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Thread: Learning to FMQ

  1. #1
    Member MostlyMaja's Avatar
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    Learning to FMQ

    How long does it take to get really great at FMQ? And what do you practice on while you are learning? Just scraps? It all seems scarry to learn to do that.
    C'est si bon! La joie de vivre!!
    It's so good! The joy of life!!

    Diana Vance

  2. #2
    Super Member Mad Mimm's Avatar
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    I started out practicing on plain muslin sandwiches, but then started making placemats. I think they are great because the tension and seams are more realistic. Plus when you are done, you have something useful. I find that when I have practiced a little every day, the learning curve is much quicker than if you practice sporadically. I was doing great for a while, then didn't sew for over 6 months. When I sat down to FMQ again, it was like I was starting all over again.

    I don't remember where I read it, but I did read somewhere that practicing one hour a day will really help you build your skills. In addition, have you seen the pre-printed "skillbuilder" tops that some vendors at quilt shows sell? They are pre-printed with lines that you can follow, all you do is make a sandwich and start stitching. I think Keepsake Quilting also sells them. I am very slow as I have to trace a design to follow, as I am trying to build muscle memory and I am not ready to jump into the "freehand" deep end.

    Have fun and good luck!!!
    Sheila N.

    When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he tried over 2000 experiments before he got it to work. A young reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times. He said, "I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2000 step process."

  3. #3
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    It takes however long it takes. Some days are golden and some are badddd. But hang in there. Once it clicks you will love it. I find that I do better on my midarm on the frame than with the regular domestic machine. More freedom of motion . I practice on decent size scraps with batting of course. Good luck

  4. #4
    Super Member feffertim's Avatar
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    There is an excellent series of lessons on FMQ on the 'Craftsy' site. It is several video lessons that you can view at your own pace and once you purchase it, it is there for ever so you can watch it over and over. I really learned a lot from it and the teacher is so good, it made a huge difference in my FMQ skills. Before I got the lessons I was about ready to give up on the whole thing, now I am doing pretty well. I even FMQ'd a table runner. Try it, it's definitely worth it

  5. #5
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    I keep trying and trying - I finally decided to just make lap quilts and do my best; some are certainly better than others, but I keep trying, and trying. I see the places that are 'not so good' but don't point them out to everyone.

  6. #6
    Senior Member CarrieC's Avatar
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    I started with scraps and muslin swatches, then I graduated to placemats and I also made "pieces" of quilted fabric sandwiches to use in making totes. Once I was able to pretty much turn them out with regularity, I just recently graduated to my first lap quilt. I try to practice at least 2 hours a week. The optimum word is try. If I could do it one hour a day I'm sure I'd progress much faster, but my real life doesn't allow me that.

    My other words are of encouragement. It is worth it, at least that is my mantra. I look at other members on the board's photos of stunning quilts they've FMQ and I try to be inspired (as opposed to envious). The good news is, as good as they are, they all started out where you and I are starting - with the first scraps and the learning curve to be mastered.

    Good luck!
    Carrie, Queen of the Seam Rippers!

  7. #7
    Super Member Nanaquilts44's Avatar
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    I think you also have to get your movements in sink with stitch speed which involves some experimentation. I know that it takes time.

  8. #8
    Super Member grammy Dwynn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nanaquilts44 View Post
    I think you also have to get your movements in sink with stitch speed which involves some experimentation. I know that it takes time.

    Yes, as someone once told me ~ "you need need to find your SWEET SPOT".

    Each person and each machine is different as to how long it takes.

    Good luck
    "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." -Confucius

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  9. #9
    Super Member SandyinZ4's Avatar
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    I am still learning myself but started off with table runners that weren't too fancy, just outlining some of the designs on fabric. Then a did a large quilt with just plain straight across stitching. Next I tried just a meandering ramble on a small crib size quilt. I really did it close together and used about 2 spools of thread and when it was done, I found I did not care for it as it was TOO stiff. Now I do not quilt as densely. I have made many string scrappy blocks (on muslin foundation). Plan to quilt them with FMQ and then put them together with QAYG method.(I will post some progress pics when I get started.) Even though each block will have a differeent FMQ pattern on it, it is something that will still be warm and cozy. Hope that gives you some ideas.
    She who dies with the most fabric, didn't sew fast enough!

  10. #10
    k3n
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    I would say it took me about a year to get to the stage where I can FMQ any shape and size I like. I've heard it equated to learning to write. I would recommend practice sandwiches of around FQ size, you want to be able to get hold of them and have room to manoeuver. Like Sandy, I made up some table runners as soon as I thought I was getting a little better. I've never marked as I think it's harder (for me) to follow a drawn line than go freehand. I'd say the two key ingredients to success are self-belief and practice! Oh, and a glass of wine before you start helps to relax those shoulders!
    k3n x
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  11. #11
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    My practice is usually on a quilt. I made a giant king-size quilt for the purpose of practicing feather motifs in different shapes and sizes - there are probably a hundred or 150 feathers on that quilt. The top is so busy, you can hardly see the quilting - but if you look at the back, you can tell that this is the most over-quilted scrap top ever made in history.

