Thursday, February 2, 2012

ABC of Quilting Post # 19

Hey guys, today we have a visual treat for you!

To Please your Eyes : FMQ Design Options

And to bring to you thins post, we have a very special guest. She has tried it all! I can say that. Leah Day is the lady behind The Free Motion Quilting Project.  I have not seen anyone else quilting so many FMQ designs!

So here we have today, Leah Day!

Now it’s time to discuss FMQ designs, or free motion quilting designs!  This is always my favorite part because you can and a whole new level of design over the surface of the quilt with your quilting stitches. 

Let’s start by understanding a bit about free motion quilting and how it works:

Free motion quilting gets its name from the fact that you move your quilt freely over the surface of your machine.  You need to be able to move the quilt in all directions easily which means you will need a special foot for your machine called a darning foot (some shops also call it a free motion quilting foot).

To ensure a totally free range of movement, many quilters will also lower the feed dogs of their machine.  Feed dogs are the little teeth that feed fabric forward, and obviously we want the quilt moving more than just forward, we want it to move in all directions!

Personally I find that the feed dogs are essential for maintaining proper thread tension on my machines, so instead of dropping the feed dogs, I lower my stitch length to 0 so the feed dogs move, but they no longer feed the fabric forward. 

I also cover my feed dogs with a tool that makes free motion quilting much easier - a supreme slider.  This Teflon sheet goes over the surface of your machine bed and reduced the friction between your quilt and the table, making it much easier to move and shift in free motion!

When you’re just getting started make sure to pay attention to your darning foot.  When you lower this foot, make sure that it is not squishing your quilt.  The foot should just hover over the surface of your quilt and you should be able to move the quilt smoothly and evenly at all times.

It really can’t be stressed enough the importance of your quilt being able to move smoothly and evenly under your darning foot.  If you find this is impossible, check out instructions on how to modify your foot right here:

Once you have your foot set up and the machine ready to go, what next?

Now it’s time to play with fun designs!  Because you can move your quilt in all different directions, you can now quilt an infinite number of designs: leaves, vines, feathers, flowers, hearts, squares, triangles - any shape or design you can think of.

Let’s get started learning a simple free motion quilting design called Venn Diagram.

To quilt this design, first stitch a circle.  Now stitch another circle, overlapping the first.  Experiment with stitching your circles in many different sizes and directions so they fill your quilt randomly. 

Then try quilting the circles all the same size and in a line.  See which way you like better as you stitch this design over your whole quilt.

You can learn a bit more about Venn Diagram right here:

If you’d like more practice before stitching this design on your quilt, try drawing it.  Many quilters have found that if they can draw a design, they can usually quilt it.

Now let’s try another simple design called Basic Spiral.

To quilt this design, first stitch a large spiral, leaving yourself space to get back out again.  Swirl around your quilting space into another spiral, interlocking it with the first.

Watch a video on how to quilt Basic Spiral at:

Basic Spiral does require a bit of practice to get the hang of.  When I first got started free motion quilting, I would never remember to leave space to get back out of a spiral, and end up getting stuck. 

Fortunately I soon figured out that you can just loop out of the center of the spiral to create Spiral Knots:

To quilt this design, start the same way as with Basic Spiral, only this time don’t leave space for you to get back out of the spiral.  Instead get into the center, then stitch over the entire spiral design to get out of that space and start a new shape.

It’s a bit trick to explain, so click here to read more about this design and watch a video:

You might have noticed that each of these designs can be quilted without stopping.  Free motion designs are typically called continuous line designs because they can be stitched without breaking thread in one long, continuous line. 

However, sometimes you’ll need to get from one area of your quilt to another, or from one area of a design to another (such as around a new area of a circle in Venn Diagram), and the only option appears to be to break thread.

But there is another option: travel stitching.

Travel stitching means to stitch over a previous line of stitching.  If you stitch RIGHT ON TOP of the stitched line, you can easily get to a new area of a design without breaking thread.

See what I mean by stitching Modern Art:

To quilt this design, start on the edge of your quilt sashing and stitch a long skinny triangle shape into the center of the sashing area.  Now travel stitch in the pieced ditch area of the quilt and branch out with a new triangle shape.  Continue working down one whole side of your quilt until the entire sashing is filled with triangle shapes like this:

Now travel stitch to the opposite side and branch out with new triangles, matching them up and interlocking them with the first side.

Because the sashing was first stitched in the ditch, there are two layers of thread along the edges of this quilt sashing. It will appear darker on both sides of the quilt because of the 2 layers of thread in these areas, but so long as you stay on the line, you’ll be able to quilt this design through your entire sashing area without breaking thread!

Learn more about Modern Art right here:

Another important technique to learn for free motion quilting is echoing.  This is the ability to stitch a line, then stitch another line a specific distance away.

The best way to learn echoing is in a simple design like this Echo Shell:

First stitch a half or quarter circle shape, then travel stitch a distance away, then echo the circle shape, creating a second ring to the circle.  Continue to echo as many times as you like, then stitch a new circle shape and travel and echo quilt it as well.

Advice for learning free motion quilting

In this article we’ve learned 5 quilting designs, and on the Free Motion Quilting Project you can find over 365 designs to choose from as well!

This might lead you to think that every quilt you make needs 100 designs, but the truth is, the best possible way to learn free motion quilting is to practice only 1 design.

By focusing on just 1 design, you will be able to quickly memorize the design and how it works, then be able to focus on how to move and position the quilt, how to place your hands and grip the quilt. 

Free motion quilting can be an overwhelming skill to learn simply because it’s a totally new way to use a sewing machine, a totally new way to move a quilt with a full free range of motion.  By focusing on one single design, you can simplify the learning process and gain useful skills quickly.

The biggest key is to have fun and allow yourself to learn, make mistakes, and even stitch ugly stitches with no judgment!

Let’s go quilt,

Leah Day

1 comment :

  1. Hi I'm just started FMQ and was wondering how you did the red with the white on it? Is this just from the thread? It's beautiful


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