Thursday, October 10, 2013

oooooooh... FMQ

Acronyms can be annoying.  So, FMQ = free motion quilting.  It's a type of quilting where you sew without much help from the sewing machine.  The machine just moves the needle up and down.  (Ok, so maybe the sewing machine contributes a teeny tiny bit more, but it doesn't feel like much.)  You have to set the pace of the needle, you move the fabric, you choose the direction of movement and even the pace of moving the fabric.  And when it all finally falls into place, you say, "ooooooh!"  Oh, and you're freed to quilt in curves instead of just straight lines.

 before washing

FMQ is a tough nut to crack.  He's really hard to get to know.  Super stand-offish at first.  Everything just feels awkward.   It's enough to make a person swear off the curves and vote straight line quilting forevermore.  I think I was there about two years ago?   Fortunately, he keeps showing up in blogland, beguiling, making promises, teasing out love.

If you're still in the awkward stages, everyone says to practice.  Practice, practice, practice!  Yes, it's true, but there's also the whole sewing machine thing.  Having a better sewing machine, one known to handle the tension problems associated with FMQ and with lots of throat space to maneuver - it can create a whole lot of magic even without practice.  I truly started my journey when I got a bigger machine in 2012.  This year, mastering the dogwood quilting style really cemented our relationship.  Now I want to keep trying new things.  And, it's exciting how much more readily it comes!
 
FMQ Continuous Eight

Take this continuous eight pattern.  When I tried this about a year ago on a test quilt sandwich the results were laughable.  As in do not pass go, do not try this on a real quilt, go straight to jail.  So I'm pretty floored that giving it a spin today on my Unsettled quilt is going so smashingly well!  I mean, it's not perfect (hahahahaha!), but I'm darn happy.  Here, let me show you some tips.

working the Continuous Eight

First, I decided to commit to doing this on a real quilt because I never really practice.  Practice is such a good theory, but I like to make patchwork more than I like to quilt and I like to quilt more than I like to bind and I like to practice on a test sandwich.... like not at all.  So, I'm all in.  Unsettled is a BIG throw quilt and it's mostly pretty busy.  This means that my mistakes won't be glaringly obvious.  Plus, by the time I'm done I'll be pretty good at the continuous eight.

Using the Hera Marker

Second, I decided to mark a path to guide me.  I'm using a hera marker, which just creases the fabric, to mark long, straight lines.   Since this quilt has rows, I'm just measuring from the row seam, easy peasy.  You do have to have good lighting to see these creases.  But, a hera marker applies faster than most pencils or pens and is endlessly reusable.

3" path to guide my FMQ

These paths are 3" wide.  I aim for the edges of my loops to be right up near the crease lines.  This keeps my eights nice and straight and mostly the same width.  Oh, also the first continuous eights I stitched were on top of the row seam.  Using the row seam as "center" helped me orient my loops.

from underside

Early on I checked the stitch quality on the back of the quilt (always a key practice when FMQing).  As often happens, I had poor stitch quality in the curved areas of the pattern.  The bobbin thread was not being pulled tightly enough towards the top of the quilt.  Instead, the top thread was getting pulled in the direction of the curve on the backside of the quilt.  When this happens, tighten your tension!  Also, try to slow down at the curves.  In my experience, some of the more affordable machines will have this pulling problem no matter how much you tighten the tension and reduce your speed.  But, it's definitely worth a try!

FMQ Continuous Eight

Today I'm saying "oooooooh" because stitching this continuous eight pattern is truly joyful and therapeutic, one of those tantalizing promises Mr. FMQ likes to make.  For me, defined patterns like this one and the dogwood are so much more relaxing than open ended stuff, like the meander, where I have to make decisions to go left or right.  Denyse Schmidt uses this continuous eight a lot in her work and her books.  I like that it has the durability and all-over style of the meander, but still has a defined shape.  Next time I'll aim to make mine even wider, say 3.5" or 4" wide with less negative space between rows. 

Want to know the clincher when it comes to me and FMQ?   He's fast!  Which is great because there's always another quilt top coming...

34 comments:

  1. Oh how I long to master FMQ!!! But I'm so scared of wrecking my projects!

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  2. looks great Rachel! That's a pattern I've been meaning to try myself. You are smart to try a new to you pattern on a busy quilt. I love how forgiving they can be!

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  3. Love your crazy 8's, Rachel! And can certainly relate to what you are saying. I only like to practice on real projects, too. And wish I had a bigger machine. 6.5" is not enough no matter what any man tells ya!

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  4. I love the look of FMQ, but it is so scary to do on a quilt top. I am always afraid to ruin what I have done. I am trying to find smaller projects to work on. I love what you have done.

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  5. Sigh, I need to practice FMQ too! My friend Christina Cameli just came out with a new book on it, maybe after I pick that up. So, what do you do when you get to the end of the row? I'm confused about how you keep going, is the stitching all connected? Or do you just sew off the edge and start a new row?

