The Free Motion Quilting Project: Free Motion Quilting Tools

Friday, January 28, 2011

Free Motion Quilting Tools

It's been such an incredibly long time since I've written a Feature Friday that you might have forgotten that that's what I'd originally planned for this day way back in June! This was supposed to be a day that I share about the tools I'm using in the studio or next to my machine to explain what works and what doesn't work for me.

free motion quilting | Leah DayRecently a friend asked me about these posts and said she missed seeing them, so I'm going to make a real effort from now on to always post on Fridays too.

This week let's review the three best quilting tools for free motion quilting: Supreme Sliders, Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers, and Machingers Quilting Gloves.

You can click here to find all three items in the Ultimate Quilting Kit from the quilt shop.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAfter teaching at Myrtle Beach Quilt Party, I was reminded of just how little quilters know about these tools or how much they help with free motion quilting.

I literally can't quilt without them - if I take my gloves off, if my bobbin washer goes missing, or if I wash off my slider and forget to put it back, my stitches just don't look as good, and it's also not as fun or easy to free motion quilt.

So let's learn about these tools in this new video:

Just in case you can't watch the video, first I shared a bit about the Supreme Slider.

This is a Teflon sheet that goes over your machine bed and reduces the friction between your quilt and the surface of your machine and table. It makes your quilt easier to move around and create beautiful designs with less strain on your body.

One side of the slider is pink and grippy and will stick to your machine bed without being an actual sticker. You can peel it off and move it all you won't and it doesn't leave any sticky residue.

The slick side of the slider is positioned face up, and you'll want to line up the hole in the center with the hole in your machine. The slider will cover your feed dogs, so if you're like me and you don't drop your feed dogs, the slider will cover those little teeth so your quilt will not come in contact with them.

Now the Supreme Slider is an awesome tool, but it is delicate. If you're not used to using it, it's easy to accidentally stitch through it (which is awful), so I do advise taping down the corners with masking tape the first couple times you use it until you get used to the feel of it under your quilt.

Note: I have been getting many emails about the new Queen Supreme Slider, which is going to be almost double the size of the regular sized slider. I do plan to start carrying these in February and will likely launch them next week with the Day 250 Sale!

The second thing I mention in the video is Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers. These are little teflon washers that go into your bobbin case and help your bobbin thread glide smoother and more evenly.

For drop down (or top loading) bobbins, just place the washer in the machine, then your bobbin on top and thread your bobbin just like normal. If you have a side loading bobbin, simply place the washer inside, then your bobbin on top, then wind the case just like normal.

I use the washers in ALL my machines and for more than just free motion quilting. I never take them out as I find that they also help with piecing, applique, and general sewing. There's just a lot less annoying thread breaks and tension issues with the washers in, particularly if you're working with some fun or funky threads.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow the last tool I absolutely love are my Machingers Quilting Gloves. If you've seen even one of the almost 250 filler design videos on this project, you will have noticed that every single one was stitched out wearing gloves.

I had some odd emails at the very beginning of the project - "Is something wrong with your hands? Why are you wearing gloves?!"

Trust me, it's not because I have a strange skin fungus, it's because the gloves really work to help me grip the quilt and move it around precisely. The easier you can move the quilt, the more control you have of it, the better your stitches will look.

I also find that wearing the gloves drastically reduces the amount of strain my hands and shoulders take while quilting. Without them, I would find myself gripping my hands into a fist around the quilt to move it around, which started hurting pretty quickly.

With the gloves on, I can keep my hands flat while moving the quilt and be able to keep quilting much longer because I've reduced the strain on my body.

So that's it! These are the three tools I recommend for free motion quilting because I can't quilt without them.

While I can't say that all three will work for absolutely everyone (some people hate to wear gloves for example), I do believe in trying a variety of tools and methods before finding the ones that work for you.

As James likes to say "Try it, you'll like it, it's GOOD!"

Now I've put the three tools together into an Ultimate Quilting Kit which is available right here in the Leah Day Quilt Shop.

Let's go Quilt,

Leah Day


  1. There are a couple blogs that I check daily and yours is one of them. Thanks so much for posting. You are right these are three of the best tools.
    Thanks so much.

  2. The quilting world is right again.

  3. Hi.

    You have helped so many new quilters out there, and just want to say thanks. I'm going to feature you on my blog and give you a good shout out!

  4. I love my Machingers! I've never heard of the slider or bobbin washers, but I will be sure to look for them. Anything to make quilting easier and (if it's possible) more fun. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Leah, I can't say it often enough, you are the quilt guru.
    I love these products, and if it weren't for you and your blog, I would not have known about them. Also, will you be offering preorders for the queen slider? I'm also wondering if the hole is in the middle of the queen, or off center. Do you know yet?

