Tuesday, June 10, 2014

{tutorial} Continuous Eight Quilting

At about a year and a half into really, actually free motion quilting, I now free motion quilt (FMQ) a bit more than half my quilts.  I'm so happy to be on this leg of the journey because I certainly had a few false starts with this tough skill.  If you're struggling to find your groove with it, you're not alone!  For me the keys were a high quality sewing machine, a defined quilting pattern and making the commitment to do a whole quilt.

 FMQ Continuous Eight tutorial

My current favorite quilting pattern is the continuous eight, which I first tackled in October.  Now it's my fastest way to quilt, seems really secure and compliments most any flavor of quilt.  Today I'll pass on some tips that might help you master the continuous figure eight.

The continuous eight is a FMQing pattern that works in rows across the quilt.  This means you can start and stop off the edge of the quilt, minimizing any times you need to pick up the bobbin thread (a task that always annoys me) to only those times when you run out of thread mid-row.

FMQ Continuous Eight tutorial

Since we're working in rows, prep your quilt like you would when straight line quilting - roll up the sides to expose only the section you'll be quilting.

FMQ Continuous Eight tutorial

I often start with a center row, but I've also started on a side and worked inwards with no problems.  Note that quilting along the edge is the hardest part because there's so little to grab!

FMQ Continuous Eight tutorial

I am quilting this king-sized quilt with a continuous eight pattern on my fabulous Juki TL 2010Q sewing machine.  I'm in awe of how easy this is!  I literally don't feel the difference side-to-side under the sewing machine between quilting a twin and quilting this king.  I do notice, however, that there are more rows to quilt!   When quilting bed-length quilts, it's worth extending my table length by dragging over an extra table, so that my quilt is supported all the long way.

FMQ Continuous Eight tutorial

I like to support the weight of the quilt on my shoulder and push it through the sewing machine in the same direction as I would work if straight line quilting.  I grip the quilt rolls with serious intent.  As I go, I'll stop (with the needle down) and reposition my hands quite often, so as to maintain control over the quilt top at all times.

FMQ Continuous Eight tutorial

If you're new to FMQing, it'll be easier to quilt smaller continuous figure eight shapes.  Consider starting out with 3-4" wide rows.  Work this on a quilt that already has rows or use a marking tool, like a hera marker, to mark rows.  I am comfortable quilting this pattern over 5-6" wide rows.  6" may be my max!

This simple video is the easiest way to show how I approach the continuous eight:



Before attempting a new free motion pattern, it's always wise to first draw it on paper and then test it out on a practice quilt sandwich, especially to make sure your tension is right.  Remember to drop your feed dogs, set stitch length to zero and attach a free motion quilting foot.  On the real quilt, be sure to double check the back of the quilt after quilting a little bit, to make sure all is well tension-wise before going to town.

By the way, if you find that NO MATTER WHAT you always have tension issues, especially on curves, the problem may really and truly be your machine.  I had a machine like that!  When I tried FMQing at a retreat on two different higher end machine, I realized that it wasn't my fault that I couldn't get the tension right.  If thread breakage is a frequent problem, you may need to use a higher quality thread.  I use Connecting Threads affordable cones of cotton thread, even for FMQing.  I think I had one break on this entire king sized quilt! I've also used Aurifil, which pretty much never breaks but is considerably more expensive. 

You might also like to check out two other FMQing tutorials I've shared for more tips on tackling this skill:  Dogwood Quilting and Chrysanthemum Quilting.

Hope this helps you go out there and bravely go where you have never gone before!

28 comments:

  1. Very timely post for me! I finally ordered a free motion foot and it's arriving today. Part of me can't wait to try it out on some scraps and part of me is dreading finding out that my not-high-end machine just isn't up to it. We shall see....

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  2. fantastic tutorial, thanks for sharing.

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  3. I have a top waiting to be quilted that this pattern could be perfect for (more interesting and more fun to stitch than the straight line cross-hatch I'd planned). Thanks for the idea.
    BTW: I use Connecting Threads cotton also -- just can't justify spending 5 times as much for a smaller spool of Aurifil! -- and have never had a problem with it, other than needing to clean the lint out of the bobbin case after every bobbin.

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  4. Really enjoyed your tutorial. I haven't done a lot of FMQ and would like to do more so I found your tutorial timely and helpful. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Thank you, thank you Rachel! I'm going to be brave...soon, I hope!

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  6. I found your tutorial very helpful, Rachel. You make it seem as though I might be able to accomplish this (FMQ), too. Thank for sharing!

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  7. Good job on the figure eight quilting. Do you use pins or basting spray?

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    1. I always, always use basting spray. I hate stopping to take out pins - that would definitely make FMQ more tricky in my opinion.

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  8. Thanks for the tutorial. I really enjoy learning from you!! :-)

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  9. Your tutorial must've fallen from the quilting gods as I have been contemplating this particular pattern for a newly finished quilt top! Thank you for the easy to follow instructions!

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  10. great tutorial - thanks ! I did some figure eights on one of my first quilts but I called them chubby eights as they were very fat - I think I was concentrating on getting them round so they became fat rather than slim oval ends !!

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  11. Ah ha! I've struggled with figuring out how to space them and this helped me a lot! Thank you!

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  12. I struggled with the tension on my machine - until I tried fmqing with the feed dogs UP. Set the stitch length to zero, and cover them. It felt like a miracle when I tried it, it worked so well. So if dropping the feed dogs doesn't seem to work, try leaving them up!

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  13. Great tutorial, I always learn so much from you. Going to give this a try.

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  14. Thank you for sharing. This has been very helpful tutorial.

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  15. thanks so much for sharing this. I am just about to start quilting a new quilt, and have been wondering what I should try this time. I like the look of this pattern...might be the one to go with!

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  16. Thanks for the inspiration--again. Have been thinking of trying this one. Love it

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  17. Hi Rachel: Thanks for sharing the tutorial. I used this pattern on a baby quilt after seeing a quilt you used it on but not knowing how you did it I went from side to side. It worked o.k. on the baby quilt but top to bottom would work way better on anything bigger!

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  18. Great tutorial! I am about to quilt a queen size more traditional quilt with borders a friend is paying me to make so I am loving any advice I can find :) Something like this design might be good in the borders. I don't want to tackle anything too difficult and ruin the quilt. Thanks for sharing.

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  19. Wonderful tutorial. Thanks so much. Can't wait to give it a try.

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  20. I enjoyed looking at your FMQ tutorials-- very well explained and demonstrated. I'm looking forward to trying out these designs!

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  21. I didn't read anyone else's comments, so I apologise if someone already asked this.....but don't you pin your quilts before fmq'g? OMG I'd be too scared to not have the layers pinned hee hee

    Hugs
    Naomi

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    1. Hi, Naomi! You're right that basting is critical to quilting success. I always use spray basting, specifically the 505 spray. I like spray basting because it's SO fast and then I don't have to remove pins as I quilt. Just simplifies it for me!

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  22. Hi Rachel! thanks for the tutorial! I just used it for my first time working with figure eights - fun! But you're right about spray-basting - I have pins in this quilt - ugh! Still praying for your little Eleni and your family xoxoxoxo

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  23. Rachel, thanks for this tutorial. I love the way you explained it and the use of various reference points. Can't wait to give it a try!

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  24. what size needle to use use on your juki for free motion quilting?

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