Practice, Practice, Practice

When I teach my “Beginning Machine Quilting” workshop, the best piece of advice that I give to new Free Motion Quilters is to Practice…..PRACTICE….. PRACTICE!!!!

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to “up my game” in the FMQ department so finally realized that I needed to follow my own advice!!!

I started this project back in May and first blogged about it HERE. As I had some free time on the week prior to the IQF show, I determined to get this project finished!!!!

I was pleased as I started using the rulers again and have found that this is my favorite one….

It has a straight line on one edge and a slight curve on the other and it is so versatile!!!

I enjoyed using one of the “petal” rulers to add some interest to this block….

And, for this block, I just played around with several rulers to see what type of design I could come up with…..

One of my favorite (and fastest) designs was this block…..

I started by marking alternating dots at specific intervals…..

….and then used the ruler to quilt back and forth between them (and this is a better photo of my favorite ruler)…..

Back in the summer, I purchased a set of circle rulers and this was my first try at using them. They were interesting and I think that they will be helpful, but I will definitely have to get used to how they feel!!! They are pie shapes with a small hole at the top of each one.

You place a thumbtack in the hole and then quilt around the circle…..

It worked well, but I had to really concentrate on how to hold the ruler and to remind myself that I didn’t have to press down on the thumbtack as that caused the quilt sandwich to stay in one place and not slide!!!

This is how the circle block ended up…..

….certainly not perfect, but something that I think I could learn to do!!!

Here is finished quilt…..

I truly enjoyed my practice sessions and hope that this quilt will find a good home thru our Guild’s charity work.

Now it is time to push myself and try something new (that I am scared of)!!!! Will I do that or will I go into displacement activity…..only time will tell.


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!!!




A Little Tension Never Hurt Anyone!!!

I bought my Juki Sewing Machine about 2-1/2 years ago and I have really enjoyed it….except for my machine quilting!!   

I have never been fully happy with the tension when I was doing free-motion quilting and I NEVER was able to get “ruler” quilting to look good.  I had the top tension dialed down almost to 0 and the bobbin stitches were still making their way to the top…..IMG_7500

So, after spending a little time with Google, I came across a video by Westalee Rulers that talked about changing the Bobbin Tension.  Like most of you, I was taught that you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER did that. 

Well, I was just frustrated enough to give it a try and, with much fear and trembling, I pulled out the screwdriver and got busy, adjusting it by about 5 “minutes” each time…..


In this case, I had to INCREASE the bobbin tension which also meant that I could tweak the top tension to be a bit tighter as well.

And guess what……IT WORKED!!……IMG_7502

I spent a couple of hours free-motion quilting on a current project and had NO tension problems and NO thread breaking.

I have also decided to use a ruler to quilt the border which should make finishing much faster!!

So one of my goals for 2019 has already been reached…..learning more about doing ruler-work!!!