Hi Sew Inspired readers! I'm amylouwho and blog over at www.amylouwhosews.com. I was flattered that Vicki asked me to share my experience with free motion quilting! I am no expert, still a beginner, but have learned a few things along the way that I'm happy to share with you!
I was spoiled from the get-go with free motion quilting, because my mom and her sisters have a long-arm quilting machine and that was the first way I ever did any free motion quilting. It was AMAZING!! That was over 10 years ago before I was really sewing again and I can't remember if I ever did more than one little baby quilt. Which I don't have a picture of. Sad, I know.
Fast forward several years and I started sewing again when I started my own family. Most of the quilts I made early on were quilted by my aunt or my mom or by me with just with some straight lines on my little Bernina and my mom's walking foot. (I still need to acquire one of those!!)
My first project that I actually free motion quilted, by myself, on my little machine was my bird quilt from my very first online quilting bee, just a little over a year ago. It was a daunting task, because I loved the quilt but didn't want to ruin it. I decided to quilt each block individually as I did some straight line quilting in the sashing.
I practiced loop-de-loops, stippling, and even came up with my own leaf design.
Focusing on a 14" block was a lot better than trying to look at the huge quilt as a whole. I used a variegated green thread to quilt with which was great on all of the greens, but the darkest part of the thread really shows my imperfections on the white. I would probably use white thread if I were to do it again.
Something I started making to practice my free motion skills were quilted dishmats.
Basically, a piece of cotton, cotton batting, and chenille. Spray basted together, quilted, and serged off on the edges.
They are super easy to maneuver in your machine for practice, make great gifts, a quick finish and a nice way to add some color to your kitchen.
Another great way to practice free motion quilting, and quilting in general is by making mini quilts! I made my first mini-quilt for the Spicing up the Kitchen Swap on Flickr last year.
and another after I attended the Sewing Summit last fall.
I took Allison's (of Cluck, Cluck, Sew) free motion quilting class and learned a few new tricks and basically gained confidence that I might actually know what I was doing. I liked how she talked about doing your quilting in rows up and down your quilt. I always tended to go wherever and sometimes you quilt yourself into a corner, literally! The mini quilts are so satisfying and quick. And yes, it IS STILL QUILTING!! yeah! I have a serious problem finishing things in a timely manner! So something small and quickly finished feels great!
I just finished a quilt a few weeks ago for a Christmas gift. Start to finish 3 weeks! It was a Christmas miracle!
It is 72x72 finished, so it was pretty large in my little machine, and I had anxiety half-way through the quilting that I wasn't going to like it. And then I washed it and dried and it. And it was great! Not perfect, but that's okay!
The hardest part of any new thing for me is the starting. Once I start quilting, I have to keep going. And once I'd free motioned a whole quilt, other projects seemed less scary. The thing that surprises me the most about quilting is that halfway through every large project I've done, I hate whatever it is I'm doing, and wished I had a long-arm. I'm so busy focusing on each tiny stitch and all of the imperfections that I see that I lose sight of what the whole quilt will look like quilted, washed and dried. The stitches disappear, the quilt becomes crinkly and soft, and the overall look is one of pretty coziness. I need to remind myself of that while I'm in the midst of the quilting!!
The biggest things I've learned are:
1. Don't kill yourself over perfection. Very few people, if any, will analyze each stitch the way you will while quilting.
2. Use thread that matches the lightest fabric in your quilt.
3. I love my quilting gloves - they help keep my grip on the quilt.
4. Put the foot pedal all the way down. Going faster actually helps keep your stitches more even. This comes with practice, but I find my quilting always looks better when I'm moving my quilt slowly and the needle is moving quickly.
5. If your machine doesn't sit flush with your table, sit in a taller chair, or an a booster (I put my kid's booster upside down) to keep from hunching your shoulders up to your machine while you sew. I find this helps any time I'm spending a lot of time at my machine.
6. Practice, practice, practice! The more you do it, the better you get, and the more confident you will be!
7. Have fun!
I would encourage any of you who are intimidated by free motion quilting to just start. Find some scraps and batting and just play! Have fun with it! After all for a lot of us this is a hobby that should be fun, not stressful! No get going and make something pretty and have fun while you are doing it!
It's Vicki now, thanks so much to Amy for this post. I love your Christmas quilt and am very impressed with the quick turnaround. I can't wait to see what you make next! Please stop by Amy's blog and check it out; she's the host of Sew & Tell Friday which is a fun link up party occurring on many Fridays and encouraging us to finish up and show off our projects!
Also, I want to encourage you to post your free motion quilting practice or projects on the link-up from Tuesday's post. I'd love to hear about what you're working on!
And finally thanks again to the Focus on Free Motion Sponsors!
Here's the prize drawing information fine print:
*Be thinking about what you want to do for your free motion quilted project for the prize drawing at the end of the month. It needs to be finished this month but can already be started if needed. The project could be a small mini-quilt, a large quilt, or something in between, it’s up to you.
*About the prizes--there will be a link-up at the end of the month where you can link to a blog post or flickr photo sharing a completed free motion quilted project from this month. The link-up will be open for 24 hours and then winners will be chosen randomly from those who enter.