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Monday, 7 February 2011

Tips on Tuesdays! -> Free Motion Quilting

Welcome back to Tips on Tuesdays!  This week's theme is on free motion quilting.  Most people want to be able to do it, and many fear trying.  So I thought this would be a good opportunity to hear what everyone has to offer in the way of Free Motion tips.  Anyone reader can leave a tip in the comments.  Bloggers can include their links and grab a button (the red one on the side bar).  That button will link you to ALL Tips on Tuesdays posts.

Well!  My machine is doing what I want (finally) and I'm ready to progress with my free motion skills.  There's a great article in the current issue of Quilting Arts magazine that was written by Heather Thomas.  I know that "practice makes perfect".  It doesn't mean I actually practice much though. So Heather's article was a good kickstart for me to make up some practice pieces.  Make lots!

quilt sandwiches made form leftovers & batting scraps

If you want to get better, then just do it.  It's easier if you have all the supplies ready.  So spend an afternoon just making these sandwiches.  You can spray baste them and pin them at the corners.  It's an excellent way to use up all those little strips of left over quilt batt.  Once you have a stack of these, then all you need to do is practice.  Heather suggests 20 minutes a day.  I'm reminded of Leah Day's ability too - that's what you get when you FMQ on a daily basis.  It's amazing where a little practice time will get you.

it's not perfect - but it's practice time under my belt

If you make all your sandwiches 8x10, you can put 3 grommets along one side and save them in a binder.  I don't.  I do save the rare one that I would want to replicate some day.

Here's a list of my top tips:
* use quilting gloves.  I use Machingers gloves for free motion or straight line quilting.  They help me so much with control & precision. What's your favorite grip?
* match the weight of the top thread with the weight of the bobbin thread.
* you may have to tighten up the top tension a bit to avoid "eyelashes" on back.  In other machines (like mine), you may need to loosen the bobbin tension.
* put the speed control on medium so you can never speed up way too fast by accident.  Other people might suggest drinking wine to relax, but.... nah.  I like to be sober when I sew.
* basting - I stitch in the ditch between blocks then remove all pins before I begin quilting so that NOTHING is in my way.  Michelle at Periwinkle does the same thing.  How do you do it?

The article in issue #49 of Quilting Arts also suggests things like "trace the pattern with your non dominant hand" several times to really learn how to move the fabric through with both hands.  I thought that was interesting.  Still, the best tip I can think of to offer is "practice practice practice".  So make it easy on yourself and go get those sandwiches prepared!  ; )  Quilt a sandwich every time you go to sit at your machine. 

What helps you??  Inquiring minds want to know.  : )


Becky said...

Agree with everything, especially the practice. I always have a quilt sandwich near the machine, and do a few minutes on that before it even touches the quilt. I guess my biggest tip is to make sure you have lots of surface area flush with the sewing machine to the LEFT of the needle and behind if possible. Don't let the quilt drape over a surface, or it will pull. And JUST DO IT! Like piecing, it won't be perfect initially. Don't start learning on your favorite quilt or one that you spent 100 hours sewing, or a huge queen size. Make up a cute crib 9 patch quilt with cheap fabric LOL! Or do what I did... make LOTS of dinner table place mats.

ferne said...

I love your blog and just became a follower because I don't want to miss a thing. I too am in the practice mode though I keep getting bored with practicing and take off on a quilt project. I think I am getting better, only need much more practice. I am determined though to get free motion down to where I am confident and comfortable with it. Thanks for sharing!

My Sweet Prairie said...

Great idea to make stuff with it all! Just trim it and bind it. Table runners, mug rugs, etc...

I want to learn something more unique that meandering. I love the big flowers and loops and vines too.

Oh! Another tip - I was told to use a bigger needle (14 or 16 Topstitch needle) for free motion quilting. So far so good (crossin' my fingers.)


Anonymous said...

The turning point for me with freemotion quilting was when I took a couple of classes with ChiChi in Moose Jaw. She started us off with her most difficult design and after that everything was easy. I came away with an unbelievable confidence.
One of her tips is to practice 30 minutes a day for 5 days and you'll be amazed with your progress.
She also says that the right needle is the one that works for you today.
Another tip is don't watch the needle. Instead look ahead to see where you're going. ( kind of like driving a car:)
I practice on placemats. Just cut out some pretty fabric, and quilt away. I don't pin or spray baste. I iron the three layers together and they hold just fine.

My Sweet Prairie said...

Thanks so much Joyce! Smart to start tough. : )

And for all the non-locals reading the blog, I'm sure they are all questioning our Canadian oddities, wondering "what's a chi chi in a moose jaw???". Chi Chi is a woman and Moose Jaw is a town. hehehe

: )

Jeane said...

Hi Monika, I arrived here via GrammaCoco. You have a great blog and I am fairly new to FM quilting. I agree with all the tips posted. I did a FM Quilt Along at "A Few Scraps" blogspot.com. We drew on paper, did samples, and worked on a sampler of stitches. It is so handy to refer to when you just can't decide what to use. I don't know how to link to my blog, but I am at Samantha's House.

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