Friday, November 1, 2013

Free Motion Quilting Demo at the Chicago MQG

I was lucky enough to demo at the last Chicago MQG meeting. It was nice to have the chance to think about how and why I do what I do when I free motion quilt. I made an outline in preparation for the meeting - so why not share it here too? Here are my tips for FMQ.

lost your feed dog cover? make one out of template plastic or card stock!

  • Darning foot (cheap is ok, and feel free to alter yours with a rubber band)
  •  Feed dog cover  - if yours don’t drop using a switch, cover them with template plastic, mik carton plastic, or card stock. Tape the cover in place using masking tape. Store bought covers work too but be aware of them if they move.
  • Quilting gloves (I use Fons and Porter)
  • Extension table – super helpful, but ultimately not necessary.
  • Supreme Slider – I don’t use this but would love to!
  • Extra tables / ironing board – don’t let your quilt hang onto the ground!

How to:
  • Start with a well basted quilt.
  • Roll your quilt with two vertical rolls toward the middle. Pin into place with safety pins if necessary.
  • Use grippy gloves.
  • Hold on to the rolls or over/under position – find what’s best for you.
  • Stay within your “work triangle” – the area formed by the thumb and first fingers – always be aware of where the needle is in relation to your hands! Keep that “work triangle” flat with no puckers.
  • Watch the needle and the area that is next to be quilted – don’t just watch your stitching or you’ll lose sight of were on the quilt you are!
  •  Foot fast, hands slow! Play around with balance between the speed of your foot petal and the speed of your hands. (If you’re getting messy curves on the back of the quilt move your hands slower around curves).

Problem Solving

Thread breaks what should you do?

(if your stitches were normal while quilting previously)
  • Completely re-thread the top thread, then keep going.
If that doesn't fix it then:
  • Re-thread the bobbin thread.
If that doesn't fix it:
  • Change your needle.
If that doesn't fix it:
  • Check to be sure that you’re not trying to sew over a particularly thick block intersection (sometimes this can cause your thread to shred). If you are then either quilt very close to the intersection without crossing over the bulk (avoid it!), or go slower over the intersection (even use your hand wheel to cross it).
If it’s not a bulky seam:
  • Change your needle size up one – and be sure you’re using the right needle for the fabric / thread. (see chart below)

Make every attempt to sort out tension issues before you’re working on your real quilt… google to find tips for your specific machine  and find tips to test how balanced your tension is. It’s best to know you’re starting at a basic good-stitch quality first! It’s easiest to know that your tension is good and to consider the other possible problems.

This is how I roll a quilt to get it all in the arm of the machine. Quilt pieced by Emily and Sally.

Resources: (I learned to FMQ by reading the internet – the following websites helped)
Amanda Jean (short video of FMQ stipples) 

Leah Day (tons of design inspiration!!!)
how to alter your darning foot 

My pinterestboard for FMQ (tons and tons of good inspiration, some tutorials, some just pictures) 

Thread size                  Needle size
50 wt                           75/11
40 wt                           80/12
30 wt                           90/14
Topstitch needles have larger eyes and are fine for quilting
If your thread is shredding move up a size needle!

The needle / thread chart is care of Ebony Love – who wrote it in my notebook when I couldn't seem to remember it!! I recommend taking a pic of the chart on your phone - then you can reference it when you're staring blankly at the notions wall wondering what needles you need!

There you have it. My tips. Nothing new, but served with the real encouragement - you CAN do this. FMQ is something you can do on your home machine. Keep trying and you'll get the hang of it!

Do you have any tips to add? Share them below! I'd love to hear from you!


  1. great tips!!! Thanks for sharing here!! ♥

  2. Oh my goodness! Make your own feed dog cover! I never thought of this! You have changed my life :)