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Thread: Beginning FMQ - from a beginner!

  1. #1
    Super Member JanTx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Texas Gulf Coast

    Beginning FMQ - from a beginner!

    I'm using FMQ for about the 3rd time on a larger lap quilt. I have done several placemats this way, also, but that's about the extent of it. I'm using an open-toed darning foot for this. Here are some things I have learned:

    1. spray baste your quilt. I thought this was just for baby quilts and other smaller projects, but the can says "will baste about 3 queen-sized quilts" so the manufacturer had bigger ideas than I had!

    2. instead of thinking of the large quilt divide your project into managable pieces. I do this by sewing quilting lines both across and down. My current project is 6 blocks across by 8 blocks down so I did a scallop stitch across 3 times - every two blocks - and down 2 times - also every two blocks. I now have twelve 2X2 block sections to work in - about a 16" square in this case. This stabilizes the quilt - it's not going to shift on me - and provides me with smaller sections to work in. On another quilt I straight stitched 1/4" on each side of the seams to make smaller sections. You could call this "utility quilting". I actually like the look of it as well - especially from the back.

    3. Starting with the outer blocks I put my needle down in a corner of the section to be quilting. The edges of the sandwich tend to come lose as I work with it so starting with the outer blocks prevents it from coming apart on the sides. My machine has a whopping 4 1/2" work space to the right of the needle so I'm really stuffing the quilt through there. Since I've done the utility quilting in step #2 above it's not going to shift on me.

    4. Pull both threads to the top of the quilt - preventing any bird's nests from occuring on the back. (holding your upper thread, put the needle down, then pull it back up. The bobbin thread will come up with the upper thread - pull them both to the top then tuck them to the back of your foot.

    5. Move the quilt slowly under the needle. If you move too fast the stitches will be large. I have gloves to help grip the quilt, but so far prefer my bare hands. This also means I do one section then come on here and play - my hands, shoulders, etc get tired!

    6. Imagine - or even draw with removable pen/pencil/chalk - a snake outline. That's not my idea. Got it here:
    Paths to Better Stippling/Meandering
    Using this prevents you from quilting yourself into a corner. Other images that have been suggested on here - a cactus shape, sea weed shapes, puzzle pieces...

    7. Repeat until done!

    I have found in my years of school teaching that it's not the advanced students who do best teaching the less-knowledgeable. It's the kids just a bubble ahead of the other learners who do the best so ... those of you a bubble ahead - please add your advice!
    So many quilts, so little time.

  2. #2
    Member SoSewSue's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    London, UK
    I'll add my learnings as well. This is my advice to the absolute first timer:

    1. Practice sandwiches - make several but don't make them too small. Try a yard of muslim or other what-was-I-thinking fabric top and bottom. One of the hardest things is to find your rhythm. If the practice piece is too small you barely get in the groove and you've run out of fabric.

    2. Slow down. Get your machine up to medium speed and move your hands slowly. I started out thinking I needed to go hell-bent-for-leather which got me nowhere fast.

    3. In the very beginning ignore your tension. Use the same weight thread top and bobbin. You will get lots of funny eyelashes on the back and threads from the top will appear on the back and vice verse. Most of these problems will 'magically' disappear after an hour or two of practice. I spent a lot of time fiddling with tension in the beginning which only added to my frustration and never resolved itself until I had practised a while.

    4. Draw a pattern on your practice sandwich with a disappearing pen and then try to stitch over it. You will miss the line a lot. Put the sandwich aside for a day and let the pen line disappear. Re-look at your stitching, it will look much better than you thought. Now try to stitch over your previous stitching. This is hard but this exercise did more to improve my control skills then any other. It also makes you slow down!

    5. Remember literally thousands of people have managed to fmq on every imaginable type of machine. If they can do it so can you! Undoubtedly there will be moments when you think this is impossible. It isn't really. Take a break. Take a deep breath. Relax. It does get fun. It just takes a while.

    Having said all that I just want to add a caveat - I am still a real beginner. I've done a load of practice sandwiches and only one double bed sized quilt (which isn't perfect but I am quite pleased with it). Keep the source in mind when considering the advice

  3. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Can I add my beginner FMQ lessons as well? I'd like to thank Carol Miller of Quilt University, Leah Day and Christina of A Few Scraps, and all of you on QB for teaching me - an invisible, lurking student who never hands in homework - and giving me the impetus to go out there and try...

    1. New needles seem to help to keep the top thread from shredding and breaking in places you don't want the thread to break.

    2. Have 2 or 3 bobbins ready so you don't have to interupt everything when your bobbin runs out at the wrong time.

    3. Stippling isn't the easiest motif to start with! Spirals are nice and so are meandering loops, double loops and loops-become-leaves. When I found a motif I really liked, it suddenly got a lot easier and satisfying.

    4. Cats like to nap on practice sandwiches.

    5. Fusible batting is wonderful and can be re-ironed when your sandwich comes apart.

    Someday I'll get up the nerve to post pictures of my first FMQ quilts.
    Last edited by Maggiem; 05-20-2012 at 12:49 AM.
    Maggie in Jerusalem

  4. #4
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    N. Florida
    Blog Entries
    One note about needles. Last time I FMQ'd I was having trouble with my regular needle breaking (I went through aboutg 5 in a 20 minute stretch). I'm not sure if it was the quality of the needle or me, but I switched to a leather needle and that worked great.

  5. #5
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    western NY formerly MN, FL, NC, SC
    Blog Entries
    Wow, there is so much great advice in this thread!!!
    Nancy in western NY
    before you speak THINK
    T is it True? H is it Helpful? I is it Inspiring? N is it Necessary? K is it Kind?

  6. #6
    Junior Member Sylvie45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Northwestern Ontario
    A glass or two of wine also helps you relax.

  7. #7
    Power Poster erstan947's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Blog Entries
    I am also attempting FMQ. I find doing some everyday helps. My quilts will never win prizes but will be functional and loved. Lighten up on yourself. I love this thread......it has been really helpful

  8. #8
    Power Poster
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    Keep up the good work! Just think of how many more quilts you can get done now with FMQ.

  9. #9
    Senior Member luana's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    My suggestion is to put on some music. It is relaxing and helps to keep a steady speed moving the fabric. Enjoy!

  10. #10
    Senior Member grandma7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    OMG! Thank you, ladies! I, too, am starting to FMQ. I've done many practice sandwiches. I make hangings to put on my mom's door at the nursing home and have FMQ'd those, too. I THINK I am ready to FMQ the baby quilt I will be making for my niece this summer. You all continue to give me advice to give me the confidence to try this. Love you all on this board!

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