Category: Technique:

Free Motion Satin Stitch

Shop hops can be a lot of fun especially when attended with a group of good friends. But occasionally once the day has ended and the treasures have all been unpacked there is that one purchase that you ask “what was I thinking”? What seemed at the time like a real find now appears to be one of those bundles of fabric that will become a permanent guest on the fabric shelf. I made one of those purchases the last time I went shop hopping with friends. The fabric was a repeat pattern of butterfly blocks. And to think we all bought several yards of that same fabric. As hard as I tried I just couldn’t figure out what I was going to make with it.

Then came the Horizon 7700 and the mysterious echo quilting foot. All of a sudden an idea came to me to try something that I had been hesitant to even think about before. I had always admired thread painting but after watching people actually do it, there was no way I had the coordination or patience to even attempt it. As I sat in front of the Horizon the wheels started spinning and I thought what about using a free motion satin stitch to just outline one of those butterflies. I threaded the machine with Robison Anton gold metallic thread, reduced the upper thread tension to 2, lowered the feed dogs, attached the echo quilting foot, placed a piece of batting under one of the butterflies and started my adventure.

My eyes widened with amazement at how smoothly the thread fed through the machine and the butterfly became an elegant expression of embellishment. Adjusting the gate of the stitch gave it even more texture and added to the beauty of this simple repeat print piece of fabric.

It was just a matter of following the outline of the pattern. It didn’t take long to figure out that filling in sections of the wings by using the wider gate was fast and a lot easier than I had ever imagined. I think of this technique as “Faux Thread Painting” for those of us who admired it from afar but were afraid to take the leap. Of course I followed the basic rules of only stitching vertically and horizontally and not rotating the fabric.

Sharing this technique became an obsession but with amazing results. Everyone that I showed how to do this on the Horizon became FMSS’s (Free Motion Satin Stitchers) immediately. I was so impressed with how each one endeavored to take it to the next level that I decided to join the artworks together to make a sample. And so the Butterflies have now taken flight! Enjoy!