December 19, 2015

Exploring Free Motion Quilting

I have been exploring free motion quilting with Leah Day and her Free Motion Quilting Project and the Building Blocks Quilt Along videos. I have FMQ'd one small quilt using a meandering design back in 2011, but have not done any FMQ for quite a while. This is just a practice piece as I explored some designs.

I started out using FMQ to make straight(ish) lines to divide the piece into a grid of four quadrants. I used Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread on some quilt fabric that was languishing in my stash. I used Quilters Dream Select batting.

In the photo above the top section is is how Leah recommends you start out to get a feel for moving the quilt. The bottom section is a design shown on the packaging for the Supreme Slider.

Here I just decided to do what ever came to me. I ended up making circles around the dots in the print fabric, then I stitched some words - another Leah lesson.

After I stitched this practice piece I zigzagged the edges and sent it through the washer and dryer with some laundry. I was anxious to see how it would come out.

The more heavily quilted quadrant is more stiff and flat, of course, but not overly so. I think it would soften up over time on a quilt that was used.

I have some questions though. It's hard to see on the pics but on the more heavily quilted part the stitches seem to sit on top of the fabric rather than "sinking in" and giving that little indentation in the surface of the quilt. Is that how it is supposed to look or am I doing it incorrectly? Or maybe that just happens when more of the surface area is stitched? That makes sense to me. More of the surface is compressed so the indentations would not be as great.

Anyway, I have enjoyed practicing and am considering purchasing Leah's Building Blocks pattern or joining her upcoming quilt along the Machine Quilting Block Party. I just want to be sure I can do this without too terribly much frustration before purchasing!  ;)

So . . . off for more practice!

If you have any suggestions for FMQ I'd love to hear them!

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  1. Hi Laney, I know what you mean about the stitches sitting up on more densely quilted sections - I sometimes have this happen if I get too excited and move the fabric too quickly, causing the stitches to be a bit bigger (mainly when I'm doing curves or corners). I have to concentrate and make myself stay at a steady consistent speed, which is all just practice and more practice really. I turn my practice blocks into pillows...

    1. Thanks Gemini Jen. I'm hoping to get some more practice in soon. I think that is really the key!

  2. I would start with a practice sandwich, and use different colors of threads in bobbin and needle. There are many places online that will help you distinguish tension issues, and the remedy to fix it. When you have loose tension on top as I think you're describing, the bobbin tension is to blame. Use a tiny screw driver, and tighten the bobbin screw by just a smidgen. Think of a minute on a clock, and then try it again. People get wigged out when they think they have to adjust it, but as a longarmer I'm doing it often. Maybe every quilt. Also, check the back to see how your stitches look there. The stitches should only be visible as you might see in a commerically sewn garment, and neither should show on the opposite side. If you are using 2 different thread colors, you may see this a tiny bit one way or another. Superior Threads site used to have a fabuous series on thread, but check out You Tube also.

    1. LOL - I laughed at your phrase "wigged out" - and yes I feel totally wigged out to think of adjusting the bobbin tension! Great idea to practice with a different color in the bobbin to help see if things need adjusting. Thanks Julie! And yes - superior Threads has some very informative videos.

  3. It looks like you've been having a lot of fun! I'm going to try for more fun with fmq in the new year.

  4. I tend to do quite dense quilting on my quilts, and they do soften up over time. If the quilting is very dense, it can take a few washings, but it will happen! I think the best way to learn to free motion quilt is to do a lot of it and not worry too much about minor mistakes. Relax and enjoy it! (


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