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Thread: FMQ - What am I doing "wrong"?

  1. #1
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    FMQ - What am I doing "wrong"?

    I did a lot of reading before I started experimenting with FMQ. I can sort of meander, I can sort of do loops ... I was playing with hearts and feathers last night,.... my control and stitch length is getting better.

    I've been quilting on bed sheets, using universal needles, and -really- old thread that I didn't even wind (came with vintage machines I've bought), my fabric hops up and down with the foot.

    By all accounts, I've set myself up for failure, right? Here's what I don't get:


    • I'm not breaking needles (I broke one the first night, about 2 hours in, and I think that was a mistake from getting tired)
    • I'm not shredding thread
    • I'm not skipping stitches
    • I'm not getting puckers
    • I haven't been able to find a machine that I "hated" for FMQ (all have been class 15 or 221 bobbin style machines though.), nor have I been able to pick a favorite, they all seem to be "good" to my limited experience.
    • All embroidery feet seem equally good (the singer one is a little noisy, and I need to keep oiling it to quiet it down, but otherwise good)



    You're probably thinking: What? What's she asking?

    When I read about people like Leah Day having trouble when she started, and needing to use those bobbin washers, etc, or talking about how this foot is better when adjusted by bending this, shimming this, and cutting that, etc, I wonder what I'm "missing".

    The only thing I can think of is that my tension may be a little loose? I can see the top thread on the bottom a smidge, especially if I turn too fast. Maybe that's allowing the machines and thread to "forgive" my inexperience?

    Maybe my stitching really looks -that- bad and I just don't know any better? :P

  2. #2
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Just to clarify,... I'm not trying to be smug,.. I want to know how to recognise issues that I may be missing. So far I've been lucky to not be having the major issues (broken needles, broken threads, etc) but I can't help feeling like I'm not looking for the right things, so I can't improve on the result I'm getting.

  3. #3
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    Sounds like all you need is practice. You've already identified one common problem: going too fast on curves will cause imperfect stitches. While it is theoretically possible to get perfectly balanced stitches (between the top and bobbin thread) it's not always possible.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

  4. #4
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    With my FMQ, I like my stitches to be as even as if I am using my regular foot with the feed dogs. I figure my FMQ is successful if my stitches are evenly spaced, no thread pookies and the back should look as good as the front. If you've mastered all that then don't worry about problems you don't have.

  5. #5
    Super Member sewbeadit's Avatar
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    Just practice some people learn it very quickly and some don't apparently you did. Good for you, now just stitch stitch stitch.
    Sewbeadit
    W. Washington

  6. #6
    Super Member franc36's Avatar
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    Wow! I wish FMQ was that easy for me. You are fortunate.

  7. #7
    Super Member JulieR's Avatar
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    Sounds like you're taking to FMQ like a duck to water! The more you stitch the better you'll be, and the more you'll be able to spot areas you'd like to improve (which is true of everything in life). Meanwhile, enjoy the process, and your success!

  8. #8
    Super Member hopetoquilt's Avatar
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    Some of the problems are exaggerated to sell products and some are greater on certain machines. Polyester thread is supposed to be easier to quilt with but I found it harder. I bought the bobbin genies and use them but don't see much of a difference. I am not a great FMQ expert but aim to improve drastically when I am off from work this summer. Use whatever works for you.

  9. #9
    Senior Member patti p's Avatar
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    I am new to FMQ I practiced on scraps with the embroidery or darning foot, I did not like it the material was to far away and like you it seemed to pull up and I had so e issues with the bottom thread bunching up, so I bought 2 Quilting feet the ones that have a spring on it, so far I have only used the closed toe one I was very Happy that it worked so much better, at least for me.
    Patti P
    Enjoy the creative process

  10. #10
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    it sounds like you're not doing anything wrong .. FMQ is just one of your natural talents!!
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  11. #11
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    Most everyone that has fmq on vintage mechanical machines have a good experience. The 301 is the best I've ever used for it. It's just so limited in space. I am happy with my Brother 1500, all mechanical machine with wide throat space. I can do a great quilted feather but have trouble with round circles.
    Last edited by BellaBoo; 03-17-2013 at 06:45 PM.
    Got fabric?

  12. #12
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaperPrincess View Post
    Sounds like all you need is practice. You've already identified one common problem: going too fast on curves will cause imperfect stitches. While it is theoretically possible to get perfectly balanced stitches (between the top and bobbin thread) it's not always possible.
    This is good news I will also stop trying to "tweak" the tension. I'll treat it like a decorative stitch then, and just make sure there's no evidence of the bottom thread on the top. Most, not all, but most of my sudden turns are me realising, or being told that the pillar of the machine will not move out of my way. That's definitely something I need to keep a better eye on.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tartan View Post
    With my FMQ, I like my stitches to be as even as if I am using my regular foot with the feed dogs. I figure my FMQ is successful if my stitches are evenly spaced, no thread pookies and the back should look as good as the front. If you've mastered all that then don't worry about problems you don't have.
    Quote Originally Posted by sewbeadit View Post
    Just practice some people learn it very quickly and some don't apparently you did. Good for you, now just stitch stitch stitch.
    Mastered is a strong word,... but I will stop "borrowing trouble" (as DH's grandpa used to say) then and just practice my butt off.

