Monday, October 20, 2014

Free Motion Monday: The Beginner Edition, Week 3

We're leaving the Loop-D-Loops of the last two weeks behind and moving on with what I call the open-S shape. It's not all that exciting by itself, but other designs build on its double curve.


It's good for flames, wood grain, a lovely fern-feather, and once you are used to the basic shape, tighten up one end into a spiral scroll.

Fern Feather Free Motion Quilting design

This design helps you practice the double curve, making good points, and changing directions. I love going from the open S shape into scroll spirals.


I just taught a fun class of ladies from the Appomattox Courthouse Quilt Guild this weekend and we had a blast. I'm not sure if we had more laughter or quilting going on! I came home to be greeted by Ironman. Every 4 year old should get an old welding helmet to play with, I think.


No one has linked up their work in the past two week's link ups, so I'm leaving it off this week. Looks kinda sad to have an empty link party. I'm having flashbacks to high school...will anyone come to my party?

No worries, I'm guessing that many of the folks learning these designs just aren't ready to share their work online yet. That's OK with me. Link parties are not just fun and a way to share our work with other blogs, but it also helps your blog's rankings with Google. So next week, our last for this beginner's series, be ready to share either some of these designs or, if you are a more experienced quilter, share one of your beginner projects to encourage the newer quilters out there. Show us how far you've come.

Don't forget, free motion quilting is full of variables that affect your stitching success, so make sure you practice, problem-solve, and persevere.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Free Motion Monday: The Beginner Edition, Week 2

It's week two of my Free Motion Monday for beginners this month. I've heard from many and it's so wonderful to hear that you are giving free motion quilting a try or improving your skills.

designs for beginning free motion quilting

I shot a video for this week, two actually, and then I edited out where I got tongue-tied and said an unkind word to myself. :-)



This week we're continuing on with loops and adding in various shapes. Hearts, leaves, flowers and insects. These designs work great for baby quilts which are the perfect size for practicing your FMQ skills. Anybody else seem to be surrounded by a bumper crop of babies? Goodness, it seems they are everywhere here.


The variations with this loopy design is pretty much endless! Link up below and share what you've done.


A few points to respond to questions that I've heard from beginners recently:


  • Don't forget to drop your feed dogs if you are covering them with a Supreme Slider . Unless you set your stitch length to 0 (and not all machines will let you do this) the motion will tear up the Slider.
  • A related note- Some people don't drop their feed dogs. I do, and I set my stitch length to zero. Since the dogs are lowered, the stitch length is really irrelevant, and your hand motion is what creates the stitch length. Experiment and see what works best for you.
  • Don't forget to lower your presser foot before starting to stitch. Since the foot hovers (or hops) above the quilt, it's easy to forget this step. But if you forget, you'll have a big mess of loops underneath.
  • Relax and give yourself permission to play!
  • For thread breakage issues, see last weeks post on Ten Tips to Solve Breaking Threads, if you're still having problems, leave a comment or email me.
Check out last week's post, The Beginner Edition, Week 1 for links to other helpful posts for beginners and other tips.


Here are the link up guidelines:
  • Keep your post relevant to this quilt along please. Spammy posts will be deleted.
  • Make sure you link up to the individual post, not your home page as nobody wants to have to search around for the post if they're a little late to the party.
  • Reciprocate! Link back to this post somewhere in your post or use the clickable blog button in your sidebar. You've got to dance with the one who took you to the party, so make sure you link back.
  • Don't be a wall-flower. (Talking to myself here too. In person I am so stinking shy!) Visit the other links, be sociable, and leave comments.
  • Please make sure you leave me a way to contact you if you are a no-reply blogger, especially if you ask a question.
Please link up to show what you've been quilting up, especially if you are a beginner.

On-line class experts, Craftsy is having a sale on many of their classes and they've got some great ones on free motion quilting too. See their link on the right hand side of my blog.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Ten Tips to Solve Breaking Threads

Lois left a comment about having intermittent breaking of her top thread while free motion quilting on a recent post. I answered her in the comments, but wrote a good sized equivalent of a blog post. I figured I might as well re-post it for you.

