Free Motion Quilting

Tips, Resources, and Links to get you started with Free Motion Quilting!

A couple of years ago I decided I was ready to learn Free Motion Quilting (FMQ). I didn’t understand it exactly, nor was I sure how to achieve it, but I was willing to give it a try. It really came from a desire to have the entire finished quilt come completely from me, rather than it being a combination of my piecing with someone else’s quilting.

So just what is Free Motion Quilting? Free Motion Quilting is the process of using your domestic machine to quilt the quilt sandwich without the use of feed dogs. Here are some excellent resources that I think you’ll need as you try it out.

Videos

  • Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting Project is site packed with videos of Leah free quilting hundreds of free motion design. These are quality. videos explaining tips and techniques to make your FMQ go well. Oh, and the designs are pretty wonderful too.
  • Amy Johnson’s YouTube channel is another great resource for Free Motion Quilting videos. An added bonus here is that she also shows Ruler Work on a domestic machine using the Westalee Ruler foot and rulers.

Books

  • Free Motion Quilting Idea BookAmanda Murphy917v7UECRAL._AC_UL436_SEARCH212385_
    I love this book for its multiple quilt designs for some very common quilt blocks. The progressive instruction is extremely friendly for those who are new to free motion quilting.
    BONUS: Besides the block designs, this book shows common background fills beyond meandering and stippling that make quilts so much more exciting to look at.
  • Continuous Line Quilting DesignsHari Walner51NaG1VzfyL._AC_UL320_
    This is my go-to book for beautiful designs that are easy to stitch. Hari also includes instructions and comparisons of batting, fabric, and thread.
    BONUS: She provides a simple chart with copier size percentages for expanding or shrinking the design to fit your quilt. It’s easy to make your own stencils from the scaled designs you can make on this copy machine.
  • 1000 Great Quilting DesignsReader’s Digest51VA02ZM4FL._AC_UL436_SEARCH212385_
    Don’t let the size of this little book fool you; it’s chock full of simple designs organized by shape. Use them individually or combine them to create fun new quilt designs.
    BONUS: This book also contains edge-to-edge designs you can use if you don’t want to quilt individual blocks.
  • Over 150 Quilting Designs for Every QuilterAQS Blog
    Ok, so this is not actually a book, but this page has links to more than 150 wonderful designs. This has 25 different designs for each of these blocks: Flying Geese, Ohio star, Square in a Square, Churn Dash, Hourglass, and Nine-patch blocks.
    BONUS: There are also some videos on this page from iQuilt instructors with some very useful tips.

Tools

61JGHvUZUyL._AC_UL320_Machinger’s Quilting Gloves – I use Machinger’s because they’re so lightweight and breathable. Fon’s and Porter also makes quilting gloves. Trust me, this is the best $6 investment you can make for FMQ quilting.
TIP: cut off the tip (about 1″) of the thumb and forefinger on each glove so you can wind bobbins, replace needles, and make cuts without having to remove the gloves each time.

81i8+YxuIOL._AC_UL320_Supreme Super Slider – This self-sticking teflon pad naturally adheres to your machine bed without residue and enables the quilt to move more smoothly under the needle. There are three sizes for this at different price points, so read carefully and choose the best size for your machine.

91ltIXbBGHL._AC_UL320_

Topstitch 90/14 needles are sharp and have a large eye that makes it easier for the thread to move back and forth during free motion quilting. Any brand will do but I usually stick to Schmetz. Superior Threads has some great education on needles that’s an excellent free read. They also sell some titanium topstitch needles that I’ve been itching to try.

613T8LLbp5L._AC_UL320_Aurifil Mako and Superior Threads Masterpiece cotton threads, 50wt or occasionally 40wt, are what I usually use. I’ve also just purchased some Wonderful Spaghetti 12wt thread to try some specialty quilting with. Look for it on my upcoming Peppermint Dash quilt. You’ll need to experiment a bit for this, since some machines can be finicky. After trying several, I’ve settle on these brands for use with my Pfaff.

Practice Panels

Practice panels like the ones listed below from multiple vendors are a great way to start to get comfortable with Free Motion Quilting. The designs come pre-printed on the fabric, so it’s quick and easy to sandwich the panel with some inexpensive batting and backing so you can get right to the quilting.

82730What’s also nice about these panels is they teach you common free motion designs that are easy to translate onto your real quilts later when you’ve gain confidence. Here’s a panel designed by Jane Hauprich, an FMQ instructor and HandiQuilter National Educator – I took some of her classes! This panel is available at Connecting Threads or you can get it at Jane’s site, where her wonderful workbooks are also available for purchase.

You can also use any regular quilting panel that you might buy to include in a actual quilt. Whatever you can find that is already marked with lines is perfect because the real purpose of these is to get to know your machine, its rhythm, and how to you must move the fabric to get the designs you want. Pre-printed is really the way to get started quickly without a lot of fuss.