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    1. Good question! I sew off the edge and start a new row. That suits me well, since I can first adjust my rolled-up quilt to keep my quilt compact and easy to maneuver.

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  6. Looks great. Did the Hera marker lines stay in well enough to see them?

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    1. I usually only mark 1 or 2 pathways at a time. But the old pathways are still visible, so I think the creases are "set" until the quilt is washed/dried.

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  7. It looks good. I like that pattern. It is regular and consistent.

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  8. As a fairly new quilter, I'm still frightened (terrified, actually) of FMQ. But I love those two patterns you used in this post and I just might give that a try! Thanks for the encouragement!!

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  9. I'm liking and using those continuous eights also!! Your quilts are always lovely :-)

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  10. Great post, thank you for all of the tips. I was wondering, did you quilt horizontally from left to right or vertical towards or away from you?

    Thanks!

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    1. I like to pull the quilt towards me and I did work horizontally, across the quilt in rows. Could have gone the other way though!

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  11. Rachel this is such a great post on how to FMQ! I'm going to go out on a limb here and ask if you'd link it up to my new quilty linky party :) I know you're busy but the idea of the linky is to provide a platform for quilters to share and learn about quilting (on a domestic or longarm machine, SLQ or fmq). The whole idea is to share the process and this post is perfect, people will really learn from it :) anyway, I hope it isn't too cheeky to ask ;) oh, and I must say, I was piecing Essex linen yesterday and thought of you and added a .5" seam allowance just to be safe :) here's the link in case you're interested in the linky :) thanks :) http://prettybobbins.com/2013/10/10/quilt-linky-party-artist-trading-cards/

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  12. I really like your choice of patterns for FMQ. Usually I honestly just like straight lines (in addition to it being what I'm comfortable with) but your FMQ patterns are enticing!

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  13. Yeah I've been scared of FMQ practise pieces too because I have so many quilt tops to work on. I've been making little quilts for our NICU babies and find they are a great size to try block and quilt ideas as well as FMQ and they have a use when I'm done. I always appreciate the tips from more experienced quilters on how they approach their quilting and it motivates me to have a go at new things. Thanks.

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  14. Your tips on FMQ are very helpful. I'm like you, I jump right in and use the actual quilt as 'practice'. Thankfully the recipients don't seem to mind!

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  15. Yes, yes, and yes! Agree with you completely about the intimidation factor but also the pay-offs!

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  16. Something that I learned when I was studying math at university is that sometimes practice doesn't make perfect. Sometimes what you need to do is just let it rest in your brain! I would learn concepts that were so hard for me to understand at the time, but then the following year when I would take the next course, what I had learned before would make total sense and wouldn't seem nearly as difficult.

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  17. FMQ is something I haven't had the time yet to tackle... I have even bought Leah Day's fabulous Craftsy class, but no time yet. And to be honest, it's quite intimidating! And I like to get something "right at first"... lol! Yours looks great though, thanks so much for the tip on the Hera Marker! Going to grab one! :)

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  18. very nice! I love the dogwood blossom pattern. I just got a FMQ book out of the library and I'm looking forward to trying it when I get some time (and I'm all caught up on my penny sampler blocks!).

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  19. This is such a wonderfully encouraging and useful post! I am now in search of a Hera marker - I love the idea of not using a pen. It is so true about practicing FMQ to get better. I have just finished four generous lap quilts and by the second one I was one with the machine and feeling very proud of myself!

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  20. Such a great post! This and your dogwood post have given me the encouragement I need to get back to business with my FMQ!

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  21. Looks fantastic. And maybe you could link this post to the link up at www.prettybobbins.com - she is having a linky each week which is specifically about quilting and any tips and hints people can give. It is fantastic for newbies like me :-)

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  22. What a great FMQ explanation! I will use this post as a reference to give my sewing class students. Thanks!!

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  23. Thanks for the FMQ post. It's nice to know others are in the same boat I'm in. Plus I feel the same way about practicing . . . I know it would help but I want to do the real thing.

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  24. Such an encouragement! And really, I've had to un-sew some FMG before, and it's not so terrible. But I do remember to check the under side of my stitching more often, now!

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  25. Yay for you for FMQ! I'm a big advocate for encouraging others to quilt their own quilts. It's very liberating :-)

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  26. looks fantastic! thanks for the tips :-)

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  27. Nice job! I need to try the 8. I loved seeing it at Quiltcon on Denyse Schmidt's quilts.

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  28. Good for you Rachael! I love that pattern . I'm still at the 'go to jail' stage, but I WANT to do FMQ. All in good time I guess

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  29. Yay for going ahead without a test quilt! I found it sooo much easier to manoeuvre a whole quilt than a little test piece under the needle. I was so glad I just went ahead with the quilt anyway. And the wonky bits aren't noticeable! :)

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  30. It looks fantastic. I need to work more on my FMQing but I need time to do just that. Thanks so much for all the hints.

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  31. Love it! This is one of my all time favorite patterns to free motion quilt.

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