« Not Just a Pretty Face | Main | Project Simplify - Day 2 »

Project Simplify - Day 3

Ok.  I'm DE-TER-MINED to get this free-motion thing down.  The book just makes it seem so easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.  (Don't know what free-motion quilting is?  Here's a quick video.)

History:  I got my first sewing machine for my 15th birthday.  I loved it.  I set it up in my bedroom and used it a lot.  It was great for sewing a straight line but I could forget about reversing, buttonholes, major thickness (as in quilted bags).  At the time I didn't fully comprehend the severe limitations of my machine. 

I took a machine-quilting class (in like 1993) but my results were as crappy as my machine and I just assumed I was a genetically lousy free-motioner.  The end.  Not in the cards for me. 

In about 2004 I got a really sweet Pfaff and I went from being an "ok" sewer to ... if I may say so ... a really good one.  My machine can do almost anything I ask it to - except make my morning cup of tea :).  There is definitely something to be said for using good tools.

So when I tried free-motion again I was better than before, but not perfect.  And there's the problem (another one ... ) - I'm a perfectionist.  That DOESN'T mean I think I'm perfect.  It means I loathe not being able to do things perfectly and if I can't nail it on the first or second try, I'd rather give up.  I know, I know, totally immature and not very attractive.  But I'm working on it.  I'm trying to be ok with "my best at the time" instead of "the best or nothing at all".

Blah, blah, blah.  Enough about that.  Back to the quilt already!

In the book, this quilt is top-stitched with classic stippling.  I was introduced to it  as “dog-boning”.  I don’t know if it's the name or what (why couldn't it have been called "Feather in the Wind" or "Wandering Fairy" or even "Toddler at the Park"?), but it never really excited me.  Now loops - that's a style I can get behind!  Funny, there isn’t much difference between the two but for some reason I just prefer the look of loops.   So this is the first design I'm attempting.

I had four leftover blocks (on purpose) so I sewed them together to use for practice.  But free-motioning didn’t get off to a good start.  First, I forgot to tighten a screw and the foot fell off, breaking a needle. 

Then this ...

(Deep breath.)  It’s NEVER a good day when you need this ...

But a minor tension adjustment later and I was back on track ... sort of.

Here's a bit of my practice swatch.  (Please don't laugh too hard - you have no idea what it took for me to show you this!) 

I felt like my brain had zero control over the operation - lots of involuntary jerking & zagging - and possibly (probably) the occasional bad word.   I know my stitch length needs work.  Some places have a distinct "connect the dots" look.  I gotta get used to the concept of pedal to the metal, which according to my manual is the secret.

Clearly more practice is required. 

I hate practicing. 

(Someone please cue the violins ... )

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (24)

Yay! Yippy skipp! I'm so impressed! You did an excellent job! I am completely terrified of free motion myself. I especially don't understand how you are suppose to do a big quilt??? My Dream On quilt will be 75 X 75 - it seems impossible to do that kind of work due to the mass of fabric on every which side.....hmmm....any suggestions? I really love how the red thread pops against the other coordinating fabrics - I know your quilt is going to make someone very happy : )

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGigi MInor

Oh I forgot to ask what you finally had to set your tension to? And your stitch width? And length? I had the same problem with my "leaf top stitch" on my Hideaway quilt. It was pulling the bobbin through to the top....good thing a turn of the knob can cure that sort of thing : ) But my machine still hasn't went back to normal.....I think I really stressed "Bessie" out that day!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGigi MInor

If you can change the speed of your machine, I have mine to set to half speed so I can go pedal to the metal without it being too fast. Also I make use of the needle down facility.

I think your practice piece looks good. Give yourself a pat on the back.

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSue B

Hooray for quilting your own quilts!! Just keep practicing - you'll get the hang of it. You're off to a great start! I've been stippling like mad for a few years now, and I still have the occasional night where my sewing room sounds like the set of a Scorsese film with all the profanity that I let slip out. Some days are better than others, needless to say. I'm so excited to see the finished product!!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Hi Gigi, I used red thread for my practice so I could see what I was doing - I'm definitely NOT going to use it for the quilt ... that high contrast will make all my boo boos way too obvious!

And according to people who CAN free-motion, the larger the quilt, the more difficult it is to free-motion. Another reason I'm a cross-hatcher.

Re: tension - my machine wanted me to dial it down to 0-1 because the top was too loose. My manual also recommends using the default stitch length - 2.5 - for free-motion, but I set it to 2.0.

Are you sure you should be asking ME for advise?! :)

April 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterKristyne

I. LOVE. YOU! I do. We are now best friends. (I hope you're ok with that!)

I have been learning the art of free motion quilting these past months and most of my projects look like that first picture did before your tension adjustment. I hate it! I'm having major tension issues. Major! I keep wondering if it's my machine. I get it just right, then it happens again. I'm not a fan of the fact that the tension changes depending on the speed I go.

Oh, and that end practice looks great! I'm doing better with the smoothness now (it just takes practice [I know... I hate it too]. I just wish I could get the tension working. A week or so ago I gave it all up (temporarily) to work on other projects. You know... before I throw my machine out the window and let one of the fast drivers of our street drive over it.

