I am by no means an expert at Free Motion Quilting. I want to take a class. Practice, practice, practice...that's the biggest tip I can give you. I would like to share with you what I learned doing a full size quilt as a sampler. Completed this quilt is 75" x 75".
In the spring I was working on a Round Robin quilt project with my guild. This was a fun project that combined the talents of the participants to produce a quilt for each of us. We each supplied a centre block, in my case the double lion block, then the quilts were circulated through the group on a monthly basis. After 8 months and 8 rounds added, we were each given our quilt back that we had begun. I was completely impressed with the result of my project! Thank you to the wonderful women who worked on it.
The way this quilt was produced in "rounds" gave me the perfect opportunity for a Free Motion Quilting Sampler. The defined boundaries were most helpful for stitching in. I have been wanting to get better at this technique and this allowed me a lot of repetitive (in a good way) learning. Being able to repeat the method helped regulate my stitch length and gave me the opportunity to create different stitch patterns.
The first of my challenges was to find ideas on how to stitch the lion's manes. On the internet I searched "Lion Coloring Pages". These pages offer simple line drawings which are suitable for stitching inspiration.
Next I sketched simple and manageable lines to stitch. I drew two options, one more circular and one with sharper points. I find that Free Motion Quilting is similar to drawing, so if I sketch the idea it gives me a feel for the flow once I get the quilt on the sewing machine. These are pretty funny...enjoy a little chuckle :)
The manes ended up being one of the last things that I stitched as I had to get up the courage! I ventured off of my original design idea somewhat and I love the finished look. When I got to stitching this I felt more comfortable doing the circular motion, so that is simply what happened.
The filler stitching around the lions was first drawn as this sketch.
For many of the stitching patterns I went online for ideas and inspiration.
Please see my Pinterest page on Stitching Designs for some of these ideas:
Quilters...Enjoy Color! Stitching Designs on Pinterest
I would love to take a class in Free Motion Quilting. What I know is from my own experience combined with a few tips from other quilters.
These are the things that I learned from doing this sampler:
Use the "needle down" feature on your sewing machine if you have one. This will put the needle to the down position (in the fabric) when you stop stitching in the middle of your pattern. This is extremely helpful and keeps your stitches from jumping, which creates unwanted sharp points in your stitching.
"Needle-Down" is the double triangle with the light on.
Define boundaries in your work. This is so beneficial. Breaking your work down into small sections makes the stitching manageable. This was easy to do in the Round Robin design as all of the sections were added as borders to the quilt. This provided long, narrow sections to stitch within. As an example, the "ribbon" stitching pattern was easy to do within the 1" wide black border section. The small red and cream squares provided a perfect area for the stitched "lollipop" design. The circle "bubbles" worked perfectly in the brown section that is approx. 4" wide.
Posture is so important. I can't emphasize this enough.
First, a little story - short version, I promise. When I was 18 and watching a hockey game (well...talking to a friend near the boards of a hockey game) a player's stick came up over the side. The end result was me with a broken jaw, wired shut for 6 weeks and eating pudding! Now at 48 my jaw causes me a little grief on occasion. This is why I speak about posture.
Sit up straight. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. Keep your jaw relaxed by parting your lips a little bit. Don't bite down on your molars. Don't bite your tongue. I had to teach myself not to do this. I used to bite my tongue between my molars. No! No! FMQuilting causes a tendency in us to scrunch our shoulders. Don't do it! Keep your neck long and as much tension out of your shoulders and neck as possible. Keeping your forearms on your sewing table and keeping the weight off of your shoulders can be very helpful. This is what I am learning to do now.
Take breaks. Stretch. Do twists in your chair. Take a yoga class. I have been attending yoga classes for 3 years and it has been extremely helpful. Yoga stretches out what we all constantly bend one way during sewing.
A good view of the "rounds". There is still a pinned section on the cream colored area that I am going to do in a heart pattern. I sketched the design and did a practice piece on some scrap fabric.
Doing a small practice piece gives you a feel for the flow of the design.
This Round Robin Sampler provided me an opportunity to work on my hand/eye/foot coordination.
Practice is what it takes.
Here are 2 of the patterns that I designed to use for "rounds" on the quilts that I participated in: