can quilt it! You might just witnessing yourself setting aside a pantograph for one of your designs!  A one of a kind, yes indeed!

Lacking the “Artist” in You, “I’m not creative.”  “There is no way I can fabricate a design on my own.”  “Producing a design for an ENTIRE quilt, are you CRAZY?”  These are all mental statements that have been sabotaging any notion of trying Free Motion.  ALL quilters are creative, in their own way, and with their own style.  We are so hard on ourselves and we feel the need to measure up to what “Quinn the Queen Quilter” has designed.  Insecurity is our biggest creative buster.  Allowing self-doubt only inhibits your growth, and that’s just not acceptable!


She said it, get out there and set the artists in you free!  How do you know you aren’t creative if you haven’t dabbled in a Free Motion?  Moreover, experts say you need to try something more than once to truly know if you like it or not (I keep telling my red-headed assistant she needs to give Hot Yoga another shot…yeah not happening).

There is Less Room for Error.  Really?  Mentally you convince yourself of that statement.  However, that isn’t always the case.  Regardless of whether you are in the front or the back of your machine, mistakes happen.  Like it or not, you will screw up in whichever position you choose to quilt.

Errors are frustrating.  We immediately know that we are going to be spending unwanted time on corrections, and that does not make any quilter smile. Working from the back of a machine with a pantograph or pattern doesn’t exonerate anyone from yielding ERRORS.  Yes, there will be moments when spacing will be off or uneven.  Mistakes happen.  Mistakes improve our quilting and provide the quilter with insight on what to do and what not to do in the future.  Get over the mistake issue!

Be Brave and Get in the Front Seat of Your Longarm.  Simply take it nice and slow.  Allow yourself short little periods at the front of your machine.  Easing into Free Motion removes that reckless “what am I doing?” feeling and eventually has you sitting nice and comfortable in the driver’s seat.  Before you know it, you’ll be wanting a pair of sunglasses as you feel like you’re cruising along some smooth fabric on a nice summer day.

Who Knows?  You may even be pleasantly surprised with what transpires the go around.  Heck you may even look at your first attempt at Free Motion and think, “Huh, not bad, not bad at all”.    Heaven forbid you’re a natural at free motion!  Even if you gaze over your material and cringe, keep in mind we all initially cringed at one time or another (I still cringe).  Coming to the front of the machine brings a whole new meaning to quilting with a longarm.   No one says you have to completely abandon the back of the machine, but please don’t neglect the front of the machine.  Fear of Free Motion is only allowing one side of the magic that lies in your longarm to appear.  Utilize the entire machine and step into the Free Motion arena.  I guarantee you will say, “Why did I fear Free Motion?”

Do you have a fear of giving Free Motion a try? If so what keeps you from the front of your machine?

9 thoughts on “Fear of Free Motion

  1. I used to be dm heirloom feather quilter for years. Back problems forced me to get longarm. I learned quickly there is quite difference in muscles used between LA and DM. I could not control my machine and was reduced to tears. I went slow, raised machine, but old back injurys got worse. Depressed didnt use machine for months. It takes alot of patience and more than alot of practice. I would love to freehand like I once did but realize it may never be. Thanks for the encouragement though!

  2. I’m just the opposite…I would rather be in the front of the machine doodling (sometimes not well) than in the back of the machine following someone else’s pattern. I know there is a time and place for pantos, but I’m not a fan.

  3. Remember the good ole days while talking on a lan line phone near a pencil and scratch pad, picking it up and doodling like crazy. Well, that is all free motion quilting is, doodling with thread. Have fun doodling I say!

  4. I’m with Deb W. I’ve don’t one quilt using a panto…I hated not seeing what I was doing and trying to get the spacing right was so hard!! Give me the front of the machine any day (just don’t ask me to do an E2E cuz that’s not what I see when I look at a quilt)! Keep on encouraging all of us to get out of our comfort zones and stretch ourselves creatively!

  5. I began “practicing” on my guild’s charity quilts in front of the machine. Then added pantographs afterwards. I still get nervous on the front of the machine if I have to come up with something on my own, that’s why I refer to books, like Lisa’s and other’s. What I have found that works for me is I will stitch out a 12″ square and work with that instead of looking at the entire piece of practice fabric I have loaded onto the longarm. Once that is filled in, I stitch out another and so on.

  6. While I’ve never been a “behind the machine” quilter, I was tiring of the amount of ruler work I was doing. My love of FMQ began when I I realized my other hobby, Zentangling, could be adapted to my quilts. I had tons of doodle patterns on paper that I had drawn, and decided to try a couple out on small areas on a quilt. Eureka! I was hooked. Some days I’ll peruse sites such as http://www.tanglepatterns.com for new ideas. I’ll draw them out on paper, to see if I can adapt the pattern in a continuous line drawing. If it works, it gets added to my design base. It amazed me how freeing it was, and how empowering it felt to LA designs “outside the lines” of normal quilting. Plus, those little errors aren’t nearly as noticeable as ruler work errors!

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