    I also buy quilt tops - I don't like piecing very much and I can't get tops finished fast enough to get on with the next quilting session.

    Christine Maraccini's book on machine quilting is one of the best ones out there - for each quilt top, she has three examples quilted for different purposes - one is intended for heavy use and lots of laundering, (she calls that one a "dragger," because it will be dragged around by a child everywhere s/he goes) one is intended to be a keepsake/heirloom and one is intended to be a show-stopper. The quilting gets progressively fancier and more difficult going from "dragger" to "show-stopper." She has a lot of beautiful motifs and shows you step by step how to go from one to the next.

    One thing that is a big help is drawing the motifs with pencil and paper or on a Dry Erase board. Draw the motif over and over and over until you're sick of drawing it. Draw it until you no longer how to think about where you're going next - getting into and out of tight spots is automatic.

    For some reason, this complete confidence with the design translates itself to drawing with a sewing machine and thread. When you sit down to quilt it, it seems to come out of the needle almost by itself. The tension will be gone from your shoulders and you will breathe without having to remind yourself to do so. So draw, draw, draw.

    Then go to a practice sandwich and after doing some quilting on it, check the tensions by examining the stitches on both sides. Make any necessary adjustments and then go on to the quilt.

    You can do it - don't be afraid of it and don't get frustrated with yourself. It takes time and practice for most people. Have fun!
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    Last edited by thepolyparrot; 11-10-2011 at 08:21 AM.

  12. #12
    Super Member LivelyLady's Avatar
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    I practiced on sandwiched pieces and then made potholders. Leah Day designs videos on FMQ were a huge help and inspiration and the book Heirloom Machine Quilting by Harriet Hargrave is a keeper.
    When you sleep under a quilt, you sleep under a blanket of love.

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    I had about decided to give up on FMQ before reading this -- guess I just need to try harder and longer. Thanks for the encouragement.

  14. #14
    Senior Member cinnya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thepolyparrot View Post
    My practice is usually on a quilt. I made a giant king-size quilt for the purpose of practicing feather motifs in different shapes and sizes - there are probably a hundred or 150 feathers on that quilt. The top is so busy, you can hardly see the quilting - but if you look at the back, you can tell that this is the most over-quilted scrap top ever made in history.


    I also buy quilt tops - I don't like piecing very much and I can't get tops finished fast enough to get on with the next quilting session.

    Christine Maraccini's book on machine quilting is one of the best ones out there - for each quilt top, she has three examples quilted for different purposes - one is intended for heavy use and lots of laundering, (she calls that one a "dragger," because it will be dragged around by a child everywhere s/he goes) one is intended to be a keepsake/heirloom and one is intended to be a show-stopper. The quilting gets progressively fancier and more difficult going from "dragger" to "show-stopper." She has a lot of beautiful motifs and shows you step by step how to go from one to the next.

    One thing that is a big help is drawing the motifs with pencil and paper or on a Dry Erase board. Draw the motif over and over and over until you're sick of drawing it. Draw it until you no longer how to think about where you're going next - getting into and out of tight spots is automatic.

    For some reason, this complete confidence with the design translates itself to drawing with a sewing machine and thread. When you sit down to quilt it, it seems to come out of the needle almost by itself. The tension will be gone from your shoulders and you will breathe without having to remind yourself to do so. So draw, draw, draw.

    Then go to a practice sandwich and after doing some quilting on it, check the tensions by examining the stitches on both sides. Make any necessary adjustments and then go on to the quilt.

    You can do it - don't be afraid of it and don't get frustrated with yourself. It takes time and practice for most people. Have fun!
    WOW WOW WOW....You did this on a regular machine????? This is amazing,I didn't even realize that was possible.I thought I was doing good with my little swirls lol.
    I will look for this book.Thank you so much for showing us
    Christina


  15. #15
    Super Member CorgiNole's Avatar
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    I have done very little FMQ so far, as it also scares me. After the holidays, I plan to take a few weeks where I just do practice FMQ every day for 15-30 minutes (that is if I can get the time to sit and sew daily). I wasn't ready when a group that I follow on my blog did it earlier this year.

    I plan to use practice sandwiches that will probably end up being donated to the animal shelter as pet mats once completed - but some will also go into a binder of samples.

    I purchased the batting sampler pack from Harriet Hargrave to practice on so that I can figure out which battings I like and also how different battings handle.

    I did find when I was testing tension for a project I finished this summer that FMQ on a small piece is very different from manhandling the larger quilt, so I had to put together a larger practice sandwich.

    Cheers, K

  16. #16
    Super Member CorgiNole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LivelyLady View Post
    I practiced on sandwiched pieces and then made potholders. Leah Day designs videos on FMQ were a huge help and inspiration and the book Heirloom Machine Quilting by Harriet Hargrave is a keeper.
    Heirloom Machine Quilting is my go-to book at this point. I've read it several times and started practicing a few techniques.

