If you’ve tried free-motion stitching and gave up after one or two tries, I have a stitching exercise that may help you get started. I’ve talked to a lot of sewers about this type free-motion stitching, which is where you, and not the machine, move the fabric. Quite a few say something like, “Oh, I tried that once and I can’t do it”. Many sewists look at award-winning quilts and see beautiful and precise free-motion stitching, but when they sit down and stitch, it looks nothing like they have seen other quilters do. I can almost guarantee that when other quilters tried it for the first time, their stitching was not award-winning. It does take a bit of practice and you have to get through the messy stage before you get to the award-winning part.

Let’s Get Messy

And now for the messy part. A good way to get started is to do a technique I call scribble stitching. It is exactly what it sounds like – scribbling on fabric with needle and thread. There are no rules to this technique. You move the fabric, creating stitches with no worries about having consistent stitch lengths, crossing over other stitches, or creating specific shapes. Your goal is to get comfortable with the feel of the fabric as you move it under the needle.

scribble stitching with Foot #24

Free-Motion Presser Feet

To get started, attach a free-motion presser foot to the machine. BERNINA has quite a few and most of them work for this technique. Click here to see a post I wrote about these presser feet for the BERNINA blog, WeAllSew.

BERNINA free-motion feetMachine Setup

Lower the feed dog of the machine and select the straight stitch. Place batting on the wrong side of a 10”-16” square of quilting cotton. Position the fabric under the needle and place one hand on each side of the foot. Start stitching by taking 3-4 tiny stitches to lock the stitching. As you move the fabric to scribble across the surface of the fabric, pay attention to how you move the fabric. Try to move it back and forth and from side to side with out rotating the fabric. Don’t worry if it takes a while to get the hang of it, you’ll still have great scribble stitching! Here’s a quick video to show you the process of scribble stitching.

As you build up thread while scribbling on the fabric, you create texture, but you are also working toward control. The more you stitch, the more you will gain control of the fabric and the easier it will be to stitch specific shapes and motifs. Commit to scribble stitching for 10-15 minutes a day for one month and you’ll see how much more comfortable you become with your free-motion stitching. By the way, don’t think of scribble stitching as a throw-away practice piece. I use it to create textured fabric for book covers, art quilts and other projects where I need interesting backgrounds and ways to add emphasis to buttons, trinkets, charms and paper shapes. Here a mini art quilt where I used it as a backdrop for colorful paper hearts.

This is a really fun way to stitch and I encourage you to give it a try. Let me know how it goes and if it helps you become comfortable with free-motion stitching!

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