What Every Quilter and Embroidery Enthusiast Should Know

Clare Rowley, Inventor, educator, artist, author. Creative Feet Sewing machine feet and Octi-HOOPS free motion quilting and Free Motion Embroidery Frames
Clare Rowley

As the inventor of Creative Feet, it sounds odd that I’d encourage removing the presser foot when sewing, however, it is best for you and the fabric when doing Free Motion techniques. As depicted in vintage sewing machine instruction manuals, dating back to early 19th century, free-motion embroidery was done without a foot.

Free-Motion Quilting surfaced between the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and was also accomplished without a foot, until the darning foot became an option-leading to the current Free-Motion quilting foot. I invented the Octi-HOOPS, making it possible to sew without a foot, without leaning over, without hurting your hands, back and neck. Using the Octi-Hoops, simplifies the process and makes it something everyone can do!


Octi-HOOPS are a set of 3 octagon shaped frames, packaged in kit-form, making Free Motion embroidery & quilting easy for anyone. Each Octi-HOOP Kit consists of the following:

  • 3 Octagon shaped frames engineered with guiding holes on all 8 sides of each and slippery base.
  • 2 crayon shaped and feeling handles that drop into guiding holes allowing the user to rest their hand on table or machine bed and "write" or "draw" as they sew.
  • 3 different fabric stabilizers for adhering to back side of frames and for use with printing designs for embroidery.
  • Patterns (drawn/printed) within the written and illustrated instructions insert.
  • DVD covering embroidery and quilting
  • Access to more instructional videos for free. 

 Octi-Hoop Kit

Octi-HOOP frames are engineered with a unique surface on the back-side for 2 reasons

  1. The surface makes the frames slippery when Quilting so they don't drag on the sewing machine's surface. This makes it easier on your hands as the quilt doesn't drag on the machine either.
  2. For Embroidery an adhesive stabilizer is adhered and can be pulled off. You stretch the sticker-like stabilizers onto the frame tightly so you can lay your fabric on top. This is great! Why? Because it means you never have to stretch your garment! You adhere your fabric onto the stabilizer's sticky surface, (just the area that you plan to embroider) embroider the design, pull the fabric off of the stabilizer creating a hole that you can patch. Then you are able to embroider another design on the same stabilizer saving money and reducing waste.

You also don't have to hold onto your hoop with both hands (something you have to do with all other embroidery hoops) to move the fabric beneath the sewing machine needle. This is awesome! You actually move your fingers in the same way you do when you write - with your hand down on the machine and elbows down on the table. You're able to do this because of the handles that drop into the guide holes on each frame.




1) Stick and Rinse is a printable water soluble (rinse away) stabilizer for use on back of hoops for embroidery on thin or see-thru fabrics - or, on top of fabric for embroidery as described here.

2) Stick and Tear, is a white stabilizer, made of polyester fabric - designed to stick to an Octi-Hoop frame; the fabric sticks to it and then tears away once the embroidery is complete. This is used when you don't mind seeing stabilizer on the back-side of the fabric. Stick and Tear is a permanent stabilizer, so after washing the garment will maintain it's original appearance.

3) Fabric Cover is a vinyl stabilizer designed to BLOCK the fabric color from showing through the thread for embroidery. A piece of clear is included, however there are 16 colors available. By using yellow Fabric Cover on the T-shirt below - we were able to sew out less stitches to cover the area protecting the garment from needle damage. After the area is sewn, you simply tear inward - toward the stitches to remove excess stabilizer. 

 Fill in printed sports shirts with thread using the Octi-Hoops

This photo shows how you can take a garment that has print on it and color inside the lines. If a sports shirt already has print - you can color it in with thread making a one-of-a-kind garment and not violating any copyright laws. 

Free Motion is the ability to sew, embroider, quilt and embellish fabric without feed dog interference. Normally the "foot" or "presser foot" or "sewing machine foot" holds the fabric down so your sewing machine needle won't cause the fabric to lift-up as it exits while stitching with a sewing machine.  Using the Octi-HOOPS a foot is not needed! You don't even need a Free-Motion foot!

Why is it good to not need a foot?
When the feed-dogs are up and a foot is in-place the fabric is fed through and away from the sewer. This is similar to the wheels on a car driving you down the road's surface. Just as you can't drive your car sideways, when the feed-dogs are engaged or raised, you can't move the fabric sideways. If you want to sew a circular design, you are forced to move the fabric around like you turn the steering wheel of your car. Driving a quilt this way is nearly impossible and definitely hard on the body! 