    K

  17. #17
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    There is an excellent product for practicing FMQ made by Benertex. It is a preprinted design, printed in a wash out ink. It is in two colors - white and off whit and is 108" wide. The design is a meandering feather.
    The idea was to print for a backing and would quilt from the ack of the quilt. however, I use it in classes at the point students need to follow a line. It would work well for small pieces as well as the larger. Check www.benartex.com and it is under wholecloth section. Shops may carry it.

  18. #18
    Super Member CorgiNole's Avatar
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    Thanks for the recommendation Holice! I also have a practice piece with a bunch of different patterns on it for when I'm ready, though I've forgotten the manufacturer.

    Cheers, K

  19. #19
    Super Member franc36's Avatar
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    I started FMQ with Renae Allen's preprinted design. I think I got it from Keepsake quilting. You should see it. My FMQ is horrible!!! I kept trying. I save the left over backing and batting from quilts, put some old fabric over it and practice. I'm getting much better. The FMQ course at Craftsy has really helped me. So have the videos from Leah Day http://www.daystyledesigns.com/index.htm I need much more practice; but I have done FMQ on my last 3 quilts and my FMQ is OK for me. I would never enter it in a show though.

  20. #20
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cinnya View Post
    WOW WOW WOW....You did this on a regular machine????? This is amazing,I didn't even realize that was possible.
    Thank you! I'm still not as good with it as I hope to be someday and some people are absolute magicians with a regular sewing machine. I have a long way to go, but the process is so much fun that I don't really mind that I'm not as skilled as I'd like to be.

    The Texas quilt was pieced and quilted on my 1947 Singer model 15-91. I quilted the "center" part of the quilt, then I put the borders on and quilted those. The needle thread was "Tapestry" and "Treasure Chest" by Superior and the bobbin thread was Bottom Line Red. (which is actually more of a burgundy color) It was pretty much a waste to use that expensive a thread on the top because the quilting is all but invisible on the top. It probably would have been better to use that red on the top and the variegateds on the back.

    The pattern is called "Wickedly Easy," and it lives up to its name - those tops go together so fast your head will spin. I've made three of them in these Texas prints - and I'm really DONE with them, but I'll probably use the pattern again. It's here: http://www.byannie.com/free-patterns/


    I thought I was doing good with my little swirls lol.
    And I can guarantee that you ARE doing good! Swirls or meandering or flowers or leaves - it's all good - and every bit of practice makes us better and enables us to finish our own quilts, right? Plus you're progressing and having fun with it at the same time.

    I will look for this book.Thank you so much for showing us
    You're welcome! I hope you find it - I think it's terrific for beginners and intermediate quilters.

    I love how she's provided three different ways to quilt each quilt - isn't that where a lot of us stumble? What design to put where? I have a terrible time with that.

    Good luck and have fun!

  21. #21
    Super Member Sheila_H's Avatar
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    I've seen where you can buy paper stensils to put right on the fabric and you just follow it, I've also been told that if you ever doodled as a child to start making those swirl's etc on paper and when your comfortable doing that start out on small practice blocks. I haven't tried it yet myself I am afraid of screwing something up. Our LQS once a year holds free motion classes so I may go that route when I'm ready.

    Someone else mentioned the Craftsy website I recently got an email about that particular class I'd check that as well it looks like it's about a 10 lesson but I believe you need to purchase it.

  22. #22
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    Check out Leah Day and lots of practice.

    http://daystyledesigns.com/
    Linda

  23. #23
    Senior Member VickyS's Avatar
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    I started my FMQ by following the designs in a preprinted panel, then took a class and started to practice on the grids and straight lines, progressing to stipple/ meandering.

    One thing I can definitely recommend - that I learned from a FMQ teacher : Take your finger, and practice moving on the material the pattern you want to do. Do it as many times as you need to in order to get your brain to move the same way your hand/ finger is moving. Then go to your machine and go for it. She used a white board or pencil on paper to get the same effect.

    The memory of doing the pattern with your finger will translate to your brain as you maneuver the material and your FMQ will go much smoother with less frustration. I've found it helps me figure out how to get into the pattern and get out of the pattern with a great deal less frustration.

    Finally, practice on only one machine! I have three set up that I could use and I found I got really frustrated going from one to the other - just couldn't find that sweet spot! Sticking to one machine, I gained a great deal more confidence much sooner because I could measure my progress - I wasn't fighting the quirks of each machine.

    I am nowhere near an expert, but since starting about a year ago, I am MUCH better than I was before.
    VickyS

  24. #24
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    I FMQ on a Bernina 1530, not a long arm. I probably will never be able to make feathers with my machine, but that's okay. I meander, make loops, cross hatch, and SID. I started on potholders, moved up to a small quilt for the dog and some wallhangings. I sew because I like to make things. Have fun practicing.

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