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Thread: Free Motion Quilting Questions

  1. #1
    Member sef0181's Avatar
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    Free Motion Quilting Questions

    So I've just started playing around with free motion quilting, and I'm struggling with finding direct answers on google, so I thought I'd try here-
    1) I assume stitches can be too close together, is there a general rule of thumb for the ideal stitch length?
    2) If I'm ok with having lines that are clearly mismatched, unequal, or generally wonky, is it likely that whoever is receiving the gift will immediately note those mistakes? Do you have a general rule of thumb for the number of mistakes you think make a gift 'quaintly homemade' vs 'too lazy to use a seamripper'?
    3) Have you ever tried taping a mini marker to the shank your foot attaches to to practice shapes? Does this work, or is it better to spend the money and learn on true quilt sandwiches? (My thought was start by practicing shapes, and then go to sandwiches to practice speed, before graduating to quilts)
    4) Any advice based on my latest practice sandwich?
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  2. #2
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    I think you are off to a great start. If that was my quilting I would jump right in. My difficulty is taking the plunge on a quilt top that I don't want to ruin. For me practice pieces of fabric and batting is how I am approaching this process!

  3. #3
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    Personally I think practice makes almost perfect. I have yet to see a “mistake free” free motion quilt. With time you will get into your own groove. Go look at Leah Day’s website. She has tons of videos on free motion quilting.

  4. #4
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    How visible your mistakes are to others, partially depends on how much contrast there is between the thread and the fabric colors. You don't have to use the same color top and bobbin thread. If you choose a color that blends in with a small print or tone-on-tone backing, errors won't show up there.
    And, of course, once the quilt is washed, the errors won't be as visible. You're doing well, so be brave and quilt on!

  5. #5
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    you are doing a great job so far
    Nancy in western NY
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  6. #6
    Senior Member JanieW's Avatar
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    Looks great! I practise with pencil/marker/paper by doodling the design that I want to stitch. You can use anything for paper. I use old newspapers or the back of junk mail. Doodling helps create muscle memory so when you sit down to stitch your brain and hands are familiar with how to move your quilt.

  7. #7
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    Well done! Don't obsess about stitch length. They next time you go to a show, take a look at professionally long armed quilts. Unless they are done by a computer, you will see different stitch lengths. I try to avoid stitching in one spot to avoid little hills but other then that, I just continue on quilting. I recommend Machinger gloves or similar to help move your quilt sandwich.

  8. #8
    Super Member rryder's Avatar
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    You’re off to a great start. The main difference between doing practice sandwiches and a “real” quilt is that you will need to learn how to manage the bulk of the quilt. So when you decide it’s time to work on a project that is larger than your practice sandwiches here are three things that I find helpful. 1.Have a table or ironing board to the left of your machine and also something to the back to help you support the quilt. This will help to reduce drag which is caused when parts of the quilt go off the side or back end of the table and will cause changes in stitch length and also lots of hard work for you shoulders, forearms and hands trying to fight against it. 2. Squish or accordian fold the quilt to help it fit through your machine rather than rolling it. Rolled quilts get stiff and it takes more time to rearrange them as you move through the quilt than it does to simply squish or accordian fold them. 3. You might want to nvest in a suspension system. I have a jury-rigged system that uses a speaker pole and the top hinge on the door to my room to suspend a bungee cord across my quilting area, I have a couple of clamps that dangle down from it on light weight bungies. The clamps help manage the quilt and really take all the weight off the surface- check out Leah Day's blog/website for hhow she did her suspension system. Or just do a google search for quilt suspension systems to get a sense of how others have cnstructed them.

    Have fun with it,
    Rob
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  9. #9
    Super Member Dolphyngyrl's Avatar
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    Renae merril has free motion trainers if you want something to practice with. I like it
    Brother (XL-3500i, CV3550, SQ-9050, Dreamweaver XE6200D), Juki MO-2000QVP, Handiquilter Avante

  10. #10
    Super Member SusieQOH's Avatar
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    I think your stitches look great! I'm also rather new at this and am finding the more I practice the better it looks.
    As for people noticing, I really don't think most people notice stitching, unless you're a fellow quilter and even then I don't think it's a big deal. By the looks of yours I don't think you have anything to worry about.
    I keep reminding myself to relax as I tend to get tightened up when FMQ.
    You're doing well

  11. #11
    Super Member GEMRM's Avatar
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    You're doing great! Re your question about taping a marker to the shank - you could do this, and move the paper around to get a feel for the movements you want to re-create.
    A husband is the perfect confidant to tell your secrets to - he can't reveal them to anyone else because he wasn't really listening when you told him!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Three Dog Night's Avatar
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    There are lots of videos on YouTube- Angela Walters is a good one to search. Most will tell you to doodle and practice drawing on paper. Also check out your local libraries as they have tons of books on FMQ and other quilting topics. You are doing a great job and kudos to being brave enough to start.

