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Thread: What Is Free Motion Quilting

  1. #1
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    A recent question and one of the answers got me to thinking that perhaps all are not giving free motion quilting the same description. I almost have the impression that to many FMQ is making squiggly stitching across the quilt.
    What do you think?

  2. #2
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    "Free-motion" just means that your stitching isn't machine-guided - you are free to drive the fabric in any direction, instead of driving it forward in a line as when you're allowing the feed dogs to drive it. :)

    You can do squiggles, but you can also draw anything that you can draw with a pencil on paper - loops, flowers, color-book drawings, feathers, swirls, spirals, etc.

    And you can go beyond line drawings into free-motion embroidery - or thread-painting, as it's sometimes called.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Zebra2's Avatar
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    Here are some pics of some of the FMQ designs I've done. Very relaxing (usually!) :D
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  4. #4
    LadybugPam's Avatar
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    Beautiful work Zebra ... but you are using a large quilting machine, I suspect. I push fabric through my little machine - it is much less intricate

  5. #5
    Power Poster nativetexan's Avatar
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    oh i don't know hon, there are quilters out there who do wonders with a regular machine. boggles my mind!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Zebra2's Avatar
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    Yes, I am a longarm quilter. However, I've seen some amazing award winning quilts done on domestic machines. I'd like to be able to do both, but haven't found the time to practice on my domestic.

    I am hosting Karen McTavish,(national award winning quilter/teacher/author) here in a few weeks. She, and other nationals, are being encouraged to teach their methods on both longarm and domestic machines. This is good. I'm all for bettering one's skills, no matter what type of machine you use.

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    Even though I've taken classes on free motion quilting I haven't found it to be relaxing. I'm intimidated and it is hard to get started because I'm afraid.

  8. #8
    Super Member lalaland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadybugPam
    Beautiful work Zebra ... but you are using a large quilting machine, I suspect. I push fabric through my little machine - it is much less intricate
    I free motion quilt on my Kenmore sewing machine. Here's a table runner I did. I used a decorative stitch on the strips and then free motioned around the trees, you can't really see it but I just wanted to show where it was done.

    On You Tube there are gals who show how they FMQ using their sewing machines. Some even do king size quilts - you do it in sections. And some do very intricate stuff, I pretty much do squigglys.

    This is my machine, it does have an extension table and I use a teflon slider
    Name:  Attachment-151474.jpe
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  9. #9
    Super Member tjradj's Avatar
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    I do my best micro stippling on my basic machine. I just work in smaller areas at a time. I also find that for really fine work, I have better control with pushing the fabric under the machine, than with the long arm method of "driving" the machine over the quilt.
    I also "only" have 11" throat space on my quilting machine frame, so when I need to do larger blocks in a cohesive pattern, I'll do it on the table top. That's when I can't break the pattern into smaller pieces for the frame.
    I agree with the description of FMQ as anything that is not machine guided. It's not only 'scribbling' on fabric. Some of the FMQ designs are quite intricate.

  10. #10
    Power Poster sueisallaboutquilts's Avatar
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    The examples here are beautiful!!

  11. #11
    Super Member LindaM's Avatar
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    Check out what Leah Day has been doing with FMQ. This is on a domestic ... a new design every day for 365 days!!! A video for each one. And now a book too!

    http://www.freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/

  12. #12
    Super Member sewwhat85's Avatar
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    very nice

  13. #13
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    Free motion simply means you've dropped the feed dogs (or covered them) and are manipulating the fabric in any direction, your hands and the rate at which you move being the determining factor in stitch length and direction of the stitching.

    I think some people confuse improvisational free motion (not marked, no set pattern going in) with the broader idea of free motion.

