We welcome guest blogger Trina Gallop Blank of Will Cook For Shoes to Janome Life as she shares quilting tips, techniques and inspiring images from her sewing adventures.
My love of free motion quilting (FMQ) has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year. I used to think I didn’t like all that extra “fussiness” on a quilt (clean and simple lines was my rule) but my appreciation for FMQ and what it adds to the finished look and feel for a quilt now knows no bounds.
My first foray into FMQ was a simple butterfly pattern on a mini quilt. I remember how scared I was to actually put this precious appliqué under the presser foot and give’er. I traced the pattern on with a stencil to guide me and after several practice quilt sandwiches, I started off on my FMQ journey.
This first go was a success in my eyes and I was hooked.
Unfortunately, for a while after that, I was not as successful with my FMQ endeavours. I became very critical of my work, I had tension issues, the stitches were not smooth, in fact they seemed almost unruly. I let it go for a while and let it festered in my subconscious. I completed a few minis and full size quilts with no FMQ or just straight stitches.
But it kept nagging at me. This hurdle was meant to be overcome.
Being the Type-A person that I am, I starting researching (read: obsessing) everything I could about FMQ technique. I read blog posts, watched YouTube videos and even bought a few books. If there were local classes I could have taken, I would have signed myself up (seriously). I even watched a few Craftsy videos.
One thing kept coming up again and again. In the end, it turned out to be the foundation for improving my FMQ skills.
I needed to just keep practising.
Ugh – I hated hearing that.
Then I remembered the first night of every beginner cake decorating class I ever taught (cake decorating being my first creative love). In this first night of class, I show the students how to ice a cake for the first time. Usually they all comment on how smooth my finish is and how they’ll never be able to ice their cakes that smooth. To which I respond by sharing with them that I’ve been decorating cakes for over 20 years (I started when my Mom was decorating our birthday cakes when we were kids) and that actually, there were imperfections in my cake but when you stand back and look at the big picture you don’t see all those tiny little blips.
This little speech I give others for cake decorating finally translated over to my FMQ endeavours. FMQ takes practice, I needed to take a step back and look at the big picture and stop obsessing over every little imperfection.
I am by no means a FMQ expert but I thought I’d share a few tips and tools that really helped give my FMQ a boost.
A few little tips about accessories (I have no affiliation to third party products mentioned here – just sharing my experience):
- Make sure you have a proper FMQ foot for your machine. Ask your local quilt shop if you have questions.
- Quilters gloves will help take a little bit of strain off your hands and shoulders. I love my little purple ones with grippies on each finger tip.
- Check out whether there are other accessories for your machine that will help. Some machines have more consistent stitches (particularly on the underside of quilting) when using a special bobbin holder like the Little Magic Bobbin Genies (pictured below.)
- Consider your work surface. Having a table for your machine will help if you are working on larger projects. And I also have a Supreme Slider that I use for FMQ.
As part of the practice, it is recommended that you draw out your FMQ designs on paper. This helps you start to get a flow for when you sit down to quilt different designs. I started keeping a little notebook of design ideas and also used the notebook as a place to practice my FMQ. When I have a little downtime I’ll grab a pen or pencil and practice different designs.
I’ve found that even in the short time I’ve started making this drawing practice time a habit, my FMQ time on the machine is getting more consistent.
My Basset Hound Flower Child mini quilt is one of my favs because I’m so proud of the FMQ feathers. This was the first times I didn’t have to draw on my design before I started quilting, I just went for it (after lots and lots of practice drawing on paper first). I doubled up on my batting for this mini as well and it paid off as it made the feathers really pop.
For many of my quilts now I’ll do a rough drawing of the quilt and then plan and practice my FMQ design. This really helps me get a sense of the finished quilt and also practice spacing and think about where I’ll start and end my FMQ stitching.
And this half-square triangles sampler quilt is probably my most FMQ project to date. I planned out what I wanted in the sashing but everything else I just kinda quilted as I went along. A few times I would stop and draw out the design on paper first just to get the feel of it. And pinterest was an awesome source of ideas. Just enter “free motion quilting” in the search field and you’ll get all kinds of suggestions and tutorials.
Have you been on the fence about trying FMQ? I hope this encourages you to give it a try. Start your practicing on paper and then grab a mini quilt sandwich (I use a 12 inch piece of batting sandwiched between two pieces of scrap fabric) and just go. Try different speeds, different patterns. And use pinterest and check out some of the online video tutorials. Before you know it you’ll be enjoying your FMQ fun!
PS – I’m so excited to share that I’ll be at the Canadian Quilters Association Conference – Quilt Canada ! I’ll be helping out in the Janome classroom and possibly at the booth as time permits. If you are planning to be there, please stop by and say hi.