  13. #13
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    Your quilting looks great.
    I don't think it is possible to get too much practice. You can practice by sewing on paper, or with a dry erase board (be careful with that) too. Doodling first on something unimportant can help you to relax. Lori Kennedy is VERY generous with her free fmq designs and tutorials, and they are a fun way to practice. She is at The Inbox Jaunt here:
    http://theinboxjaunt.com/
    While it's good to try to be consistent with your stitches, it isn't necessary to be overly critical. Unless you are working on something that will go into a show to be judged.
    Have fun.

  14. #14
    Super Member jmoore's Avatar
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    From the looks of your practice piece, I’d say you’re doing pretty darn good. When I first started FMQ on my DSM, I took a hands on class with Leah Day. She had us make a stack of 12x12 sandwiches with solid fabrics. We practiced different designs on the sandwiches. To this day, I still keep a handful of sandwiches handy and use them to warm up, check my tension or even try out a new design. Have fun.
    attitude is everything...the rest will fall into place.

  15. #15
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    You are doing great!!! I, too, have made practice sandwiches and discovered that I needed lots of them. So recently, I just put a single layer of material over an existing “practiced” sandwich and practice again. I have four or five layers of “top” on a single sandwich. Sure saves on batting!

  16. #16
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    You are off to a great start. Practice with lots of concepts for ideas. Learning to relax comes with some practice. I like to draw on paper, stencils or coloring book pages and sew on the lines. I have never been able to draw so why would I be able to draw with my sewing machine needle. I just need help and enjoy the outclme. Love to FMQ-my way.

  17. #17
    Super Member rvsfan's Avatar
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    It's very possible to make your practice sandwiches out of fat quarters, batting and NO backing. Works fine just as long as you don't have a batting with a high loft.
    rvsfan
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  18. #18
    Super Member rvsfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rondie View Post
    You are doing great!!! I, too, have made practice sandwiches and discovered that I needed lots of them. So recently, I just put a single layer of material over an existing “practiced” sandwich and practice again. I have four or five layers of “top” on a single sandwich. Sure saves on batting!
    Thanks for a great idea.
    rvsfan
    A Ricky Van Shelton fan

  19. #19
    Junior Member yolajean's Avatar
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    rryder gave great ideas. I just have one more (I did not read all posts). When the bulk of the quilt is in front of the domestic machine, I put the bulk over my shoulder. Either shoulder depending on how the quilt is laying on the machine. This helps stop the drag when the quilt gets caught on the front of the machine.

    Your quilting is great! Wish mine were that good too!

  20. #20
    Super Member madamekelly's Avatar
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    Question three- instead of taping a marker to the needle arm, try taking a piece of paper and drawing what you want to sew, remove your thread, lower the feed dogs, and just stitch trying to follow the lines. Much easier and helps your hands “build a memory” of your pattern.
    If you always do, what you have always done, The results never change. Change is the wings you give yourself.

  21. #21
    Super Member misseva's Avatar
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    I make practice sandwiches the size of small - medium - or large pet crates and when I'm finished I give them to our local pet rescue group. I cut up an old flowered sheet and practiced following the outlines of flowers, leaves, etc. I didn't even bind them just zig zaged around the outside.
    TwandasMom

  22. #22
    Super Member soccertxi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mindless View Post
    Your quilting looks great.
    I don't think it is possible to get too much practice. You can practice by sewing on paper, or with a dry erase board (be careful with that) too. Doodling first on something unimportant can help you to relax. Lori Kennedy is VERY generous with her free fmq designs and tutorials, and they are a fun way to practice. She is at The Inbox Jaunt here:
    http://theinboxjaunt.com/
    While it's good to try to be consistent with your stitches, it isn't necessary to be overly critical. Unless you are working on something that will go into a show to be judged.
    Have fun.
    I totally concur with Mindless. I Love Lori Kennedy. She does have a book out with a new one on preorder. Alot of the designs are on her site, tho.

    I also suggest Jamie Wallen's you tube video on thread tension. He is talking about long arm tensions, but I think its good for all machine quilting.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mRhcquZTM

    I usually match my top thread with the bobbin thread. If my tension is a titch off, its not noticeable.
    You are off to a great start! Welcome to the machine quilting club!
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 07-21-2018 at 10:27 AM. Reason: shouting/all caps

  23. #23
    Super Member copycat's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Always do a Test quilt sandwich before free-motion quilting on your quilt.

    The best advice I received for free-motion quilting was to always practice on a Test quilt sandwich using the batting and fabric scraps from the quilt you will be quilting. Also use the same thread that you have chosen for your quilt.

    You can see how the thread color and the thread thickness will look with your fabric colors as well as check for the proper thread tension. You can put your test quilt sandwich to good use....our guild makes tiny quilts for stuffed animals to be given to children in stressful situations. I keep it simple and usually don't do binding on the tiny quilts.

    Most of all remember to have Fun!
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