    RST

  14. #14
    Super Member Katrine's Avatar
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    I free motion on a Janome 6600, and I bought this machine particularly for doing fmq. I've done up to king size, and not in sections but working on the whole quilt. I dont mark a design, I prefer to work freehand, and I certainly dont just "make squiggly stitches all across the quilt". I practice before using a new design, I spend alot of time with pencil and paper to improve my drawing abilities.
    It takes a bit more patience and effort to do freehand free motion on a domestic machine, but the results are well worth it.

  15. #15
    Super Member fabric whisperer's Avatar
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    I use a domestic machine, Husq Sapphire 850 ~ I found a great way to do custom designs, if I don't have time (or patience) to custom cut a template for chalk marking... I use the washaway stuff that we use for embroidery! I draw my design in a wash-away pencil or pen on my Wash-away stabilizer (wash-n-gone I think is the name)... then cut large unused parts out (to recycle later) and wash the stabilizer away :) I did that on the quilt I did with 3rd graders for the teacher... it was a "Charlotte's Web quilt that each child drew a square for, and I actually stitched "Charlottes Web" and "spider webs" into the quilt with this method... here is that quilt:

    this was the sashing words, before the wash-away was washed out
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  16. #16
    Super Member GrannieAnnie's Avatar
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    Okay, what about those of us who can't draw any better than a kindergartner? I have free motioned a couple layers of fabric just to hold them together. I'm making a cape that has a heavy plaid outer layer. The lining is fleece with a brushed cotton outer lining. (fleece is IN the sandwich). I'm going to free motion the two lining pieces-------as I said---simply to hold them together. I just drive this way then that and swing around and head another direction. Works well for sticking two layers together.

    But what to do for top stitching a quilted piece? I'm not even steady enough to do a few daisy petals without globbing stuff up!~ Should I maybe use a marker and slowly, carefully, draw something simple and try to follow my marks?

  17. #17
    Super Member fabric whisperer's Avatar
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    first off, take some muslin or icky fabric you don't like, or cheap rems from the store, and layer it like a mini quilt (9x9 square or 12x12 square to start) ... and practice, practice, practice... I always use the slippy teflon thingy, it lets me "drive"... practice is where its at with FMQ on domestic machines... I am a 4th generation artist, so it was easy for my to pickup the idea... but if you use some scraps, with batting inbetween to get the feel for it, I think you'll be amazed at what you can do :) Try it! you can use a washaway pen to mark your design, and go slow and see ifyou can follow the lines... draw a 5-petal flower with stem and two leaves... simple... or a couple hearts. Or your name in script... I think you'll surprise yourself!

  18. #18
    Super Member GrannieAnnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fabric whisperer
    first off, take some muslin or icky fabric you don't like, or cheap rems from the store, and layer it like a mini quilt (9x9 square or 12x12 square to start) ... and practice, practice, practice... I always use the slippy teflon thingy, it lets me "drive"... practice is where its at with FMQ on domestic machines... I am a 4th generation artist, so it was easy for my to pickup the idea... but if you use some scraps, with batting inbetween to get the feel for it, I think you'll be amazed at what you can do :) Try it! you can use a washaway pen to mark your design, and go slow and see ifyou can follow the lines... draw a 5-petal flower with stem and two leaves... simple... or a couple hearts. Or your name in script... I think you'll surprise yourself!

    Thanks!

    I did consider "writing" my name on the lining of my cape. May just have to do that!

    I do need to get something to make my sewing area bigger.

  19. #19
    Super Member fabric whisperer's Avatar
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    I am starting to do that to fleece double-layer scarves for my kids... some kids at school have been bullying son, and stealing everything from pencils to school books, he's the "little guy"... so I made new scarves with a cool dragon print on them... Needless to say, I stitched out whole last name (11 letters long) by FMQ on the length of the scarf... Steal that, ya brats, i can prove its mine!!! They even stole a darn bookmark that his girlfriend gave him for Christmas... its absurd. My daughter has special little purse(lets) that we whiup up out of scraps... we are labelling them well with FMQ too.

