|Look! I can free-motion quilt!|
I like straight-line quilting, and the motifs I can create with a straight stitch and walking foot usually serve me well. Every 12 to 18 months, however, I decide that I need to face my fear of free-motion quilting (FMQ). After all, FMQ has its perks. I like the idea of quilting without doing much, if any, marking (and I almost always mark when I straight-line quilt). Plus, some quilt designs require the softening that only FMQ’s swirls and loops can provide.
These forays into FMQ follow the same pattern: I get out my darning foot and plate, watch some videos online, give FMQ a shot, and throw in the towel when I’m not great at it from the get-go. In the end, all I’ve wasted is some thread and practice quilt sandwiches.
My most recent attempt was different, though. I started by hanging out with a friend—someone I consider an expert in FMQ—to pick her brain and practice a bit. And it was hard. I had to focus on so much! So we talked about different ways I could practice, improving my approach and building my muscle memory.
I ended up making some compromises. First I invested in some inexpensive stencils, figuring they’d help me work on maintaining a consistent stitch length and making pretty, round corners without having to think about where I was headed next with my quilting. Then I practiced with a stipple stencil. I’m not crazy about the look of stippling, but it’s forgiving—a good FMQ design to start with. I traced my stipple stencil on some freezer paper, taped it to my cutting board, and using a simple rectangle of leftover template plastic marked with a black dot, pretended I was moving a quilt under the needle of my machine. Then I moved to quilting practice sandwiches. Finally, I moved on to an actual quilt.
|This was my simple solution to working on my muscle memory.|
In the end, the experience went better than I thought it would. I offset each row of stippling to camouflage the fact that I used a stencil, and that worked well. Whenever things got too wonky, I stopped quilting, tied off the thread at a good spot, and buried the ends. It wasn’t efficient, but I wanted the final quilt to be good enough to gift. Of course, with the stencil, I had to mark every line of quilting with a water-soluble marker. Oh well—I did what I had to do to make FMQ work for me!
|This was the ideal project to work on my FMQ. A lot of imperfections were |
camouflaged by the gray thread and improv background.
|Here is the finished quilt! Read more details here.|
I haven’t done any FMQ since that project, so I suspect my next attempt will require a lot of practice again. That’s fine with me—I have the confidence to make it happen a second time.
Are you into FMQ? What words of wisdom can you share with a newbie like me?