I had a little conversation with Lori Kennedy the other day. I told her “I’m not a machine quilter,” and she took it as a personal challenge to show me that I CAN be a freemotion quilter on my beloved but elderly domestic machine (a Bernina 910, circa 1984)! Until now, I’ve been a die-hard hand quilter, but I decided to take the challenge. Why? Just because it sounds like fun, because making cute little designs with my sewing machine intrigues me. I’m making no full-quilt commitments here.


As I was beginning to jump haphazardly into the world of FMQ (no more than a very small project; you might say it’s a “Trial Size”), I realized that even when you want to start small, there are a few simple steps that come before “just sit down and do it.”

oil it, Lori1. Clean and oil your machine. You know, if you haven’t done that recently, you should do it anyway!

2. Insert a single-hole throat plate, if you have one.

3. Use a Teflon sheet that will help the fabric slide while you stitch. If you’re truly just testing, like me, at this point, you might want to hold off on this step. Unless you have a little extra cash lying around and have a love affair with quilting supplies. (C’mon, I know some of you…) In that case, grab a pair of sewing gloves, too, while you’re out!

4. Insert a new needle. Please tell me you do this often, too—your sewing will benefit from it, no matter what you are making.

darning foot, Lori5. Attach your darning foot. This was the point at which I had to dig a little, and the point right after “I tried my open toe foot to see if it works.” (It didn’t. I’ll explain more next time.) My darning foot was in that little box of presser feet that I don’t use often, where was yours? I’m pretty excited to find a use for that spring-loaded little darning foot!

6. Lower the feed dogs. For this, you may need to consult your owner’s manual.

7. Stitch a sample and adjust the tension – just like you should do ANY time you start a project.

Who’s up for a little try-it/you-might-like-it fun? It might open up a whole new world. I’ll fill you in on the details of Lori’s challenge next week; I’d love for you to quilt along with me! An additional item that will come in handy for this little endeavor is a can of quilt-basting spray. I found out that I love it.

I borrowed the seven steps above from Lori’s blog post, “7 Steps to Free Motion Quilting.”

See you next week with a challenge. And pictures of my first FMQ.

-Ann Hammel

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Fran Heaton

What is a teflon sheet and how do you use it? Thank you.

Fran: Teflon pressing sheets are paper thin fiberglass fabric mesh sheets coated with a thin layer of teflon on both sides. The sheets are non porous and non stick, so you can use them with a range of craft materials and fusible materials yet clean them easily. The teflon coating gives you a non stick surface to iron on, as well as to press on any fusible fibers and fabrics you may be using for your project. Click here to read a blog about using teflon sheets vs parchment paper. http://www.quiltviews.com/teflon-vs-what – Sylvia Thomas, AQS Office Administrator


I have found that the stitches are more uniform if I do NOT lower my feed dogs. Oh, PS, I use an even older Bernina than yours–mine is an 870, and sews wonderfully.


I took a one day class on FMQ and we were required to use two contrasting colors to check tension easily. I used red on top and purple in the bobbin, Makes it super easy to see exactly how well the tension is working. Best tension check hint I’ve had. And made the FMQ practice fun and colorful.

[…] quick steps for getting ready to FMQ. If you missed that article, it’s a good idea to review it HERE. Machine ready to go? Don’t worry if it’s not new or fancy, just be sure you have a darning […]


My Viking 960S is tried and true, but even with feed dogs down, it just “looks” at me with scorn and puzzlement when I try free motion. The threads don’t lock, they don’t even tangle. What am I doing wrong?