  20. #20
    Super Member GrannieAnnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fabric whisperer
    I am starting to do that to fleece double-layer scarves for my kids... some kids at school have been bullying son, and stealing everything from pencils to school books, he's the "little guy"... so I made new scarves with a cool dragon print on them... Needless to say, I stitched out whole last name (11 letters long) by FMQ on the length of the scarf... Steal that, ya brats, i can prove its mine!!! They even stole a darn bookmark that his girlfriend gave him for Christmas... its absurd. My daughter has special little purse(lets) that we whiup up out of scraps... we are labelling them well with FMQ too.
    One way to beat the little devils.

  21. #21
    Super Member fabric whisperer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrannieAnnie
    Quote Originally Posted by fabric whisperer
    Needless to say, I stitched out whole last name (11 letters long) by FMQ on the length of the scarf... Steal that, ya brats, i can prove its mine!!!
    One way to beat the little devils.
    I say if ya can't beat 'em, outsmart the little boogers :shock:

  22. #22
    Power Poster MadQuilter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrannieAnnie
    Okay, what about those of us who can't draw any better than a kindergartner?
    1. Try drawing the design on paper or with your hand on the table top. That simple repetitive motion creates a muscle memory so when you try it on the machine, your brain will help guide your hands in the same pattern.

    2. Instead of working on a full quilt to start, use scraps or blocks. That way you can focus on the technique and give yourself permission to mess up. When you feel confident on the test piece THEN move on to the quilt.

    3. To me, the answer to the original question lies in the term itself "Free" - as in, the fabric moves without being constricted by the feed dogs, and "Motion" - as in the fabric is being moved by the hand of the quilter in a pattern. The pattern is not that important because it can range from stippling to meandering, to well- designed patterns.

    4. To learn more FMQ patterns check out Leah Day's website. She is developing a quilt-pattern for each day of the year and she works in 6" squares.

  23. #23
    Super Member GrannieAnnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadQuilter
    Quote Originally Posted by GrannieAnnie
    Okay, what about those of us who can't draw any better than a kindergartner?
    1. Try drawing the design on paper or with your hand on the table top. That simple repetitive motion creates a muscle memory so when you try it on the machine, your brain will help guide your hands in the same pattern.

    2. Instead of working on a full quilt to start, use scraps or blocks. That way you can focus on the technique and give yourself permission to mess up. When you feel confident on the test piece THEN move on to the quilt.

    3. To me, the answer to the original question lies in the term itself "Free" - as in, the fabric moves without being constricted by the feed dogs, and "Motion" - as in the fabric is being moved by the hand of the quilter in a pattern. The pattern is not that important because it can range from stippling to meandering, to well- designed patterns.

    4. To learn more FMQ patterns check out Leah Day's website. She is developing a quilt-pattern for each day of the year and she works in 6" squares.
    Free motion stick men might tend to be embarrassing.

    Good advice otherwise. Thanks

  24. #24
    Super Member fleurdelisquilts.com's Avatar
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    I FMQ'ed a king size quilt for son and dil that had the entire "Our Father" written in, what else, quilting. I started on the bottom center and went in a complete circle around a center border. It was tough, but quite doable. Now that I have a LAM, I don't do the intricate stuff. I'm struggling to drive it.

    I do have a suggestion for the scrap practice pieces. I use muslin on the bottom and ugly fabric on top. (I don't know how I always have yards of ugly fabric). I practice on fairly large pieces.....about twin size. Once I've finished practicing, I cut it into 30 inch squares and serge the edges for a clean finish. Then donate them to a nursing home. They use these bed pads for bedridden patients. The nurses and aides are able to move a patient in the bed using the pad by grabbing the corners and lifting. Naturally, I can't supply enough for the local home, but every one helps. Even the ugly fabric pads are appreciated.

  25. #25
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    FMQ is really fun on the older Berninas and Kenmore machines..they really know how to Free motion! BUT they were made for monogramming and repairing, so they can take it!

    Lots of professionals do FMQ on domestic machines!

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