Monday, March 4, 2019

Some Free Motion Quilting Hints and Tips from Yours Truly

Recently a friend of mine -- we'll call her "Maggie" -- stopped by and asked for my help in quilting some projects for an upcoming charity auction that she helps to organize.  Maggie told me that she's been practicing her free motion quilting but she doesn't think it's good enough.

This self-assessment made me very sad.  Maggie is a great person with a lot of energy who gives so much to our community through her volunteer endeavors.  It's not right that she should feel like her work isn't good enough.

I have taught a lot of people the basics of free motion quilting over the years and one of the most important things that I tell them is "Don't be so hard on yourself."  Because everyone makes mistakes, especially in free motion quilting.  Hey. sometimes those mistakes turn into brand new quilting designs.

I asked Maggie if she's tried machine quilting an actual project yet and she said no, that she's still just quilting practice squares.  I gently suggested that she try quilting an actual piece so that she can feel that she is accomplishing something because machine quilting something that you plan to throw away is no way to build confidence!  Yes, you must crawl before you can walk, but if you never take that first wobbly step you'll be crawling forever.

I offered to meet with her on a Saturday or Sunday and work with her on her free motion quilting skills.  I'm not sure she'll take me up on my offer, though.  We'll see.

Maggie inspired me to write this blog post.

Here are my top 5 tips for Beginning Free Motion Quilting:

1.  Put the pedal to the metal!  Put your foot the whole way down on your pedal -- you need the needle to go up and down really fast in order to help you make even regular stitches.  PLEASE remember that how you move the fabric while quilting and how fast the needle goes up and down are not connected in any way.  Just because the needle is going up and down fast doesn't mean you have to move the quilt sandwich fast.

2.  Quilt a REAL project.  Sure, quilt a few practice squares, but then move on to a real project.  I totally recommend a quilt panel.  Slap a border around the panel of your choice, layer it with your backing and batting, take a deep breath and QUILT.  So the panel quilt is really ugly when you get done.  So what?  Toss it, give it to your dog, cut it up into pot holders -- it doesn't really matter.  You didn't have much time or money in the quilt to begin with, so you are probably not personally connected to it.  Just promise me that you aren't going to try quilting your grandmother's antique Wedding Ring quilt until you feel comfortable with your skills to do so.

3.  RELAX!  Yeah, I know this is a tough one, but you've got to relax while you are free motion quilting.  Keep your jaw loose and you shoulders down.  You might have to do this consciously for a while until it becomes second nature, but keeping your body relaxed will also help to keep your mind relaxed.

4.  Be kind to yourself.  You are a beginning free motion machine quilter.  Your quilting is not going to be perfect right out of the gate.  You are going to make mistakes.  Free motion quilting is not something you can expect to be perfect at.

5.  Practice, practice, practice!  I can't say this enough.  I can't tell you how many times I see a FMQ student some time after our class and they admit that after they went home, they didn't do any more machine quilting.  How can you expect to get good at FMQ (or anything for that matter) if you don't practice it?  The more practice you put in, the faster you'll get to the level you want to be.  Put in the time and you will be amazed at how quickly your skills improve.

There you have it -- my top 5 tips. 

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