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Thread: Beginning FMQ - from a beginner!

  1. #1
    Super Member JanTx's Avatar
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    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:
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/tutoria...ml#post5144232
    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
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    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
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    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
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  4. #4
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    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
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    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
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    A glass or two of wine also helps you relax.

  7. #7
    Power Poster erstan947's Avatar
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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!

  11. #11
    Super Member paulswalia's Avatar
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    I have also practiced with just paper and no thread in the needle. Drawn a pattern to follow if you want to learn to make flowers or feathers or a stipple or do without a pattern. The paper isn't the same feel as fabric sandwiched, but it shows you the stitches clearly and you can see if they are even and (if applicable) straight.

  12. #12
    Super Member Buckeye Rose's Avatar
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    some will tell you to practice drawing a basic design on paper first to train your muscles/mind.....I just don't understand how that works, as drawing with a pencil is moving the pencil over the paper and fmq is moving the fabric under the needle - 2 entirely different things.

    What I have done, is after you become more confident with basic designs, buy the tissue paper they sell by the roll and trace a design that is more complex. You can then pin/stick that tissue paper to your quilt and use it like a template - just sew on the lines. Since my mind isn't very creative, it works great for me. I also bought a book with tons of fmq/handquilting designs. If you are going to do many of the same design, cut the papers, trace one design, then stack them and pin together. Next sew the design - papers only - with no thread. You get practice sewing the design and can then use the other papers with just holes as a template too. The tissue paper pulls off very easy, sometimes aided by a spritz of water. The teeny tiny pieces that are hard to get will dissolve in the wash.

    If you are creative and have good drawing skills you can use a washable marker (always test on a scrap first) and draw your designs directly onto the fabric. The lines will wash out leaving you with just your stitching.

    Have fun with fmq! Don't start fmq on a quilt that you want to keep/show. Make lots of dog/cat beds....they don't care if your stitching is jerky or if your stitches are too long. Try lots of designs - you just don't know which design will be the one to "turn on your light bulb"....LOL

  13. #13
    Super Member grammy Dwynn's Avatar
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    When I do FMQ I use Top Stitch needles. I have never have a broken needle, while FMQ.

    Superior Thread education on needles; http://www.superiorthreads.com/educa...e-right-needle
    "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." -Confucius

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  14. #14
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    I'm a FMQ Basic Beginner too ... practicing and doing real things as I go!

    JanTX
    ... re your #5 ... my suggestion is to raise your chair up or lower your machine. You'll find it'll be easier on your shoulders. My comfortable sewing height for regular sewing is at a different level than when FMQing. I've already learned the ergonomics for comfortable FMQing means that I need to raise my chair up to a higher level. All praises to adjustable chairs!

    Some other bits and pieces I've picked up ....

    1. Thread ... when practicing use contrasting thread, so you can get a better look at what you are doing right or wrong. When doing for "real" less contrast is better, as it helps to hide any faux-pas!

    2. It's not a mistake if you do it more than once ... if you're FMQing and not intending to cross over the stitching, and then you do, then correct it by creating a new pattern where you do it again. Loop the loops? Flowers amidst stippling? etc. This was a hint from my LAQ when I was asking for her feedback on some of my practice work.

    3. Press N Seal ... draw your pattern onto it, and press to your quilt, then FMQ along the pattern.

    4. Practice before you start ... when I am ready to do a "keeper", I start with a smaller practice piece that I'll keep for myself. It may be a Mug Rug or a small table topper or pot holder. It helps me get the rhythm and flow and check I have the machine set up right. Can you tell I hate practice sandwiches? and prefer to have something that is practical?

    5. Finer Threads ... help with the disappearing act for boo-boos!!

    6. Adjustable Chair ... see above note to JanTX! It's worth the investment. I use a drafting chair ... it's lowest is the highest of a steno chair, so it gives me more height options.

