FMQ practice has begun

PREFACE:   I am NOT a novice to machine quilting.  I began using the technique back in 1988 and have machine quilted ALL of my quilts since that time.  I started it back in the days where machine quilted quilts weren’t considered to be “PROPER” quilts.

I have, however, gotten into a bad habit of believing that I can rush thru the quilting and get to the fun part of starting yet another project.   I have stuck stubbornly to the motifs and designs that I am most comfortable with and have not fully explored the new and exciting FMQ motifs that are being developed.  This post is about my efforts to reacquire the fun and excitement that I first had when I started machine quilting.

Now….back to the blog……


I have heard that there are three tricks to great Free Motion Quilting…..


I have mentioned here previously that I want to “up-my-game” where my quilting is concerned and that is the next project in the queue…..named FMQ3P!!

I purchased a top from Spoonflower and added a couple of borders to bring it to a nice size….


I pulled out a number of quilting books, both old and new to help me plan out the quilting…….img_8473.jpgimg_8472.jpgimg_8474.jpgimg_8471.jpg

To prove my determination to do this FMQ study well I made a few changes to my usual set up.

First, I decided to pull out the Little Genie Magic bobbin washers and see if they would help reduce thread nests that I was sometimes seeing on the back of my quilting…….img_8468.jpg  Previously, I had only used this with a drop-in bobbin so it was interesting to see how it fit insde the bobbin case.

Finally, although it makes no difference to the actual quilting process, I switched to a new, clean pair of gloves rather than the old, VERY dirty ones…..


I began by using the walking foot and doing all of the dtich quilting although for most of this process, it was just following along the printed line.  I did find that since I was trying to be so careful that it helped to turn the machine speed down so that I had more control…..img_8469.jpg

I also concentrated on stopping to reposition my hands more so that my “hand hoop” was never far from the needle.   I ended up stopping about every 50 stitches.

I decided to do a funky flower in the first block and was getting ready to mark some guidelines but remembered a product that I had bought at Houston but had never used. It is called the “Cross Hair Ruler” from Sew Steady …..


and it did it’s job perfectly. ……img_8478.jpg

My design sizing is not perfect, particularly the petals heading into the corners (those long curves are hard to quilt with marking them), but I am fairly happy with this first foray into FMQ3P……img_8479.jpg

Now I wanted to try the “Paisley Tulip Motif” from Murphy’s idea book…


…but on a smaller scale…..


Not too shabby!!

Now that I was having some success with free motion motifs, I worked up my courage and  pulled out some of the rulers to give them a try.   I started with the straight edge and had no problems with it.   I was encouraged by that so wanted to try one that was a bit more complicated….ie CLAMSHELLS.

I began sewing on the two block borders and was pleased with how it was working, although I did have a hard time figuring out exactly where my ruler needed to be positioned on the successive rounds…..   The “oops”is on the left with the amended version on the right……

After quiting clamshells on half of the border, I opted for a simple undulating line for the other two sides.   The finished block looked good…..


The last block for the day was one of the funky, slanted stripe blocks.  I did the first two sections with a simple right to left sway design and then added pebbling of various sizes to fill in the rest of the “patches”…..


Since I was trying to do everything free-motion I was avoiding  marking as much as possible.   I was happy to remember that I could use the outside of the darning foot as a 1/4 inch measure……


At this point it was time for me to stop for the day and am happy with the practice time that I accomplished.  But…..

Note to self…..being uber careful takes time!  It does take longer when you are concentrating and trying to do a better job, but it is definitely worth the effort.

This isn’t a “quilt it fast and get it finished” project…..  Three blocks done……nine to go!!!



A new toy for the studio…..

Work wise this past week was a good one and I accomplished a lot.  SO, I decided to give myself a reward today (Saturday) and spend a few hours in my studio.  The goal of the day was to get my new toy ready to use……..

During our guild quilt show I spent some quality time ($$$) with a couple of the vendors and came away with a few new toys…..

The first vendor was who have a store in Atlanta and was where I purchased my Juki machine several years ago.    They demonstrated an acrylic table that would allow you to turn your machine sideways so that you were sitting at the “needle” end of the machine.   The idea is that you can easily move the fabric from side to side without running into the edge of the machine.

Right now, when I quilt, my table is set up like this…..

IMG_7816.jpg….with my view of the proceedings being this……IMG_7815.jpg

Under the new system, my machine needed to be perpendicular to where I sit.  The only problem is that my table has a cut-out that the machine sits in…..


So something had to fill this hole!!!   I went out to the garage and found some of the “extra” wood pieces that we had laying around, pulled out a tape measure and the jigsaw and got busy.   I quickly put together a “table” that would fill the space…..


It isn’t pretty, but it works…..IMG_7822.jpgSo, this will be the new view of my quilting…..

IMG_7823.jpgIt may just be an illusion, but I sure feel like I have more room to manuever…..time will tell!!

I played a little bit with this set up and at first I wasn’t impressed at all, but as I practiced longer, I really started to enjoy the freedom of movement.  The biggest thing to get used to is reaching across for the needle up button.

