I started free-motion quilting (FMQ) about two years ago.
While I wanted to try it 30 years ago, my local quilt shop did not offer classes and the internet was not the information base that it is nowadays. I thought it might be useful for others if I shared the things that were helpful for me.
My first FMQ stitch was the all over “meander.”
Once I got proficient with it, I moved on to some of the other techniques. One of the first things I did was watch videos. I started with youtube and kept watching videos until I ran across a teacher that made sense to me. I also had an online subscription to Bluprint (formly Craftsy) and I researched the classes available. One of the best one’s I found was 28 Days to Better Free-Motion Quilting by Angela Walters. After watching the first segment on Angela’s video a couple of times I thought I would try making some of the shapes with paper and pencil.
I tried to make time to practice a design every day. Many of the FMQ teachers suggested to practice for 15 minutes a day and this would help with body memory when I actually sat down at my sewing machine.
I dated each time I practiced so I could gauge my improvement with the various motifs.
I really wanted to learn feathers and I practiced several styles. For me, feathers are my biggest challenge.
Now it was time to work with the sewing machine.
Above is one of my early practice clothes. It’s awful but I hung onto it so I could see my improvement along the way. While I am embarrassed to show this piece, I want to encourage others to hang in there. With practice and time, you will become better.
The above piece was FMQ on my Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale sewing machine. I now own and FMQ on a Juki TL-18QVP. It is a straight-stitch machine that I originally purchased for bag-making. One of the bonuses I found is that it is a wonderful machine for the FMQ technique. I hope to write a review, in the future, about this great machine!
My machine came with the FMQ foot.
If yours didn’t, you will need to purchase one. You will need to know whether your machine takes a short/low shank foot, medium shank, a high shank foot or a slant shank foot. If you have a Bernina sewing machine they have a very specialized foot. My machine takes the high shank. You can purchase sewing feet from Amazon or Sewing Machine Plus or your local shop that carries your brand.
Pictured above is the Supreme Slider.
It is basically a sheet you put over the sewing machine base that helps with friction. I have FMQ with and without and I find this sheet helps my movement to be smoother with it on.
Using a good thread is important.
I also suggest using a good quilting thread like Aurifil or Craftsy and a topstitch/quilting sewing needle with a large eye. My favorite is Inspira brand. With a quality thread and larger needle eye I have found I have less thread shredding and breakage. This was a big problem for me in my early stages. I had a lot less problems when I found Aurifil/Craftsy and Inspira.
These are my quilting gloves.
No, I don’t wear them because my hands get cold. I wear them because they help me grab my quilt better to move around under my needle. I’ve used a few different brands and have found I like Wonder Grip best. These gloves are coated all over the palm and fingers with a rubber and the rubber helps grip the top for movement. I even like to use them when I am using my walking foot for stitching-in-the-ditch. I feel like I have more control of the quilt.
Having a visual aid in the beginning is very helpful.
As I started practicing with a quilt sandwich I found that I liked to have something in front of me to look at for practicing motifs. I found these two books helpful. Quilting Inside The Lines by Pam Clarke and Quilting DOT to DOT Cheryl Barnes. These books have practice pages inside them and they also help to break down the motifs in movements.
After practicing with a whole cloth and becoming comfortable making some basic motifs I went on to drawing block patterns onto muslin and making some quilt blocks to practice with making designs. I admit, I had to push myself to become brave enough to quilt on an actual quilt top. I was scared to mess it up. The first couple I did, well, they had quite a few mistakes! Cotton quilt batting is very forgiving. Once the quilt is finished and I wash it, everything shrinks a bit and my stitching, with it’s mistakes, isn’t as noticeable
One last item I would like to suggest for your FMQ journey. Purchase one of the Big Dream Panels by Hoffman to FMQ on.
These panels come in various colors and have really taught and challenged me as I’ve quilted them out. (See the picture at the beginning of this post to see my FMQ patterns.) I believe Hoffman is offering other flower/nature panels that lend themselves to FMQ.
If you are new to FMQ or are considering FMQ please remember that it takes some practice and time. Be patient as you learn. I find it very rewarding and relaxing.
Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog. Until next time . . .