7 Ways to Productively Practice Free-Motion Quilting

7 Ways to Productively Practice Free-Motion Quilting

Posted by Angela Walters on Oct 9th 2019

Angela Walters understands the pain of practicing your free-motion quilting—but she's got some great tips from Free-Motion Meandering on how make it less of a slog. Enter to win a copy of the book at the end of this post!

Practice, Practice, Practice

As much as I hate to say it, there is only one way to get better at machine quilting ... practice.

You can read books, look at tutorials, and watch videos, but ultimately you need to actually quilt. Before you shut the book and use it as a doorstop, I have some good news. It doesn’t take as much practice as you might think. You don’t need to practice a lot, you just need to practice productively.


“Practice makes perfect,” is a phrase I am sure you have heard before. It’s a nice saying, but I don’t agree. I think that productive practice makes better quilters. Being deliberate about how you practice will make a world of difference in your quilting.

Next time you get ready to machine quilt, try following these steps.

1. Pick one thing to improve.

Each time you quilt, whether on a quilt or just a practice piece, pick one thing you want to improve. (Yes, only one thing.) Trying to improve everything at once is a surefire way to overwhelm yourself or become discouraged. You could work on:

• Keeping the stitch length consistent

• Getting comfortable with the basic shape of the design

• Finding the perfect speed

• Not cussing while quilting (Hey, it doesn’t matter what your goal is, just that you have one!)

2. Once you have identified your one thing, start quilting, focusing only on that thing.

3. Assess how you did.

When you are finished, look it over and see how you did. But here’s the trick, try not to assess while quilting. Wait until you are finished and look over the whole area you quilted, not just up close.

4. Celebrate the successes.

Look for what you did right. When I was first learning how to machine quilt, something I would tell myself often was, “Well, it’s not as crappy as last time.”

5. Refine and repeat.

If there are areas that need improvement, make a mental note of what you could do differently and work on it again next time. What I really want you to remember is this, be self-aware without judgment. Talk to yourself as though you are talking to a friend about their quilting.

6. Track your progress.

Having a visual reminder of your improvement will keep you motivated and encouraged. If you are working on practice samples, put the date next to the quilting. I promise, you’ll see improvement after even just a few practice sessions.

7. Enjoy the process.

As impossible as it may sound, try to enjoy the learning process. Instead of chasing an unattainable goal, you are on a journey. Try to enjoy each step and each “win” you make. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

My hope is that productive practice will help keep you focused on improving and not on what you’re doing wrong.

Okay, now let’s start quilting!

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