  6. These three tools are just indispensable. I've been free motion quilting some large scale blocks out of unconventional materials. They have super thick batting and the backs are hemp Tencil which have been hand-stenciled. You simply will not believe what a difference the Machingers make until you try them. They are super comfortable and light weight and they make sewing so much easier and more stress free.

    The Supreme Sliders are also amazing. I bought two by mistake (!) but it turned out to be a blessing as I simply used a second Slider to the left of the one I stitch through. I don't just use them for quilting--I also use them whenever I'm sewing any material which is likely to "balk".

    And finally, the Bobbin Washers are also a dream and using them means no thread breaks or snags.

    I wouldn't be able to work without these tools. I'm very grateful to Leah for recommending them.

  7. That is the cutest little boy. I love your tutorials and blogs. You are an excellent writer. I just finished my first free motion quilt. I learned to free motion from your tutorials. It is not perfect by any means. I got the supreme slider from you and the genie bobbin washers. I am assuming that I will know when I need to change the washer.

  8. Hi Ladies! Here's the answers to many of your questions:

    Teresa - Preorders are a great idea! Why didn't I think of that? I'll try to get the button up sometime today.

    As for the hole in the Queen Supreme, it's off center, 7" from one side. This means it will fit on machines with a 7" throat or bigger!

    Sherry - I've only run through 1 washer in 1 year of heavy sewing! I just noticed that it was getting a little frayed on the edges and a bit thin and the bobbin wasn't gliding as smoothly.

    I swapped out the washer for a new one and everything worked perfectly again. I truly think the pack of 12 is a lifetime supply for most quilters.

    I think that's everything! Thank you all so much for your very kind comments and thanks!

    Leah Day

  9. I used the very first slider when they first came out. There was no sticky side to help adhere it to your machine, so when a friend of mine used my machine, the slider moved (even though it was taped down) and she sewed through it. I talked with the manufacturer at a major quilt show, and they graciously allowed me to send it back and upgrade to the newer version. Thanks for the reviews. I love my machingers.

  10. My FMQ tools just arrived! The Machingers fit perfectly and are so light compared to another brand. I can hardly wait to whip out a Cheater Needle Threader and hide some threads on a quilt desperately needing finishing detail work. My bobbins will be given new life with the Little Genie Teflon Bobbin Washers. And the Supreme Slide will cut down on the drag! Oh, the Isacord thread feels fab. Thank you, thank you for your voice of experience and your grace to share what you have learned.

  11. Just to confirm: if you use the Supreme Slider and don't drop your feed dogs, then they won't show through the hole in the Supreme Slider? I'm sorry if I sound dumb, but doesn't that negate the feed dogs not being dropped or do the feed dogs still have some effect??

  12. Hey Pip - I leave the feed dogs up because I find if I drop them, it changes something in the mechanics INSIDE the machine. I see a change in my tension and stitch quality when they are down, verse perfect stitches when they are up.

    The reason we have always heard to drop the feed dogs is because the teeth can catch and try to feed the quilt, thereby making it difficult to create totally free form patterns.

    But it's good to know that there is more than one way to do this! You don't have to drop them if you don't want to.

    You can leave them up and cover them with a supreme slider, thereby achieving the purpose of dropping them in the first place (no teeth touching and feeding the quilt).

    You can use the slider either way, so play with the machine you have and find out which way gives you the best stitch quality and fewest tension issues.

    Feel free to email me if this still isn't clear!


  13. I have a Jamone...finally a person that has a video to help us learn! I will be watching and sharing this blog with others.

  14. Leah, Thanks for teaching me how to free-motion quilt. When I wanted to learn and I had just missed a local class, I started searching online for instructions. As soon as I found your site, I was inspired to try it. After a few practice squares I was brave enough to try it on a queen-sized quilt. Thanks to your great teaching, tips and tool recommendations, I was able to skip all of the frustration I expected as a beginner and I was very impressed with my first project. I'm now starting my forth queen size quilt and really enjoy FMQ. I continue to read your articles and think your site is still the most helpful and inspiring information I have found on FMQ. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.

    Now a question about the Supreme Slider. I don't like to lower my feed dogs. But they are wearing thru my Slider and its tearing around the hole. I've reinforced it by cutting a little piece of plastic sheet and taping it to the underside. I was just wondering if you have had this problem and have any better tips.

  15. Amy - Yes, this can happen with the feed dogs up and the slider over them. If you're really bothered by it, you can first cover the feed dogs with an index card taped to your machine with a hole punched in the middle for the needle. Cover that with the slider and it shouldn't come in contact with the feed dogs at all.

    Hope that helps!



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