    Quote Originally Posted by franc36 View Post
    Wow! I wish FMQ was that easy for me. You are fortunate.
    I watched a video from Patsy Thompson, she said that it almost required you to think "backwards"... you're moving the paper, not the pen. I just I'm just naturally "backwards". Boy that explains a lot, not just quilting either.

  13. #13
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulieR View Post
    Sounds like you're taking to FMQ like a duck to water! The more you stitch the better you'll be, and the more you'll be able to spot areas you'd like to improve (which is true of everything in life). Meanwhile, enjoy the process, and your success!
    I put it off for so long, then when I started trying it and didn't have the problems I read about, I thought "I must be doing this wrong"... Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

    Quote Originally Posted by hopetoquilt View Post
    Some of the problems are exaggerated to sell products and some are greater on certain machines. Polyester thread is supposed to be easier to quilt with but I found it harder. I bought the bobbin genies and use them but don't see much of a difference. I am not a great FMQ expert but aim to improve drastically when I am off from work this summer. Use whatever works for you.
    I had wondered about the "selling products" angle. Strangely, I did do a lap quilt and used a cotton thread, and I didn't see/feel a difference while doing the FMQ. I used a 15-90 for that one, and if I compare to the work I was doing on the 301 last night, and for that matter, the work I did on the Pfaff 6122 right at the beginning, other than consistency, I can't see a difference in the stitching. Where would I notice problems with either the poly or the cotton? Tension? Snapping? I know that poly is more elastic than cotton...

    Quote Originally Posted by DogHouseMom View Post
    it sounds like you're not doing anything wrong .. FMQ is just one of your natural talents!!
    Thanks DHM! I've never found straight lines to be easy (can't draw or cut one with a ruler, but I'm getting better), so the cutting/piecing part of quilting bordered on stressful. I guess I just figured it would all challenge me equally.

    Quote Originally Posted by BellaBoo View Post
    Most everyone that has fmq on vintage mechanical machines have a good experience. The 301 is the best I've ever used for it. It's just so limited in space. I am happy with my Brother 1500, all mechanical machine with wide throat space. I can do a great quilted feather but have trouble with round circles.
    I had wondered if it had anything to do with the vintage machines. Does that have anything to do with the "auto" tensioning that a lot of the newer machines have, do you think? I was playing with the 301 last night, and realised an hour in that I'd forgotten to set the stitch length to 0 and lower the dogs. What a forgiving machine. I do agree with the throat space. I made a lot of weird angles by crashing into the pillar, and I had a much harder time using the "grips" than gloves because of the limited throat space.

  14. #14
    Super Member pumpkinpatchquilter's Avatar
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    I'll tell ya what, the bobbin washers for one thing don't seem to be necessary if you have a bobbin spring already in your metal bobbin case OR if you have plastic drop in bobbins. Backlash is when little unsightly loops form on the back side of your stitching - usually when using a metal bobbin in a metal bobbin case. Bobbin springs keep the bobbin from continuing to spin after you stop. I find I have more backlash issues on my long arm than any of my sewing machines...but that's the whole "bobbin washer" deal. I have a cheapo Walmart brother that I do beautiful heirloom quilting on and never an issue with backlash.

    The more you do the more you'll become familiar with what to look for. Another thing that hangs some people up is thread. When you switch from polyester threads to cotton threads you generally need a different size needle and not everyone grasps what a HUGE difference a size 10 needle will make with a thin poly thread.

    Sounds like you were fortunate to have a good combination of needle and thread off the bat and the stitching part comes naturally!

    **Edited to add ** Another note on the bobbin washers. The looping and issues some of the "big name" quilters like Leah Day or Sharon Schamber have also come from using high speed machines. Sharon uses a Juki that stitches up to 5000 stitches per minute - that's faster than my APQS long arm. Backlash and sketchy tension seems to be more of an issue when you start stiching at high speeds like that.

    For what it's worth! Have fun!!
    Last edited by pumpkinpatchquilter; 03-17-2013 at 07:36 PM.
    Valerie Smith - pumpkinpatchquilter
    Obsessed Quilter and APQS Long Arm Machine Quilter
    www.pumpkinpatchquilter.com

  15. #15
    Super Member justflyingin's Avatar
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    Not everyone has issues when they first start. Sometimes they show up after a while with different materials or different fabrics.

  16. #16
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    I thought all bobbin cases had "springs".. the tension spring is what you're referring to, right? I haven't found one yet that was in good condition that didn't.... All of the machines I've been using are metal bobbins in metal bobbin cases, with tension springs...

    I will use a different sized needle next then to see what happens. I've been using s 90 / 14 universal. I will have to look to see if I even have a size 10.