The other booth that I visited was Angel Oak Stitchery, interested mostly in their free-motion quilting rulers.   They had tons that were sized for both Long-Arm machines and Home Sewing machines as well.    I came home with a nice selection……img_7825.jpg

…..and added those to the ones that I already had……


And yes, I realized that I now have TWO  2 inch circle rulers…..argh!!!

I did some playing with these today and plan to start using them on a charity quilt in the next few weeks.

The final problem that I had to fix with this new setup was that my chair needed to raise about 4-5 inches higher so that my arms would stay at the suggested “90 degree angle”.   I spent some time looking online but couldn’t find a desk chair that would raise that high.   I ended up thinking about a drafting chair.   Michael then mentioned that he had one in his shop and that I should try it out first.   It works perfectly!!!   AND, since he isn’t working much in his shop right now, it is making the move from the garage to the upstairs studio!!

Now I am COMPLETELY ready to start “upping my game” in the free-motion quilting arena!!



On another note, the wedding plans are going great and we are getting really excited about the upcoming celebration….just two weeks to go!!!




Out, Out Damn Spot….

Warning….this post is not for the faint-hearted quilter!!!  But I will give a bit of spoiler and say that the quilt lives!!!

After 12 spools of thread and countless hours of quilting, I finally finished “All Tatted Up”!!    When I last posted about it, I was trying to decide what to do with the peacock corners.    After much deliberation, I decided to continue with the matchstick quilting around the peacock and then do 1/4 inch curves to fill in the space.  IMG_7576

This process was not with problems!! 

On the first corner I realized that my curves were not staying straight but were curving inward. 


I decided that the solution was to add some straight guidelines.  After spending a good amount of time picking the curvy lines out, I tried it again and I still didn’t have them straight.    One the third iteration I physically marked the curves as the lines moved inward!!

So with problem solved, I started on another corner.   This time I realized that I was quilting a crease into the back as the curves approached the peacock enclosure.   After yet MORE un-sewing, I overly anchored the layers and all went well from there.


So I happily washed it, blocked it (although one side ended up about 3/4 inch smaller than the others…..SIGH) and bound it. 


But then I saw it….. a dark spot in the top right corner!!  I carefully took a bit of clothes soap and gently rubbed the spot.   Immediately the fabric lightened tremendously and even pilled up (and this was good fabric….not junk).    I was horrified!!  I convinced myself that it didn’t matter but I kept coming back to it so today decided that it was time to take action.

If you have read my blog for any time at all, you know my obsession with sponge painting to change fabrics.   So, I put on my big-girl panties and mixed up some paint that was slightly darker than the fabric…..IMG_7629

I taped the edges to avoid getting paint on the binding and created a mask for the peacock enclosure…..IMG_7628

….and,  with a super dry sponge, started adding color…..


The finished effect is okay….


It actually looks better in person than in this photo, but personally, I liked it better before, but something had to be done.  

It is finished and in the books and it is time to move on!!!

Marking and quilting update

This past few weeks I have been madly quilting on my Henna Tattoo quilt  (now called “All Tatted Up”), trying to get it finished in time to put into the upcoming guild show.   I have TWO weeks left to go and am hopeful that I will get it finished. this is where I am at the moment….


Many of you remember that I had some issues with marking this quilt and struggled to figure out the best way to get a good crisp line.  I discussed my dilemma in this post.

One of the things that I talked about was trying Crayola Washable Markers, and I started a test to see how they would work.  I began the test by using every one of the markers on a piece of fabric.   I ironed that fabric and then hung it up in my studio…..IMG_6408

Almost 3 months later, I took it down, washed it out and……IMG_7097

….everything appears to have washed out perfectly!!   I can definitely say that I will use these markers in the future!!

Now, onto what I did use!!   I decided to try these markers…..Leonis Water Erasable Marking pens.


They worked well.  The lines were crisp and easy to see. …IMG_6427BUT, in the 2 months between marking and actually starting to quilt, the lines have faded a lot, making it harder to see.    So, I have had to redraw many of the designs before I could go to the machine.  you can really see the difference between what I have re-done and the original.


Unfortunately this has slowed down my process quite a bit!!!   But, I have simplified a few of the designs as I have redrawn them and that has made the quilting more fun.

I had a hard time deciding what to use as a fill pattern and, thanks to our  Guild’s January speaker, Sylvia Schaefer (be sure to check out her new book!!),  finally thought of the idea of matchstick quilting.   It has taken some time to do, but it is actually fairly calming to do the quilting…..IMG_7553

I started out using my ruler foot but found that the short lines of quilting were easier to do free hand rather than having to manipulate the ruler.  I decided to draw in the 1/4 inch lines and just eyeball the 1/8 inch inserts.

The final decision to make is what to do as a fill in the peacock corners…..


I am first going to quilt the peacock and then play with a few designs but I am leaning toward continuing the wavy lines under the peacock.   I know that I can easily do 1/4 inches lines and may even throw in some 1/8 inch lines.

So, it is back to the studio for me……