Lots of Free-Motion Quilting!

Back in 2008 I looked at the quilt that had won the “Best Machine Quilting” award and I decided that I wanted to win it in our 2010 show…..and I did!!

Several years before I had been given a pre-printed quilt top. My friend Elsie had bought it and set it up for hand quilting. She worked on it for a few weeks and decided that it wasn’t for her. She took out the quilting and gifted the top to me. Now I KNEW that I wasn’t going to hand quilt it but thought that it might be a good project for machine quilting.

I first decided that I wanted to make it a bit fancier so added a Trapunto layer to the back. I don’t have photos from the process, but basically, I put batting behind the top and “quilted” around the elements that I wanted to puff up. I used a wash-out thread to do the sewing so that this initial quilting would disappear.

Next, I carefully cut out all of the excess batting so that the only parts with the extra batting were those that I wanted to puff.

I layered it up and started quilting, using my Viking machine.

Since the printed design was pretty simple I added additional quilting lines wherever I thought it was needed, including turning the outside squares into a “Greek-Key Design”, and adding lots of stippled areas to help the Trapunto really shine.

I found the actual quilting process to be very relaxing! It was sweet to not worry about what pattern to use and, since there weren’t lots of seams on the top, the quilt sandwich was smaller and easier to get under my machine.

And THIS is how it turned out……

Here are some close up photos…

When I have taught FMQ classes, I always say that the most important thing is to…


…and this whole-cloth quilt was a sweet way to do it!!!

FMQ Practice sans Fabric and Thread

For me, one of the hardest things about FMQ practice is thinking about how much fabric and thread that I am “wasting”. Now I know that learning something new isn’t a waste, but I still struggle with that idea.

When I was at the gym last week, doing what I always do….ie watch quilt videos, I ran across one by Angela Walters about quilting feather designs. It is a great video and I suggest that you watch it….

She spent most of the video drawing feather designs on a white board and suddenly I thought…..


I ended up purchasing a 14 x 14-inch whiteboard and have been using it to practice at nights when I am watching TV with my husband.

It isn’t a PERFECT solution but it means that I can try designs OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER again and not waste anything….

…and looking at this design, it is going to take a LOT of practice!!!

I am working on the “Free-Motion-Flow” quilt-a-long challenge and hope to have the first steps out soon. Keep coming back for more!!

Up in Flames

Today we are looking at block #3 and #4 in Leah Day’s “365 Free Motion Quilting Designs” and they are both flame related.

When I first looked at #3 (Gentle Flames)…..

…… I couldn’t figure out the best way to quilt it, but watched her short video and was off….

When I drew it out, I had trouble figuring out how to fill in the gaps that were forming…..

Before I started quilting it, I had a closer look at her picture and realized that she had back-tracked down one or two seams to get the needle in a better position and that solved most of my problems!!

I learned a few things while quilting this one…..

  • Don’t sweat the small jiggles and mistakes. In the long run, you can’t see them!!!
  • Unclench your jaw…..I really struggle with this one when I am using Julio (sit-down long arm)
  • Speed it up. It was SO much easier to work faster
  • Slow down when I am back-tracking…..especially at the edge of the block!!

Keeping on the “flame” theme, the next block was “Swirling Flames”

I struggled with this block from the first line of drawing…..

I probably made my flames too curvy and I ended up having several areas that I couldn’t figure out how to easily fill.

When I started sewing, I was able to fill in the areas okay but……

…..this is NOT a favorite design and I would have to REALLY practice a lot before I could do it!!


Several people have mentioned that they would like to follow along with my “Free Motion Flow” challenge so I will be releasing information and instructions soon.

FMQ Practice – block 2

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am attempting to recreate a portion of Leah Day’s book “365 Free Motion Quilting Designs”.

This practice time fits perfectly into the 20 minutes that I have allotted for “morning creative time” before I head to my office and get started on accounting work.

The second block was called “Etch n’ Sketch”…..

….and is one that I have used before. The last instance was when I was trying various stitches out for use on a future quilt…..

But, the difference between mine and hers is that Leah takes great pains to make sure that the lines are straight and that the spacing is even. So that was my goal for this pattern…..keep it evenly spaced and straight!!

I started by drawing it on paper…..

….and was relatively happy with the design although I quickly decided that I wanted to make the quilting lines FURTHER apart so that it didn’t take so long to quilt the block!!

I quilted from top to bottom and found that it worked well…..

As I critiqued the piece, I noted that there were several places where I didn’t travel exactly on the line so I need to be careful there. Also, some of the waves in the middle got a little pudgy so I would need to watch for that too……

All in all, I am happy with this design…..on to #3…Gentle flames.

Until next time!!

Geese Opt In

FMQ Practice Time

I have said this many times over the last 6 months, but I am truly committed to getting better at machine quilting!! I have been doing it for many, many, many years but have fallen into the trap of only quilting designs that I am comfortable with. This means that it has become stale and, frankly, pretty uninteresting to do!!

I did get a bit of a boost when I started using rulers and have really enjoyed learning to use the ones that I have purchased. BUT, it is time to move on……

To that end, I started trying to figure out an INTERESTING way to practice!! As I looked thru some of the books that I owned…..

….my eye was captured by this one from Leah Day……

I still remember when she announced that she would post a new FMQ pattern every day for ONE YEAR. I thought that she was nuts but she proved me wrong and designed some amazing filler patterns along the way!!

As I had been reading posts from other FMQers, they consistently talked about the importance of drawing the design on paper first so that you could get the muscle memory going, and I KNOW that my muscle needs lots of memory!!!

Before I left the studio that morning, I had all of my supplies out…..

…..and her video website bookmarked on my phone…..

The final step was to get some practice pieces organized!!! I had decided that I wanted to sew with a light color thread on a dark colored fabric. That way I can easily see my stitches….both the good and the bad…… and can critique my quilting better.

Picking a fabric was the HARDEST part of the process because I couldn’t find a SINGLE ONE that I was comfortable using for a practice piece. I know that is silly to say but I just couldn’t fight against that feeling!! Finally, my eye rested on a piece that I knew had a faded line on it and within a few minutes, I had the fabric and batting cut and ready to go……

Now for the first block…..

The first block in her book is called “Shadow Waves” and it looked fairly easy.

In all honesty, I almost skipped it!! But I decided that, if I am going to do this, I need to follow thru block by block.

I began by drawing it on paper first…..and then again……and one last time!! It was harder than I thought!!

As I moved to the fabric, I decided that I could get 4 practice blocks on one of my sandwiches so I drew chalk lines for guides…..

The first hurdle was to quilt the outline of the block without turning my fabric. This meant that I had to move from front to back, side to side heading left, back to front and side to side heading right. I found out that I am NOT super good at going backwards!!!

Although, part of this problem was because the sewing line was too close to the fabric edge….at least that is what I will tell myself!!!

I quilted the block once and it was okay but I wanted to do it better so I tried it again.

During this process, I tried turning my machine speed down to 5% but the stitching was jerky and looked awful. I finally determined that 20% was optimum for me!!!

So, now I have one block done and 364 to go!! I have no idea just how long I will keep this up but I have already learned a little something, so who knows.

Why don’t you consider joining me on this journey…..we can get better together!!!

Geese Opt In