Sorry this has taken so long to post! The tree skirt I demoed didn't photograph well, so I picked another project, then got caught up in general craziness. Anyway, here are some general directions for marking with stencils along with some links.
Free motion tips/tricks
• Feed dogs - To drop or not to drop? I drop mine, but this can vary from machine to machine.
• Bobbin thread - Pull the bobbin thread to the front of the quilt before you set the starting stitch. This keeps it from getting tangled on the back and potentially creating a big ugly mess.
• Stitch speed - Everything I've read about free motion quilting says to move quickly. I personally find that moving steadily is more important for my stitch length. I have a lead foot with the pedal and can’t be trusted not to mash it down out of excitement, so I like to set my stitch speed at a medium pace. If your machine does not have a speed regulator, try putting something under the pedal to keep from mashing down on it. I used a roll of pennies underneath my old Singer for a long time.
• Scale - I don’t mark everything I quilt, but if it is a large space that I want to fill, I like to block it off so I don’t get out of scale with the design. I use a water soluble marker to mark off sections to quilt in so I don’t end up with stones in my pebbling when I get distracted.
Stencils: www.fulllinestencil.com - Lovely assortment of stencils, reasonably priced, ships fast. Preparing to “Quilt as desired” with stencils
Basting: I prefer to spray baste my quilts, mostly because I am lazy and hate pinning, but I also love the puzzled looks on my family’s faces and their feet stick to the dining room floor. But seriously, you can baste your quilt however you like. The pins won’t get in the way of the marking.
Pre-positioning: I like to get my stencil out and make a plan of attack for quilting. I generally start quilting in the middle and work my way out, so depending on the size of your stencil, it pays to figure out ahead of time where you are starting and whether that means you will have a half design on either end when you could have had nice neat complete designs. Of course I have no experience with this whatsoever. It’s never happened to me. Ever.
Marking: Once you’ve made your plan, it’s time to start marking. I've personally used both the more sturdy plastic stencils and the flimsy mesh stencils with success, though the materials used to mark vary. (Note: the adjectives “sturdy” and “flimsy” are not a reflection on quality, one’s hard and one’s floppy)
Sturdy Plastic: Water soluble marking pen is great for smaller projects. Pouncing chalk can also be used. Pouncing chalk comes in white and a sort of periwinkle blue. All wash away completely. June Tailor also makes a spray on marking spray that can be used with the plastic stencils. I accidentally bought a can thinking it was basting spray (looked exactly the same, except it said “marking” instead of “basting”. Doh!) and just used it last week. It smells to high (and I do mean that there is the possibility that one could get potentially high from the fumes) heaven and did not have enough volume to mark a lap quilt, so I didn’t really think it was worth it, but it is an option.
Flimsy mesh: Pouncing chalk only can be used with these stencils. Marking pens absolutely do not work. So choose your stencil and marking material. Lay everything out at your starting point. Pounce, draw or spray your design.
If it is a design you will be repeating, I like to pounce a few sections at a time. There is a point at which the chalk will smear after sitting in your lap, but it’s a trial and error mostly. The mesh stencils I use have nice alignment markers to help you orient your placement of the stencil as you move down the row.
Once done marking, slide the quilt into your machine and “quilt as desired”. Depending on the size of your darning foot and the speed at which you sew, there will be some chalk “bounce” as the presser foot goes up and down, but the chalk line should still be visible.