Free motion quilting can be a huge hurdle for today’s quilter. We all want to be able to create those fancy, swirling designs on our domestic sewing machines but many of us have no idea how to get started. Some people get through a few, halting stitches and then give up, saying it’s just too hard.
Well, I’m here to help. The secret to free motion quilting lies in two words: letting go.
Seriously, try it. What are you holding on to right now? A pencil? A Slurpee? A chinchilla? The mailman? Throw your arms out wide and drop everything. Whoops – okay, go catch the chinchilla and put it back in its cage. There now, don’t you feel more free, more open to possibility? Don’t worry; the mailman comes back every day.
Now let’s examine all the tension you are holding onto in your body. Let your neck relax and your head fall; let all your limbs loosen and feel yourself sinking into a big boneless blob on the floor. Yep, right on the floor. Get on down there. Imagine a giant puddle of flesh. Be the puddle. Did I mention it’s probably a good idea to go pee before you do this? No? Oh. Well, now you can really be a puddle.
And while we’re on the topic, let’s just be frank here. What else are you holding on to in there, hmm? Listen, honey—fiber is a free motion quilter’s best friend. A bran muffin a day keeps the longarmer away, that’s my motto.
Now that we’ve freed your physical form of tension and other…stuff, let’s move on to all your emotional baggage. Anger, jealousy, fear—just let them all float away on the breeze. Watch them go; that’s it. Just like all the money you spent on this non-refundable workshop: gone forever. Bye-bye, sadness! Bye-bye, pain! Forgive all those who have wronged you. Forgive your mom for never approving of any of your boyfriends. Or girlfriends. Forgive your ex for that one time he let your cat out when he came over to fix your sink, and you had to put flyers all over town and that cat never came back and he was just the best cat ever and getting you a new kitten, like, three days later was not the right move at all because nothing could replace Mr. Fluffypants, nothing. Forgive him too. If you can. If not, it’s totally understandable.
Now let’s turn to more material concerns. Look around your home. See how all your possessions are weighing you down? See how the clutter on your cutting table is a reflection of the clutter in your psyche, in your soul? Just sweep it all away. Maybe into a big bin or something. Look at all your fabrics. You have so many, don’t you? Too many. Especially the Tula Pinks. Way too many of those. Just sweep all those into the bin too. And just leave that bin on your front porch and let fate carry it away to a new home, where people appreciate exquisite fabrics and will actually use them instead of hoarding them like, what, are you Gollum or something?
I should probably take a moment to note that all the personal information you were required to supply during sign-up is completely confidential. Don’t worry about that at all. Just let it go.
No. No, wait. Don’t. Don’t do it. DON’T SING THE SONG. Oh, dear. We’re singing it.
I’ll just wait until everyone is done.
Okay, where were we? Now, we must learn to let go of expectations. See this quilt here? See the feathers and swirls and flowers all artfully stitched upon it? Don’t expect to do that. And this one? All geometric, but echoing the quilt blocks themselves, enhancing the design without overpowering it? Yeah, don’t expect to do that either. And how about that picture on your phone of a guy with a little bit of a paunch and, let’s face it, thinning hair, who you’ve been dating for, I don’t know, freaking eternity? Don’t expect an engagement ring out of him. Or employment. Or orgasms. You just release all those expectations into the wind, honey. You’ll feel a whole lot better, trust me.
Finally, we must let go of attachments. I bet you never use that ruffler, do you? And who needs a walking foot? We’re free motion quilting now; we don’t need no stinking walking foot.
Feel how free you are! Your limbs are loose; your heart is open; your mind is ready to access its unlimited potential. Now pull yourself up off the floor, sit at your machine, release your feed dogs—and quilt!
How…uh, how’re we doing there? Oh. Oh dear. That didn’t go very well, did it? Are you sure you really let everything go? Is there anything else you need to, um, release? Little gas, maybe? No? Crap.
Okay. Here’s the real secret: tequila. Just keep a bottle of Cuervo and a shot glass near your machine at all times; two big shots should do it, but if you still feel a little inhibited, go ahead and throw back a couple more. There you go—whoo! Now you feel loose, don’t you? Oh okay, yeah, sure, take your top off; we’re all friends here. Yeah! We’re quilting now, baby! Sure, we’re all gonna hate ourselves in the morning, but we don’t need to worry about that now! Just let it go! Oh yeah…
LET IT GO. LET IT GOOOO. CAN’T HOLD IT BACK ANYMOOOOORE!
Megan Dougherty has been blogging and quilting as The Bitchy Stitcher since 2008. She was the humor columnist for Quilter’s Home magazine and Generation Q magazine, and was also the art director at GenQ for its first year. Her first book, Quilting Isn’t Funny, is available in paperback and Kindle on amazon.com.