So what is Free Motion sewing?
Free motion is a type of machine sewing whereby you are effectively drawing with the needle. People have created some amazing pieces of textile art or illustration using this method, you may have seen them. But how do they do it? Is it really possible to draw with your sewing machine? Well yes, it is. For this fantastic and creative method of sewing the feed dogs that normally drive your fabric in one direction are lowered down or covered with a small plate, enabling you to freely move your fabric. In doing this your fabric is no longer being gripped and fed through the machine. In fact, it isn’t being gripped at all. This is where a specialised free motion sewing foot comes in. So as to prevent your fabric jumping up and down with the needle, a free motion sewing foot is spring loaded and moves up and down at the same time as your needle. This creates stitches that can be likened to drawing. See Steve's work below as an example of detailed straight stitch free motion sewing...
The length of the stitch is determined by the motor speed and how fast or slow the fabric is moved. Therefore to achieve and even stitch length takes a bit of practice. If you move your fabric slowly and you stitch fast you will get very small stitches. If you move your fabric quickly and stitching slowly will achieve long stitches.
Moving the fabric
The fabric must only be moved when the needle is up. If the needle is down and you move the fabric it will deflect and often result in a snapped needle. It can take a bit of practice but usually just starting by moving the fabric slowly with a medium speed will enable you to get used to this.
Couching and Free Motion?
Couching when a thicker thread or other material is laid across your fabric and fastened in place with small stitches of the same or different thread. It gives more texture to your work, creating raised areas. Couching can be done while you are free motion sewing, the same rules apply. It creates much a much bolder effect, as you can see in the above image.
Filling in large areas
To fill in large areas we use a technique often referred to as ‘thread painting’. With this technique the zigzag stitch is selected and a free motion foot with a slot not a hole. When you freemotion in this way it will fill much larger areas.
There are a range of fabrics known as 'dissolvables' that do just that - dissolve. These are absolutely great with free motion sewing. Using an embroidery hoop, the dissolvable fabric can be held in place and stitched on, just as you would normal fabric. The advantage is that once you are finished, you can wash away the fabric with water and be left with a beautiful applique item.
We hope this brief introduction to Free Motion has been helpful. Please do check out our exciting specialised course on Free Motion Sewing here. We would love to hear from you!