I can't wait to watch more of your journey... it's hard to find people with "my problem" out here in the internet world. It's like people don't want to share the journey!

Thanks for being brave and just doing it!

Can't wait for day 4!!!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBabychaser

I hate practising too, I just want to get on and do it and like you, I want it to be perfect!
By the way I love your top photo, all that lemon and blue, gorgeous. :)
Happy weekend,
Vivienne x

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergreenrabbitdesigns

I think it ate my comment! Looks like you did a fantastic job to me. I still have the herky-jerkies and often wonder if they'll ever go away!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThimbleanna


You're off to a great start!

I do a LOT of FMQing. All my own...some straight line, SITD and cross hatch, but once I learned FMQ that's a favorite. I took a class at the Long Beach Quilt show and learned a few things then practiced til I felt comfortable doing it. My blog is sorely lacking pictures, but I've fmq'd a twin size quilt on my trusty janome.

I'm a teacher (I teach beginning sewing in a high school) and so I really have a hard time NOT teaching :) So please disregard if you don't want unsolicited advice!

From your picture, it appears your biggest issue right now is fairly simple. You need to relax. Easier said than done, I get it, but your stitches look jerky and tense :). If you relax just a little you'll get the fluid swirls you're looking for.

Then wear a good pair of quilting gloves. I get mine here; http://www.harborfreight.com/coated-rubber-grip-gloves-medium-90909.html

It helps you have "grip" on the fabric. Then smooth moderate motions and you will get there! Promise! :)

I now FMQ flowers and such on my quilts....just takes time!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKenna

I know this is no easy task so props to you for making it look so nice! I'm so scared to try anything like that...I would so mess up my quilts. Guess I will have to keep sending them off for someone else to have fun with. =) Keep the prettiness coming!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennie

That's a very good first effort! Try writing your name - as you can do that without thinking about it, it helps to develop your technique. Also, try a slower stitch speed and quicker hand movements, then a faster stitch speed and slower hand movements - some people prefer the first method, some the second. And most of all, remember that there is no 'right' way to do - do it the way that suits you best ..... and remember to relax your shoulders!!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfrayedattheedge

these photos are your best yet!! i cant do any shooting until i get back to my own house next wednesday. Il shoot a quilt then :p

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I'm not only getting the violins out, but also copious amounts of wine AND the cheese ...
I know nada/nothing/niente about sewing, quilting, knitting and I like to keep it that way ... however, with my unprofessional, non-talented eyes, I would like to say ... keep up the good work :-)! According to some of your friends here, you're on the right track ... whether that's good or bad, I don't know but I guess we're about to find out ;-)!

Happy weekend!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYvonne

Okay girlfriend, I just got off the phone trying to cue the violins but apparently they didn't practice this week so its a no go! Sorry about that I tried. If only they had practiced - it would have been perfect. Sigh!

Have a terrific weekend!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLani

Well, I think it looks pretty good, especially for just starting. You'll be a pro in no time!

I tried stippling once. You could see the pull lines. I guess its tension. It was a small quilt. Then I heard that the new Bernina made it easy so I make payments on a $6,000 machine to stipple! You ask, well how is it? I'm still scared to try! I sew in the ditch. But I will do it soon. Your sewing is terrific! You are doing such a great job. I look forward to your blog days. See how you inspire us! Yes you are very well liked. J

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudy Blinkenberg

You did fantastic! Free-motion quilting will soon become your favorite part of making a quilt...it's mine! Practice practice...another time instead of moving just your arms...move your entire torso and get into those nice round movements...it helps!! Looks great!!!

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKara Haushalter

You are doing great. I always have to practice a ton before I start on a new top. Don't feel alone, there are lots of us in blog land just like you. Keep chugging along! Lisa in Texas

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlisa leblanc

Free-motion is super hard!! You sample looks great! I agree with you, it's hard to look at perfect stitches and then look at your own work. I'm super inspired by your post. I need to practice too!


April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I'm hearing you :) I've done the classes. I've done some practice. BUT mine still doesn't look like the professional quilters, and I really hate that. I usually just pay the money, and get the expert to do it...it causes me much less stress. Sorry...that's not very encouraging, is it? LOL
Hope it comes together for you...and that you have more patience than me :)

April 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzitee

thank you for making me laugh at this particularly tough time - I have NO problem seeing or hearing you through this process - keep it up 'cause I just know that it will look not just ok - but simply stunning!!!

April 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermissymote

Your quilting looks great, seriously, for just starting?? Don't beat yourself up :D
I taught myself how to do it a few years ago and haven't looked back. Get yourself some gloves as some people have mentioned, they really do help out a lot. And keep your speed constant, and of course practice. That was the hardest thing for me, taking the time to practice, I wanted it perfect from the beginning, it does have a learning curve... I love your blog BTW!!! Keep it up.

April 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I was just as scared of free motion and my free motion quilting is still far from perfect but practice does make a difference to your confidence. Well done on a great job!

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiv

it worked well though! im impressed! ive missed so much on your blog this week!! I was convinced I added you to my bloglovin, im silly. i l do it now!

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.