    Considering that the first machine I ever tried this on (A 290C, self winding horizontal bobbin, aslant, - talk about stacking the deck against yourself - a couple of years ago) almost went out the window, it's more than a little surprising that this would be "natural".

    OK,.. I didn't even think about the bigger machines. I saw tutorials with LD using a Bernina or a Janome or something and figured that was a common machine for her.
    Last edited by ArchaicArcane; 03-17-2013 at 10:14 PM.

  17. #17
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by justflyingin View Post
    Not everyone has issues when they first start. Sometimes they show up after a while with different materials or different fabrics.
    So I'm not necessarily out of the woods yet, is what you're saying?

  18. #18
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    Frankls I don't get what you are asking. You say nothing bad is happening and you are getting better. So what is it?
    I have no crystal ball that will tell you the future or warn you about something that aparantly isn't happening. I didn't even read all the replies since you said nothing is really wrong but you want to know what might go wrong if it ever does.

  19. #19
    Super Member petthefabric's Avatar
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    Enjoy your blessing. It's OK to be good at something.

  20. #20
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holice View Post
    Frankls I don't get what you are asking. You say nothing bad is happening and you are getting better. So what is it?
    I have no crystal ball that will tell you the future or warn you about something that aparantly isn't happening. I didn't even read all the replies since you said nothing is really wrong but you want to know what might go wrong if it ever does.
    Totally fair question. Why I was asking was twofold:

    Do you ever get the feeling things are going too well? You're going along, figuring that things are OK, but have a nagging feeling you've forgotten something, or failed to see something, and it might be "big"? Otherwise known as waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    The other thing is that FMQ is largely about creating muscle memory. I didn't want to train my brain and muscles wrong then have to break the habits. Better to catch them early.

    I heard from a number of people and read on a lot of sites that FMQ wasn't necessarily for "beginners". I haven't completed my first quilt, and I've only made perhaps 3 (very small) quilted items total so far. I'm a "barely has begun" quilter at this stage. There was no reason to believe (I thought) that I would be able to do this without huge investments of time and practice at all. I expected needle shrapnel (it's a big part of my sewing history as it is), and loops and broken thread at the least. I thought there was a good chance I was overlooking a lot of smaller things just because the massive problems weren't happening.

    Quote Originally Posted by petthefabric View Post
    Enjoy your blessing. It's OK to be good at something.
    Thanks PTF, that may well be exactly what it is. Sort of a consolation for the years of not being able to draw or cut a straight line... I'll take FMQ over the ability to draw a straight line any day.

  21. #21
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    Let your work speak for you. Show it at a guild or in a show. Then you can compare to other quilting and see the difference if any.
    Got fabric?

  22. #22
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    Archa,
    I had the same experience. The technical aspects of FMQ came easily. I am still working on learning a pleasing design. For me that is the hard part. I need to doodle on paper more often.

  23. #23
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Tammi, I think you started with a decent working machine. Then I think you researched a lot before you started. Some of us just dive in and learn by trial and error. You have used the experience of others to learn. Why not success? I think you are right about sponges taking up too much space - my fingers don't want to be hit by the needle bar screw.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  24. #24
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    Suzyquilter

    Quote Originally Posted by ArchaicArcane View Post
    I did a lot of reading before I started experimenting with FMQ. I can sort of meander, I can sort of do loops ... I was playing with hearts and feathers last night,.... my control and stitch length is getting better.

    I've been quilting on bed sheets, using universal needles, and -really- old thread that I didn't even wind (came with vintage machines I've bought), my fabric hops up and down with the foot.

    By all accounts, I've set myself up for failure, right? Here's what I don't get:


    • I'm not breaking needles (I broke one the first night, about 2 hours in, and I think that was a mistake from getting tired)
    • I'm not shredding thread
    • I'm not skipping stitches
    • I'm not getting puckers
    • I haven't been able to find a machine that I "hated" for FMQ (all have been class 15 or 221 bobbin style machines though.), nor have I been able to pick a favorite, they all seem to be "good" to my limited experience.
    • All embroidery feet seem equally good (the singer one is a little noisy, and I need to keep oiling it to quiet it down, but otherwise good)



    You're probably thinking: What? What's she asking?

    When I read about people like Leah Day having trouble when she started, and needing to use those bobbin washers, etc, or talking about how this foot is better when adjusted by bending this, shimming this, and cutting that, etc, I wonder what I'm "missing".

    The only thing I can think of is that my tension may be a little loose? I can see the top thread on the bottom a smidge, especially if I turn too fast. Maybe that's allowing the machines and thread to "forgive" my inexperience?

    Maybe my stitching really looks -that- bad and I just don't know any better? :P
    I've been doing free motion quilting for just a little over ten years, since I first learned to quilt. I've found that it takes practice, practice, practice! the best thing to practice on is a sandwiched piece, simular to the quilt you will be working on. Don't go too fast. A nice steady speed, keeping your speed and movement of fabric together. Also if practicing on a large piece have it supported on tables or something to keep the piece level with your machine. Good luck.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Sarah in Brooklyn's Avatar
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    I think you're just a natural - and lucky!

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