Friday, February 14, 2020

Success with Free-Motion Quilting / Beauties Pageant 69


I’ve talked to a lot of free-motion quilters over the past few years, and each one has a unique take on the secret to his or her success. All of them agree on one thing, however: Getting good at free-motion quilting (FMQ) requires practice.

And that’s not something I invest my time in. Every year or two, I decide that I’ve had it with my walking foot and need to get serious about FMQ. I watch videos and read blog posts. I consult my quilting library and practice on quilt sandwiches. Then I do a project and forget about FMQ for another chunk of time. Regular practice—and the muscle memory that comes with it—doesn’t happen.

But I think I might stick with FMQ this time! I stippled an entire baby quilt this past week and am pretty pleased with the results.


I’ve tried different approaches with FMQ—like marking quilting lines and using stencils—and I tried some new tricks with this quilt. I even cut down a snow carpet for my endeavors, but it caused more problems than it solved for me. What ended up working was (1) not marking anything, (2) starting at the bottom of the quilt and working my way up, and (3) allowing myself as many stops as I needed to readjust the quilt sandwich. I watched an Angela Walters videos on FMQ, and she said, for a successful stipple, quilt in “a lot of different directions: up, down, left, and right.” For whatever reason, thinking of stippling in that way hit home for me, helping me navigate the quilting on this project.


I give my efforts a solid B, which I think is pretty darn good! I managed to achieve a lot of gentle curves with my stipple, and any awkward spots are well concealed by the many prints on both sides of the quilt. My machine is a tension master, so I didn’t experience any eyelashes on the back. I did, however, encounter an occasional skipped stitch, which I couldn’t remedy. (I rethreaded my machine using a new needle and still had issues. Any suggestions?)


If you follow me on Instagram, you know that some scary stuff happened at my house recently. (If you don’t, everything is fine now; both of my children are accounted for.) I needed a triumph, and this project was exactly that.

Another flimsy is waiting in the wings. It’s a project that would benefit from the curves of an all-over stipple in a larger scale than I used on this baby quilt. I hope to tackle it soon—wish me luck!

I used Cluck Cluck Sew’s strip-and-flip baby quilt tutorial for this project. To learn how to make your own, click here.

To see my past FMQ projects, read:

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8 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle! I think half the battle of FMQ is getting over the what-should-I-quilt issue. Once you have a design in mind, the rest falls into place. NO ONE else really looks at the quilting unless you're submitting it for judging. Normal people don't have any idea the amount of work that goes into selecting just the perfect fabrics, sewing, layering, and then finally quilting. I applaud you for taking the leap - stippling can be intimidating - it's the whole no-plan aspect of it. It sounds like your next stippling project will allow you to do a larger allover design. I struggle when I go outside the medium range - really small and really large challenge me. I am thinking your skipped stitches may be from going just a bit too fast with your hands verses the speed of the machine. Yay you for tackling this again. Before long you'll throw in a loop or two, and then maybe a heart or a star. Rock on sister! ~smile~ Roseanne

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  2. I think every machine skips stitches on occasion - mine typically struggles with FMQ and big, bulky seams, so I know that I need to slow down in those areas and it goes a lot better. If I get a lot of skipped stitches, then I know it's time to clean out some lint and oil my machine. A new needle might be in order sometimes because a slight bend in the needle can make it hard (see bulky seams above - if I'm going to fast I can end up with a bent needle even if I just replaced it). Stippling was one of the hardest FMQing motifs for me to learn. I eventually got to the point where I thought a lot about partial circles and that helped me out somehow *shrug*? Congratulations on the great finish!

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  3. The quilting looks great! Well done!

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  4. Hi Michelle, congratulations on your free motion quilting. It's actually my favourite part of making quilts. Practice is important, but you can also practice by doodling on paper. It's really effective and will help immensely - and you can do that anywhere! Keep it up - it's well worth it!

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  5. It's wonderful to hear that you keep trying FMQ. As an instructor, I also find that lots of encouragement is needed, as well as the assurance that perfection is not required! In fact, that's the beauty of FMQ... the bobbles and imperfections that give the quilt personality. A quilt's character is ALL your own! It doesn't belong to some "perfect" longarm quilter. Keep up the good effort you're making! And I'm sorry for your scary experience with your son. I'm so very relieved for you that all is well.

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  6. Congratulations on breaking through the FMQ fears and just doing it! I'm at a similar stage with FMQ. It's time to transfer from practice sandwiches and just get on with quilting quilts! I found the tips I picked up at FMQ class really helpful - like if you don't like stitching a particular pattern..don't do it... move onto one you do enjoy!

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  7. Congrats on the FMQ. I think of drawing dog bones and it does help to up the speed and the motion of your hands. Slowing down makes it look jerky. And I do have a particular direction that my machine does not like to go (lower right to upper left).

    And you might want to check for lint around the bobbin if you are skipping. Sewing/quilting is actually needle punching fabric, so it is natural to build up lint. Keep some Qtips handy and give the area swipe each time you change the bobbin.

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  8. I so get what you are saying. I would love to be able to do FMQ but I avoid putting in so much time and getting my a** kicked in the beginning. So walkinig foot it is for me. But yours really looks good and so I think if you did every other, third or fourth quilt this way, it would already help keeping your skill up. So good luck with the next flimsy :) xo Melanie

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