Free Motion Quilting!

I’ve been working on improving my free motion quilting since June, when I took apart an old quilt and redid all the quilting. I am doing a HUGE amount of quilting right now on a piece I’m working on, but with the start of Sew Cal gal’s free-motion challenge for the year, I am plunging right in. We got our first lesson on Sunday, and I started on Tuesday with some practicing. This is a lot of fun. Here’s my first attempt:

Bottom Line by Superior Threads in the bottom, with a Superior Rainbow in the top, feed dogs down. Overall pleased with the stitch length, as it seems pretty even. However, I keep feeling like my stitches need to be smaller. But the pattern is easy to follow, and I like the effect.

Along with this challenge, Leah Day is continuing her pattern-a-day with a Wednesday Quilt-along. Several of her blog posts have talked about getting ready to free motion, and she posted her “wiggle” practice.

So here’s the word on the additional practice. I used Superior LAVA Thread, with some Bottom Line in the bobbin. I was pleased with the design. I even tried a variation on the left side – leaves next to each other.

This was intriguing for me. Normally with something like this, I try to be exact in the practice, but I found I really wanted to take off and try a few variations. The only reason I think I did this is that I’ve been doing some practice since June, so I felt more confident.

Someone suggested trying to quilt with leaving the feed dogs up. So I tried that today as I was practicing Leah’s wiggle. If you look closely you can see where I removed stitches because the tension on the back was off badly. In fact I removed stitches three times.

Now I wasn’t having any problems moving the sandwich around with the feed dogs down, and I adjusted tension on the top. Bottom Line in the bobbin, King Tut in the top. It finally occurred to me that maybe for my machine I needed to have the feed dogs down. Yup, that was it. Fixed the feed dogs and everything was fine. You can see that once again I was trying a variation of the two patterns.

I also tried to see how small I could get the leaves.

Again, overall pleased. I do need to practice going backwards. I like changing the direction of the vines with each leaf. That’s something I will probably keep. One other thing I tried was speeding up the machine, and keeping the hand speed the same. The stitches were smaller and fairly consistent, but I must say I like the somewhat longer stitch length. I think it shows the thread more.

I think this is going to be an excellent way to practice. A lot of my previous free motion practice has been on marbled fabric, where the line of the pattern helps guide you. Some marbled patterns lend themselves to a regular foot (like the chevron), and some need a free motion foot (like the nonpareil and its variations).

The bamboo stalks are quilted using a regular foot, just following the line of the pattern. The quilting really adds dimension.

In the avatar I use on line, Rainforest, I used the free motion foot and just followed the line of the pattern This particular pattern, which we call free form, is a lot of fun to quilt. You get in a kind of zen-like mode when quilting this.

In this closeup of “Ocean’s Bounty,” the traditional stone pattern lends itself really well to free motion quilting. You can see the whole piece with all the free motion quilting after this small shot.

This is a small piece of turquoise silk that has free motion quilting along the pattern to accent it. Complex pattern to quilt in free motion, but it gives some great effects.

Here’s a closeup of “salmon Run,” accepted into an art show in Alaska. The free motion quilting follows the nonpareil wave pattern.

 You can see more of the art quilts at our website.

And….along with everything else today, we marbled 20 fat quarters in preparation for a show in Seattle in March. They are gorgeous. Here they are, folded and ready for packing.

And then this afternoon, we cut another 10 yards for another 40 fat quarters, along with the 15 we still have, for the next three marbling sessions. Pretreat one day, alum the next, and then marble the next. It’s going to be a busy two months, but oh, are we having a good time!


8 Responses to “Free Motion Quilting!”

  • Your free motion quilting is great! This is going to be my big year for practicing, so I hope it pays off. Also, those marbled fabrics are amazing. I love looking at them.

  • Susan Isaacson:

    Are you speaking of coming to Sew Expo in March? You said Seattle, but Puyallup is where the Sew Expo is and its a fabulous event! Sure hope you’re coming!

  • Hi Susan – actually we are going to be at StashFest, March 31 and April 1, a fund raiser for the La Conner Quilt Museum. You can see details at When are the dates for Sew Expo? With my finally being retired, we are trying to do more traveling that also includes fabric stuff! I’ve heard great stuff about Puyallup – if not this year, maybe next year! It takes a long while to create the amount of fabric needed to do a show that size.

  • Thanks, Elizabeth, for the kind comments about FMQ. I am hoping for lots of practice that will translate to the marbled fabrics, as I love working with them. Hubby does a really great job creating them – I’m just around to rinse, iron, help lay large pieces! I can say that if you do the practice, you will improve. I am looking forward to pulling out old stitch-in-the-ditch quilting on old quilts and having at them with FMQ. Hey, this WILL be your year!

  • Love what you are doing with the marble fabrics. Your FMQ looks great to me! I’m piecing a top right now where I think following the print will work for the center. So I’m liking your idea!

  • Thanks, Sharon! I’m thinking sometimes the fabric just wants to talk to us and tell us what it wants. Just because we can quilt the devil out of a quilt doesn’t mean we should. I wanna see how your center works out- And thanks for your kind comments!

  • Linda these are amazing and so gorgeous. The silk is wonderful. You are so talented and have a lot of patience.
    I would be crazy doing this. The marbling looks like great fun though.

  • Thank you, Marie!!! We have a great time marbling. I’ve learned to let hubby do the work with color and pattern, as he is just a natural. I help lay big pieces of fabric and rinse the pieces. I do love what I’m doing, especially now that I am retired and have the time to spend. I think, looking at your clay work, that you’re the one with the patience! When I read your tutorials, I am just in awe of the work you do. Thanks again!

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