Working on free motion quilting

As mentioned in yesterday’s post I’ve set myself the task of improving my free motion quilting (fmq) skills. Nearly all the projects I’ve completed have been quilted using a walking foot – I’ve learned to create spirals and wiggly lines with a walking foot as well as playing around with my machine’s fancy stitches – but there are times when I’ve known a quilt would really benefit from the addition of fmq stitching patterns. I have several quilt tops consigned to the UFO pile because I’ve stalled at the quilting stage.

As we know, skills don’t develop just by wishing, they have to be practiced. So I made myself a little quilt sandwich from batting scraps, orphan quilt blocks and fabric scraps. I decided to have a go at ‘pebbling’ and this is what I’ve learned from just three half hour sessions:

  1. Yes, it is a pain having to convert my machine from piecing mode to fmq mode and back again (dropping feed dogs, remembering to reduce the stitch length to zero, changing the foot, changing the sharps needle to a quilting needle…) BUT I am grateful to have a machine that responds well to these alterations.
  2. It is worth practicing the fmq design using pencil and paper before sitting down to stitch it out.
  3. My practice sandwich is deliberately on the small side and only pinned around the edges so I can concentrate on the stitching, not hindered by a bulky mass of quilt pulling away from the needle or having to stop to remove pins.

    Practice sandwich – approx 15″ x 23″
  4. I’ve done a bit of meandering/stipple stitching in the past and find doing this for five minutes at the start of the practice session is a good warm up.
  5. Even in these few sessions I can feel myself developing a better sense of coordination between foot peddle pressure and hand speed – my stitches still vary in length but pebbling is a forgiving design as there is plenty of opportunity to go back over a line of stitching, hiding too large stitches with some smaller ones 😉

    My pebbling – uneven stitches and all!
  6. Practicing will use a lot of thread – seems to work out at around a bobbin-full every half hour!
  7. It’s taking me at least 20 minutes to fill an 8″ square with pebbling – I need to allow for this when planning the quilt stitch designs on a full size project.

    Pebbling in an 8″ square
  8. At present I’m finding my powers of concentration drop off rapidly after about 30 minutes, so again I need to factor that in to any large project I might work on.
  9. I must remember to take my foot away from the peddle at the same time as my hands stop – I’ve produced a few stray stitches by unintentionally applying pressure to the foot peddle!
  10. Using gloves with rubber finger tips really does make a positive difference to the amount of control I have as I move the quilt sandwich under the needle.
  11. I’m enjoying the challenge of improving a skill – it takes time (and lots of thread!) but neither are being wasted 🙂

Do you have any tips or discoveries to share with quilters who may be considering working on their free motion quilting skills? I’m linking this post with Connie at Freemotion by the River for her regular linky Tuesday.

I’m getting back up to speed with my ‘Pins of the Week’ board on Pinterest. I collect items on the board for a week and then on Tuesday evening I shift them over to the ‘Last Week’s Pins of the Week’ board before dispersing them all to my categorized boards. As well as the items of interest and inspiration I’ve picked up from reading blogs there are results of searches I’ve made – this week you can check out some useful links I’ve found about photographing quilts and *surprise, surprise* a pebbling tutorial 🙂


6 thoughts on “Working on free motion quilting

  1. Great pebbling! A way to get in practice for FMQ is to do charity quilts. Usually nursing homes need small ones that people can put in their laps that don’t interfere with the wheelchair wheels. That’s about a 50″ by WOF quilt, and totally doable even on a small domestic machine. Also, you can use regular yardage to back it since the width is only width of fabric! Hope everyone gets some practice in – it does make a difference!

  2. Allison, your pebbling looks so pretty. I love the texture one gains with pebbling. I have done it on several projects. Sometimes it starts to make me crazy because it is a tight, laborious motif. I find myself getting bored with doing it, but it looks so good. So I just keep plodding along. Well done!

    • Thanks Bernie. I tried to make the pebbles bigger but I find scaling up a fmq design is a bit of a challenge – I suppose it’s because attention is always focussed on the small section of fabric under the needle? But you’re right the texture pebbling gives is very attractive.

  3. 30 minutes of pebbling makes my mind wander off. Ha, ha!

    I know practice makes perfect, but instead of shooting for perfect, don’t be too hard on yourself. Have fun, and enjoy what you are doing!


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