This post is the second of two about free motion quilting for the Virtual Quilting Bee over at Diary of a Quilter.
Now that the quilt is basted, we're ready to start quilting. Sometimes I know exactly how I want to quilt a project before it's even basted, but often I stew about it for weeks while it sits unquilted. I often spend a while looking for inspiration. Here are a few places I go to for ideas when I'm stuck:
- My Pinterest board for quilting ideas.
- Free-Motion Quilting Ideas from Katie at Swim, Bike Quilt: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
- Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters
- First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli. (I just purchased this as an e-book. I personally think it's the best reference I've seen for those new to fmq. She did a great job putting everything together.)
- Leah Day's FMQ Craftsy course.
Here is my current doodle sandwich. Once I've filled all the empty space, I simply start quilting over the designs again. Although, when I'm practicing a brand new design, I like clean slate. I generally use a contrasting thread when I practice, allowing me to better see the design.
I always use quilting gloves, even when I practice. They help give much better control of the quilt.
- Decide on a pattern--I find stipling or a loopy meandering pattern to be the easiest.
- Start sketching--Draw out how it should look before testing on fabric.
- Clean and oil (if recommend) the machine, replace the needle, and rethread upper thread and bobbin. Attach the darning/fmq foot.
- Grab some gloves--I have four different pairs (shown above). I've gone back and forth on my favorite. Right now my go-to pair is the whitish pair in the photo above. They are some type of fruit-picking gloves from Asia. I'm not even sure of the language that was on the package, but they are great. They fit snugly and give just the right amount of grip. If anyone knows of a location to buy these, I'd love to link up.
- Clear the work area--I often move my machine to the kitchen table to have plenty of space for quilting.
- Test tension and stitches on a practice piece.
- Jump in with a scrap sandwich! You aren't going to learn unless you try.
I have found that there is no magic bullet when doing fmq. Even still I have issues (bad tension, skipped stitches, broken thread, etc) nearly every time I finish a quilt. The various combinations of fabric, batting, thread and needles make for a lot of trial and error. When I can't get things to work I go through the following steps:
- Rethread the whole machine.
- Switch out the needle--even a new needle can be bad. Sometimes it's also good to try a different size--larger or smaller. I've also found a top stitching needle to work well, but not on all quilts.
- Change the thread--I've tried many types of thread. I prefer polyester over cotton. I find my thread breaks far more frequently when I quilt with cotton.
- Increase the tension--I only adjust my tension if I'm getting eye-lashing on the back of the quilt (stitches with incorrect/pulling tension). Every machine is different. I know some quilters must significantly increase their tension.
- Clean the machine again--I find for some quilts I need to clean my machine again about halfway through the quilt.
- Stop--When I'm frustrated, I make the most mistakes. I usually need to step away from my project for a while when things just aren't working.
- Take the machine in for service--I'm at this point right now. I've been having more and more issues lately when I fmq. I think it's time for my machine to head to the shop for a tune up. It's just hard to part with it for two weeks.
Just this past year or so, I have finally become more adventurous in my quilting. Here are a few examples from my past quilts as I've tried new things:
|Loops, Arcs: Chicopee Kaleidoscope Quilt|
|Loops: Honeycomb Quilt|
|Pebbles, Leaves, Swirls: Layers Quilt|
|Simple Stiple: Baby Star Quilt|
|Flames: Roadwork Quilt|
|Large Swirls: Unraveled 2 Quilt|
|Swirls, Swirl/Pebble Combo: Jumbo Star Quilt|
|Woodgrain, Oval Pebbles, Loops: Preppy Improv Quilt|
|Snowball Flower: Ombre Zig-Zag|
|Scribbles: Confetti Quilt|
|Meandering Loop: Modern Grandma's Flower Garden|