Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) can seem very scary and frustrating at first. But it is actually very fun.
First, you need to make sure your machine is set up properly. Consult your owners manual for your sewing machine for more specific instructions, but this is what I do.
I put on my FMQ foot. This is a plastic closed toe, spring loaded foot. It is the foot the manufacturer recommended for my machine. I also make sure the feed dogs are down. You want to be in charge of where the fabric flows.
Next, practice. I like to make multiple fabric sandwiches that are about 10 inches square. Then I practice, practice, practice. There are three things that I like to practice.
1. I read the other day that when you start out, start by trying to write your name. Start FMQing by writing something you know you are good at doing because then you can concentrate on the technique. After that, move on to swirls and meandering. I also like to do stars and hearts.
2. If your machine does not have a stitch regulator, you will need to practice getting a consistent length on your stitches. I find that I go faster around curves, so I know I need to pull the fabric slower when I go around a curve.
3. Practice following a line. Draw a design on your sandwich and try following it. An open foot, or a clear plastic foot helps to see where you are stitching. The technique I find most helpful is to look an inch or two ahead of where I am quilting. Its like driving a car. You always look up the road ahead of you, not just where you are. This will help you prepare for the twists and turns that are coming up.
I have been free motion quilting for a while but I still find it helpful to use these techniques to warm up before I start quilting on the quilt I am working on.
If you are a beginner, set aside some time each day to practice, and after a while you will be a pro! Even if you are not a beginner, practicing always helps.
Have fun sewing!!