Free-motion-Quilting-Panels-1200-x-800-WeAllSew-BERNINA-Blog-4-300x300@2xI also like this modern, colorful one from Bernina, designed by Amand Murphy, whose book I mentioned earlier in this post. It’s available exclusively at Bernina dealers. So if you’re in Charlotte, Hickory, or Shelby stop in at Lee’s Creative Sewing & Vacuums to pick up one of these two colorful, fun panels. I’ve got one right now in progress. When it’s done, I’ll machine bind it for a nice little throw quilt to either keep or give away.

RGA502
Finally, there’s a set of three, inexpensive, Skill-buider panels that also have pre-printed designs. This is what I used when I began free motion quilting. Since I was just working out how to adjust my tension, it’s a good thing I began on one of these bare-bones  panels because the back was a chaotic mess of too much thread! But that was okay – I learned without ruining a quilt top. Working through the various designs helped me gain confidence to continue on my Free Motion Quilting journey.

Finally…

Get a panel, watch a video, and try it out yourself. You’ll find out how it can be both fun and occasionally frustrating. But in the end, it will make you a better quilter all-around. Promise.

Check back next week for some tips and photos about setting up the machine to prepare for Free Motion Quilting.

Happy Quilting!

~3G

EQ8 Designs

I haven’t been quilting much lately, but I have been spending time designing quilts in EQ8. It’s so easy to lose hours just lost in quilt design on the computer! If you own EQ8, you know what I’m talking about.

Since I can’t show you any real quilts in progress, here are few ‘virtual’ beauties to enjoy.

Beach balls
Wild Beach Balls

 

Wild Beach Balls emerged from a personal challenge to create an interesting design from just two solid-colored fabrics. I’m not sure I’ve found the perfect color combo yet, but I love the movement in this design.

If you can believe it, the entire quilt is made with only a single block. The design is pretty modern so I think it might work well for the annual 2-color quilt challenge for QuiltCon each year.

 

 

 

festiva
Festiva

Festiva began as an experiment with the New York Beauty block. I’ve not made a quilt from this block yet, but am itching to do so. I’ve got about 60 color variations with varying border treatments as well. I haven’t settled on exactly the right one yet, but when I do I might actually make this quilt.

 

 

Nosegay quilt
Nosegay Parade

I recently came across the Antique Nosegay block, which I had never seen before. It’s such a calm little block I felt like I had to make traditional quilt design for it. The Baltimore album medallion in the alternate blocks seems to create a nice contrast.

While playing with the colors, it struck me that this would make really nice wedding quilt, perhaps with  30’s reproduction colors for softness.

Well, that’s all for now. Photos of real quilts in progress coming soon – promise!

~3G

Colorful Cabin Quilt Revealed!

It’s time for the big reveal: ta-da!

Final-log-cabin-quilt-4web

I know the quilting in this photo is impossible to see, but it was an excellent choice for this quilt top. Believe it or not, Rebecca chose a gold-colored thread for the quilting and it truly was perfect. It didn’t fight with the color and gave just the right amount of texture and contrast. We named the quilt Color and Light, a Sondheim song reference that is well-known to the theatre-savvy couple.

I was able to finish the hand-sewn binding in time to take it to “Show and Tell” at my guild meeting before carting it off to New York the next day. Whew! Just in time.

So what did the happy couple have to say about it?

“A formal thank you to follow, of course, but we have spent the morning sending photos of this quilt to people. It’s *gorgeous* and we couldn’t love it more!”

Just what we’d hoped for.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the original version and a kit for this quilt in case you don’t want to mix and match fabrics on your own. It’s a fun, fast quilt to make and is just perfect for mixing lots of color and pattern. Mine’s way more colorful and exciting than the original (guess I’m kind of partial!) but you’re welcome to try their version. For my money, mixing and matching some vibrant Kaffe Fasset fabrics is the way to go.

Now I just have to buckle down to start my next project, which is an original design. Stay tuned for more!

~3G

Quilting the Log Cabin

I’ve taken the quilt to Rebecca Mullins, a long-arm quilter in our guild who does fantastic work. We immediately hit it off last year when she designed the quilting on the raffle quilt I designed for our guild’s triennial quilt show. I want her to quilt this special quilt.

For those of us without a longarm, it’s sometimes hard to imagine what the final result will look like. So I’m here to tell you: trust your longarmer! In fact, be sure to read my  10 tips for making your longarm quilter happy before you take your quilt top to be quilted.

Longarm quilters spend a lot of time looking at quilting designs and they see a lot of quilts. As a result, I believe that good longarmers tend to develop a great sense of matching quilting designs to quilt tops. So listen to their suggestions.

In the conversation with Rebecca, she provided multiple options, each of them a nice, curvy contrast to the very straight-lined design of the top. We exchanged texts as she considered designs (normal for us), and in her texts she included screenshots like the one below for the designs under consideration.

Honestly, it was really hard for me to envision the end result of a design on a queen-sized quilt by looking at a two-inch pic on my iPhone. So I told Rebecca I trusted her judgement and asked her to choose the design she thought would look the best.

Here’s what she chose. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Colorful-cabin-quilting-design

Happy Quilting!

