Friday, September 19, 2008

FMQ tips and tricks.

I thought I'd do a post on FMQ (free motion quilting) to all the non quilters out there in blog land that are scratching your heads going FMQ? Huh? I get a lot of comments when I post a photo of something that has been FMQ'ed and thought I'd share some tips and tricks as its not as hard as it looks! I'm no expert at all and below is stuff you most likely already know, its just personal observations that I think have made my quilting better. And its true what they say, practise, practise, practise!

Preparation for FMQ!
Biggest tip would be, new quilt = new needle for your machine! It makes a world of difference, and preferably a needle for quilting, rather than universal sewing.

Cotton thread! I have used polyester in the past and also a cotton/polyester blend, breaking the rules of "proper" quilting I suppose but I can't resist cheap colourful reels of thread! Cotton is smoother, you don't get that build up of lint on the needle and it doesn't break as easily as polyester. When starting to quilt, I always load a fresh bobbin. I have in the past used a bobbin of exactly the same thread that has been wound a few days/weeks earlier and it just causes grief. So new quilt = new fresh bobbin.

Now, the grey gloves. Have I just come in from gardening? Hmmmm, anyone that has seen my garden would laugh at that! Neglected jungle of weeds..... but these are gardening gloves from my local hardware shop for $5.00. You can buy "proper" quilting gloves but these work just as well, they grip the fabric as you are moving it around, make it so much easier. And they are cheaper leaving you more money to buy that 100% cotton thread!

You'll need a darning foot and the feed dogs down and now you are ready to actually start FMQ.

Now I started quilting AJ's RR top this afternoon which inspired this post really. It arrived at my house a few weeks ago and my immediate thought was WOW! It is stunning, absolutely stunning! I thought what can I add to this? Its already complete! I read in her notes that she was hoping to make it a wall hanging, its the perfect size for that already. So........ I thought, knowing that AJ was so many WIP on the go, how about I sandwich, quilt and bind it? She gave me the thumbs up, so thats my bit of her Round Robin. I treated myself to these new cottons above.

Actual FMQ.
Okay, let the fun start! I always like to practise on a test bit of material first, to get the tension right. Today I had the machine set to 7, I have had it to 9 in the past for FMQ, 4 is the setting for normal sewing on my machine. Guess it depends on the thread and how the machine is feeling for the day.

I used to match my bobbin colour to the backing and have the thread match the quilt top, but now I have the same colour backing and top regardless. This way you don't have any of the bobbin colour appearing in the thread on top, its just a smooth line of colour. Unless of course you want to have that little dot of colour appear in the thread as extra interest? It sometimes works.

Think of the needle as a pen, you are drawing on your material. This is where the gloves come in handy to glide the material around. For me going zoom fast causes my machine to loose stitching, going slow produces jagged curves rather than smooth ones that going at a medium speed does. My machine has a speed control slide button which is in the middle so I cant put my foot down and take off.

Starting and stopping, try to do this in a place where it isn't so noticeable. Like in the corner of a square or triangle or between two colours. A lot of quilters like to hold the bottom thread as they start but must admit I haven't mastered the art of holding onto bottom thread and taking off! So I just leave a 20cm length and hope for the best.

I think that is about it. New needle and new bobbin are the most important ones I think. Its all in the preparation and of course practise, practise, practise! It only gets better with each quilt. :)

I'd love to hear if you have any tips or tricks to share.


upstateLisa said...

Looks great. I love FMQ! I am taking a class with Carol Taylor next month and hope to ameliorate my skills (big word, huh?).

Sheridan said...

Helen, thanks so much for this post! There is so much information in there that I really needed to know if I want to get the hang of FMQ (without doing a class!). I really appreciate you sharing your tips!!

Cass said...

Thanks Helen might have to give this a go. I knew they didn't put the darning foot in with the machine for nothing!

Selina said...

Thanks so much Helen!

Car said...

Wonderful post Helen - must just get in & do some soon :)

so where can I get the gloves from? Gardening section at Bunnings?

AJ said...

I think I need a machine upgrade!! My feeddog wont drop, nor can I slow the machine down...:( Wonder if I can get one for my birthday??

AJ said...

PS Love what I see so far!!

Tine said...

Thanks for all the tips! Your FMQ looks beautiful!

Cylie said...

Gloves eh? Will have to give that a try. Sounds like you machine has feelings like mine. The tension is always related to how she is feeling on the day.

Your work is so lovely.