I am so pleased with myself right now! Here is my test piece for free motion quilting:
The first image is of the front side, the second image is of the back side of the piece. Theoretically, there aren't supposed to be any sharp points or crossed lines, but hey, this was my first attempt.
There are quite a few good resources out there about free motion quilting. I actually checked out a book from the public library about machine quilting. I can't for the life of me remember the title or author, but it was pretty good. Elizabeth Hartman's blog, Oh Fransson at ohfransson.com, also has a very good tutorial on quilt-making basics, including making a quilt sandwich (discussed below) and free motion quilting.
I am glad to know that one does not need a fancy sewing machine to do this. I have a basic electric Necchi Royal Series that I bought on e-bay that did the job wonderfully. Without going into too much detail (which you can read at ohfransson.com), the technique requires use of a darning foot and dropping the feed dogs on your sewing machine. This allows the work to be moved from side to side, as well as up and down, because there is no tension or foot on the work itself holding it in place. This means that the work never needs to be turned. The trick, I think, is to keep a steady rhythm so that your stitch length is somewhat even. I know there are fancier sewing machines out there that have functions that will regulate the stitch length for you, but unless you look closely, I don't think my test piece was too bad. Like anything, I'm sure it will require some practice.
Other thoughts, the literature I read indicated that free motion quilting requires a slightly higher tension, but I did not adjust the tension on my machine any, and the back did not come out too loopy. Also, I guess it takes quite a bit of thread, and 100% cotton is recommended, so it's off to the fabric store for me to buy more thread.
Which leads me to this: the quilt for Baby Bea is sandwiched and ready to be quilted.
Making the quilt sandwich was not quite as tedious as I thought it would be. The process requires that the backing be cut about 4 inches bigger than the quilt top, and the batting just slightly smaller than the backing. The backing is then stretched slightly (or pulled taut, I guess) and taped down to the floor. The batting and quilt top are then laid on top and smoothed out.
You then pin the quilt with safety pins at regular intervals (I read that the space between each pin should be no bigger than the width of your closed fist). Anyhow, I used these little bent safety pins, which made the process a lot easier. One last thought, make sure you use a surface that can take a little beating, because the safety pins will scratch softer surfaces as you have to make sure you are pinning all the layers. I had to wait until Tuesday to do my pinning, because that is the day when the kitchen floor is cleanest!