~3G

10 Tips to Make Your Longarmer Happy

How can you make your longarm quilter happy to quilt your quilts? Here’s how.

If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy the quilting part of making a quilt you can usually find someone nearby who has a longarm machine and is willing to quilt your top for a fee. Choosing a longarm quilter is a little like choosing a dance partner: you’ve got work together for the result to be great. Both sides must give and take and be sensitive to the other’s needs.

So as one quilter to another, here 10 tips to make your longarm quilter love quilting your quilts:

  1. Make sure your quilt top is clean, square, and freshly pressed.
  2. Make the quilt backing 4 inches bigger than your quilt top on all sides.
  3. If you must piece the backing, horizontal piecing (seams run from one side to the other) is better for a longarm quilt frame.
  4. Mark the top of your quilt if it is directional. Do the same for the backing if it is also directional.
  5. Ask for multiple design suggestions if you’re choosing an all-over quilting pattern, which is also sometimes referred to as an edge-to-edge or E2E design. E2E designs work better when the quilt top is very busy. Custom quilting is more expensive; you may want to reserve custom quilting for very special quilts or quilts where there is lots of unpieced space in the quilt top. Ask your longarmer which pattern he or she would choose and pay attention to the recommendations – she/he knows what they are talking about!
  6. Ask for thread color suggestions; the longarmer will know from experience which threads work well and how they impact the final design. Don’t ask for different colors of thread in the top and the bobbin. Invariably, some stitches will show through and you’ll be disappointed with the final result.
  7. Make sure you have a clear understanding about the pricing. E2E designs are usually priced by the square inch. Custom quilting may also be priced by the square inch, usually at a higher price. Bobbins, batting, and any finishing might be extra. Don’t assume anything; having a debate about pricing after the quilting is finished is no fun for either of you.
  8. If you wish to provide your own batting, be sure the longarmer is willing to work with the batting you want to use. Some longarmers have batting preferences to ensure good quilting results. Find out if you must provide the batting or whether you can purchase it from your longarmer.
  9. Be patient. Pestering your longarmer with questions about when it will be done just takes them away from actually doing the work. Agree on a tentative (stuff happens, right?) date when it will be ready and then be flexible to an extent. If the timeline drags on longer than you want, don’t be afraid to retrieve your quilt top and take it to someone else who can quilt it faster.
  10. Above all, show your appreciation with more than just your checkbook. Like everyone else, a longarmer wants to know that her or his work is appreciated. Hearing quilters express their appreciation is meaningful. Another way to express appreciation is to  refer new clients to the longarmer.

If you’ve never taken your quilt top to a longarm quilter before, it will be a little scary and exhilarating. So follow these tips and before you know it, you’ll have a quilting dance partner who collaborates with you to finish stunning quilts!

Happy Quilting!

~3G

Putting It All Together

It was a long search for backing fabric for the log cabin quilt. I wanted a black fabric with subtle coloring and it had to be patterned. No solid fabrics in this quilt! Turns out that is not so easy to find. Finally I located just what wanted at Missouri Star. They had just enough for me to use for setting triangles, binding, and backing.

I plan to use the leftover bits from the FQs to insert a little colored row in the backing. Since the quilt is so large – queen size – I’ll have to piece the backing anyway. So why not make it a little interesting and link it to the front with some leftover fabric?!

So I cut some pieces and experimented with making a column of fabric to insert into one of the seams on the back. I laid out two columns, trying one that was laid out in a graduated design and another that was just randomly mixed. Though I like the graduated look, the random mix matches the quilt front better – I’ll go with that one.

img_5478

It’s time to piece the backing snd the front together. Exciting!

3G

Log Cabins on the Design Wall

Drum roll, please…

Isn’t that fun?!

In case you’ve never used a design wall, I highly recommend it for laying out your quilt blocks. Many materials will work -batting, felt, drapery lining, etc. Mine is simply a king sized batting piece hung with thumb tacks.

Stepping back a bit, I can see that one pale purple square really stands out (4th row down, two in). It looks out of place and will need replacing before piecing the top together. This is exactly why arranging your finished blocks on a design wall is a good idea: you can see any changes you may want to make before you sew the top together.

It also allows you to play with the arrangement of blocks to find the most pleasing arrangement for your top. I like this arrangement so I doubt any changes will happen to the layout. But I have been known to change my mind…

Before beginning to sew this together, I need to trim each block to ensure they are all perfectly square; it makes assembling the quilt top much easier. I used a Creative Grids 15″ square ruler for this job.

By placing the ruler along one edge so that the 45 degree angle line cuts through the corner of each row, I can cut off any parts of the edges that aren’t square. This will take some time but it sure makes a big difference in sewing the top together.

I’ve assembled quilt tops without first squaring up the blocks and it was so frustrating. Seams didn’t line up, rows were too short or too long, and sometimes an entire side of my quilt was out of square. So I truly believe this is one step you just shouldn’t avoid doing. You’ll thank me later when all your blocks go together easily and your seams line up!

On to the trimming now. Ugh!

3G