Dear Jan,
I'm new to free-motion quilting by machine. I understand that the feeddogs are lowered and I control the movement of the fabric. But, my stitching looks uneven and doesn’t seem to lock as it should. What am I doing wrong? -Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

This problem often occurs with beginners. First make sure that your machine is set up properly for free-motion quilting:
• Lower the feed dogs (good job, you've already done one of the most important elements).
• Remove the ankle and screw on the P2 foot. This foot is spring loaded and will assist in the stitch formation. The P2 foot is different from the P foot used for Professional-Style Embroidery.
• Insert a new needle. A Janome Blue Tip #75/11 is good.
• Place the same thread in the needle and bobbin _ the thread type can be Janome Embroidery thread or a cotton thread manufactured for machine quilting. It is not recommended that you use Quilting thread that has been manufactured for hand quilting, since it's coated with wax.
• Select a straight stitch or, if you are using the Memory Craft 11000, select the Quilting Mode: Free-Motion Embroidery Key, and the machine is automatically set-up for you.
Now that your machine is set, make sure your quilt is basted well. You can do this by either hand-basting the three layers together or use safety pins made for quilts (regular safety pins may rust). A rule of thumb when basting is to have no area of the quilt un-basted that is larger than your hand. Next, you might want to consider using surgical gloves or gardening gloves that have "grippers" on the palms. This will help you grip the quilt as you are moving it. The last bit of advice is to practice. Free-hand quilting requires a rhythm while sewing. The speed at which you sew is up to you. Relax as you sew and before long you'll be quilting like the pros.