Thursday, June 18, 2009

Free Motion Quilting

Several folks have asked if I have any tips, and I have just about ten minutes this morning. (That's my disclaimer before I give you a quick list.) I'm no expert and I make mistakes all the time. There are plenty of great tutorials already on blogs and definitely worth checking out. I find that kind of generosity amazing because it must take quite a bit of time to write a good tutorial. This blog gives a really nice overview for any beginner.

Here's my advice, for what it's worth:

  • Practice, practice, practice. No one is a "natural" and like anything you will just get better the more time you put into it.
  • Relax. I like to listen to some upbeat music. Don't hold your shoulders tight... breath.
  • Think a little in advance of where you're headed as you quilt.
  • Work on your rhythm. You will actually keep the needle moving pretty fast, and you will move the fabric under it at a rate that keeps the stitches even.
  • Sometimes I use "sticky gloves" from the quilt shop. On a humid day my hands can be really sweaty and it's hard to "grip" the fabric.
  • I like to work left to right if I can... I can see where I'm going.
  • Often, I start at the center if it's a quilt, and work outward (if I can.) That means you end up working sections. Sometimes I work in quadrants, sometimes I go around and round, spiraling out. I have also worked from the left edge to the right edge. It kind of depends on the size of the quilt/work, for me. Just be careful that you are not bunching your underside. There is no hard and fast rule. Try different starting points to see what works best for you.
  • I roll the quilt up tight (like a mat) at the edges if it interferes with the underarm of the machine. Then, if I'm working left to right, it unrolls as I go. I actually hold onto this roll as I work, sometimes to keep the quilt taunt.
  • Periodically check the underside of your work to make sure that the backing fabric is not bunching on you. Things can look good up top, while you're "bunching" underneath.
  • If it's a bigger work (like a quilt), it actually takes a bit of muscle to move the fabric around. You're forearms will be working hard to keep the "sandwich" taunt as you work. Take little breaks if you need it.
  • Have fun, and don't stress it too much. Mistakes are made by quilters all the time. If you're even bothering to read this, then this work is most likely for someone you love or yourself. It will be cherished and no one will ever notice the imperfections. It's not a contest... it's about the process, the beauty, and the act of giving or having something that you created entirely on your own.


Liz B. said...

very helpful, thank you :)

Susan said...

Fabulous tips and I appreciate your posting them. I've FMQ'd one quilt so far and I liked how it turned out but wasn't very relaxed while I did it. I'll try the music tip next time!

And I adore your quilt, it looks marvelous. I think narrower strips is a great idea!

karen said...

Thanks for this- very helpful. Not being tense is good advice but hard to follow - lol. I am going to make some placemats and practice free quilting on those. I am not that co-ordinated or musical so the rhythm thing is hard to do but once I "get" it I will be fine. Your ORBQ is wonderful.

bethany said...

Thank you!! I'm not to your level...yet...I love the flowers!! Right now I'm just scrippling on the quilt..but it looks nice and I am getting the hang of it...and your tips will help!!

peaknits said...

Thank you for your great hints! I have been working away at mine from the QAL.