    7. Have FUN and as they say ... Don't sweat the small stuff!! .... Rome wasn't built in a day, and we're not going to be Master FMQers in an afternoon!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Sew many ideas ... just sew little time!!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  15. #15
    Senior Member DebbyT's Avatar
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    I took a class recently and what I found most informative was
    1. Needle size and type - Size 12 Topstich, this is for either a quilting machine on a frame or your everyday machine.
    2. Thread size and type - good quality thread. For dense quilting, use thinner thread (100wt) use 40wt for wider quilting.
    3. Mark your design on the quilt using a water soluable marking pen, go slow and be patient.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Noiseynana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sylvie45 View Post
    A glass or two of wine also helps you relax.
    OMG !!! A glass of wine or two , you'd find me snoring and slobbering on my pillow. hehehe
    Stitching is Meditation in Motion

  17. #17
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    My first tip is to try quilting standing up. I find that I can quilt much longer this way without my shoulders and back stiffening up. I place my sewing machine on my cutting table and find that to be a very good height.

    Second tip is to make an inexpensive styrofoam "surround" for the machine on the cutting table. There are some Youtube videos on how to do this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g14govA4pIM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAS25v3ZTk0

    Third tip is to arrange a table or ironing board to the left of your quilting area to hold part of the quilt. This really helps spread the weight of the quilt.

  18. #18
    Super Member Becky Crafts's Avatar
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    I've done meandering and stippling on various quilts, even tried some templates a couple of times. When I wanted to try some new patterns, I made baby burp cloths for our grandchildren having babies & practiced on them. They are useful & loved despite being practiced on & some were pretty bad!! I tried a star & kept forgetting where I was in the pattern! LOL! I sent them anyway..the kids didn't care! :-) Take the good with the bad & learn to laugh at your mistakes. It's not the end of the world!
    Live Simply, Love Generously, Care Deeply,Speak Kindly, Leave the rest to GOD

  19. #19
    Super Member LeslieFrost's Avatar
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    Such wonderful, practical ideas here! I'm bookmarking this one for sure.
    Reading, cooking, sewing in retirement! Heaven!
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  20. #20
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    I am working on a quilt top right now that I plan to be my first quilting experience (I'm specifically making it a small lap size) so I can definately use all the advice posted here.

  21. #21
    Super Member JanTx's Avatar
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    I also use a Topstitch needle, but.. have had them break. I think it's when I move too fast and the needle ends up hitting the foot.

    Practical items for practice- totally agree. I do table runners. Just don't like to fool with practice sandwiches - but totally get the idea of doing it that way.

    Anyone try turning their machine where the needle is in front? Read that somewhere, but haven't tried it.

    Love all the ideas!
    So many quilts, so little time.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Dandish's Avatar
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    Great stuff here. Practice, practice, practice. Repetative drawing on paper does help with muscle memory. Don't sweat the small stuff - if it doesn't look so great the first block or two, keep going!! Once the whole quilt is done you'll be much happier, and the little individual "mistakes" won't be as noticeable at all. Spray basting is nice for all size quilts - no pins in the way to stop and remove when it's inconvenient. Stop to reposition hands at a corner or point rather than on a curve - jogs and wobbles and stops/starts are much more noticeable on curves. Don't let your hands move TOO far from the needle - work to maintain control of the section you are working on, it'll increase with experience. Following a marked line is difficult at first, slow down and adjust your hand speed - it'll get MUCH better the more you do it. As mentioned above - don't sweat it if you don't stay perfectly on the lines, either - once they are gone noone will know. Loops/meandering/free play is usually more satisfying to start with. Aways do some practice/warm on the same materials as the quilt you are beginning so you know how everything behaves before you get on the "good stuff."

  23. #23
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    Thanks for all this information. My goal this summer is to try FMQ and these ideas have all been very helpful.

  24. #24
    Super Member callen's Avatar
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    Wow, I have been quite intimidated to start FMQ & all this great advice is a huge boost to my confidence. Thank you all for the terrific ideas. I am going to print these pages out so I have it when I find the courage to try FMQ.
    Dance like no one is watching

  25. #25
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    Thanks for all the information, my goal beginning this week is to same practicing my FMQ at least 1 hour daily (hopefully 2 hours, but will do at least 1).

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