 Feed dogs and free-motion foot

Eliminating the foot, makes moving a quilt similar to how it is when you slide a napkin along the surface of a table. Sliding things along the table's surface causes drag and on the back of a quilt = puckers. By placing one Octi-HOOP frame beneath the quilt we eliminate all drag or friction that normally occurs when sliding fabric on the machine's surface.

 quilt within the 2 Octi-Hoops

To hold down the quilt's top-side as the needle exits, we place a smaller sized frame on top of it and within the larger frame beneath. Then slide the corners of both frames into one another and continue holding them while quilting.

bring frames together and hold them with the hand you don't write with

Holding the handle/peg in your writing hand, with your arm down-moving just fingers, makes quilting feel like drawing or tracing over a design you've transferred onto your quilt-top.

Hand Positioning for quilting with the Oct-HOOPS

hand positioning for Octi-Hoops and Quilting

As you sew and move the fabric around the foot taps (but really drags) on the fabric's surface. Having a free-motion foot attached to the machine as you quilt or embroider, is like driving behind a car on the road. The Free-Motion foot blocks your view of the path along the fabric's surface. This inability to see as you pull the fabric towards you compels the sewer to scrunch down, lean forward and occasionally look behind it. This changes the operator's perspective with relation to the needle's location above the surface and increases errors in stitch location.

Octi-HOOPS eliminate the need to raise your elbows as you move the fabric, even on quilts!

 Clare Rowley shows how the elbows of a quilter are normally raised when moving the fabric because both hands are needed

 You may not raise your elbows this high, Clare raised hers to make sure everyone understood during this TV segment. 

 Elbows are down when using the Octi-Hoops because you write using a handle to move the quilt

If you sew or ever use both hands while raising your elbows - muscles located on your back, between your shoulder-blades, are utilized to help you keep your elbows up. (muscle spasms may occur)

Our body's physiology (the natural act or function) kicks into gear and tries to help you hold your arms up, so you don't have to. Another thing that occurs, is that you'll feel compelled to scrunch down so you can see the sewing machine needle. This unhealthy posture you sit in to "see" the needle and "hold" the fabric if done only on occasion will have no affect on your body. 

However, with any repetitive (day after day, month after month, year after year) motion, your body's Physiology is engineered to be your co-pilot and help you accomplish this repetitive motion. In order to "help" you accomplish the repetitive motion you're doing it either changes the shape of joints, adds bone and cartilage and or fuses bones in joints together to protect the nerves and soft-tissue within the body.

This is by definition a repetitive motion injury - you've probably heard that used in discussion before. In essence the body helps you drive the sewing machine. It makes adjustments inside your body to help you sit the way you are -  and if adding bone is what's needed it will do just that!

As pictured below, your finger tip becomes tipped or bent in a direction different than you were born with and a bump grows or is created by our body to help hold the pen you write with on the middle or neighboring finger.. (depending on how you hold your pen, how long you've been writing and how hard you hold on.)

 hands become deformmed from writing with pens and pencils

So many quilter's suffer from these injuries, there are companies making products for these issues, like gloves preventing the thumb from moving. 

With the Octi-HOOPS, there is no need for a presser foot, the feed dogs can even be up without causing drag on the bottom of the quilt! The need to push down is removed and the elbows rest on the table. By removing the sewing machine foot all-together, there is no chance of creating puckers on the quilt's surface - bottom or top.

 Clare Rowley shows how to roll quilt using elastic straps and safety pins allows you to let-go of your quilt as you stipple

You can see Clare's wrists have elastic straps connected to the quilt, she calls them "Quiltlets". Quilting doesn't get any healthier or relaxing! You can view this TV episode by clicking on the photo to learn more.

Clare Rowley's experience working with Occupational Therapists, creating products and methods for the physically and visually challenged, led her to create the use of safety pins and elastic straps for a patient that had her left hand amputated. If they strap their quilts using this method quilting enthusiasts can literally wear their quilts!  

If you have already undergone spinal surgery (pictured below) due to a repetitive injury and you're unable to bend your head down to sew - you can use all of Clare Rowley's products because you Never have to watch the sewing machine needle! 

 Spinal fusing surgery from free-motion quilting

Spinal Vertebrae Fusing Surgery due to scrunching down for long periods of time is a serious result of improper posture.

Countless quilting enthusiasts have undergone traumatic, neck vertebrae fusing surgery, (pictured above) caused simply from sitting too many hours using an unhealthy posture. The Octi-HOOP kit is designed so that you never have to sit in an unhealthy posture! 

Hand surgery is even more prevalent in quilting and sewing enthusiasts. Surgery is done to repair joint damage caused by pushing down while moving hands side to side.(Preventable health issues.) Pushing down while moving hands side to side, places joints under pressure and over-time these joints become damaged, in addition to placing them at risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.