So, here's my checklist for thread breaking with a few additions:

1) Quality thread? Not too old? Not rayon (Rayon is a beautiful thread, but it takes gentle treatment and does break frequently).

2)Check your needle for snags, sized appropriately, etc. Some threads do better with a top stitch or metallic needle. Sometimes you can get a bum needle. But sometimes the bigger eye of a topstitch needle can cause sloppy stitch formation.

3) Check your stitchplate where the thread goes into the machine to form a stitch. Any snags or rough spots? Since you're going in all directions, the thread can contact a rough spot that hadn't been an issue with regular stitching.

4)Is it directional? Only happen as you stitch backwards? Happens to me sometimes. The needle can actually pierce the working thread (thread takes many passes through the machine before it is finally made into a single stitch, piercing it will break that working thread pretty quickly. Try to limit how much you stitch directly backwards, especially as that's where the needle is most prone to flexing.

5) Thicker, rougher threads, even some quality cottons can be 'grabby' and shred if there's a lot of stitching on top of stitching (backtracking or really dense designs).

6) Sometimes it can be a timing issue- if the top thread seems to be getting split and parts are worked into a few different stitches while a ply isn't getting stitched. The hook is splitting the thread as it's being formed. Tends to happen on thicker threads or lower ply thread (2 ply vs. 3 ply).

7) Check the upper thread path. Sometimes a slippery thread can flip itself around something as you stitch, work itself out of the take up lever, etc.

8) This point wasn't in my original response. Are you also having tension issues? A too tight top tension can sometimes cause the thread to break.

9) Another tip that wasn't included earlier: Check your bobbin case for nicks, scratches, rough spots too. The top thread has to pass around the case in order to form a stitch, so it's got to be smooth and undamaged.

10) My last tip, and another one not included in my comment, is to check how the thread is unwinding from the spool. If it is a straight-wound spool, it may not like the extra twist it is being given by spooling the thread off the top. If it is a slippery thread, it may be getting tangled around the spool pin and/or benefit from a thread net.


I also want to include a few more tips gleaned from working at my Janome dealer's shop part-time.

Make sure you are using the proper bobbin for your machine! You would be amazed at how many machines we see whose main issue is the wrong bobbin! It's easy to grab the wrong bobbin, especially at a big-box store's sewing section or if you have had multiple machines. The machines may move on, but the accessories and bobbins tend to stay.

I also recommend getting genuine bobbins from your machine's manufacturer. Ask your dealer if the bobbins you are being sold for your machine came from the manufacturer or if they are generics that fit your machine. There are generic bobbins out there with the same dimensions (or "close-enough"), but I always have less trouble with my Janome bobbins in my Janome machine. I also like buying the colored bobbins from Janome so I can separate the thread typed in my bobbins. I recently got blue bobbins and they also have pink ones. Take it from me, I buy generic everything most of the time, but not bobbins.

Don't forget to raise your presser foot when threading your machine, so that the thread slides into the tension disks properly. I also raise my presser foot first when I am changing my top tension.

If you have a drop-in bobbin machine, have you ever noticed that even when the case is correctly seated, there's a little bit of wiggle room? It's supposed to be there! That bit of play allows the top thread to pass around it as the stitch is formed. As you stitch, if you hear the bobbin rattle, you might have something impeding the threads path around the bobbin case. Check it for lint or debris build up. I hear this sometimes when my bobbin is running low, the tail end of the bobbin thread has come unwound a bit and is interfering with the stitch formation. If a long enough of it comes unwound, it will join the top thread in making the stitch and *whammo* the bobbin with be tied in place.

Lastly, my experience has taught me that there will always be a few thread breaks occasionally. Even a long armer will have breaks occasionally. But if it's happening after stitching no more than 5 feet or so, there's probably something you can do to fix it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Starting a New Project

I'm starting to start on a new project today. I pre-washed a bunch of fabric. A nine yard piece of fabric in the washer is such a tangled, twisted mess when it comes out. I just couldn't bring myself to cut it. Actually, since I bought a 16 yard bolt of it, I had already cut it once.

I love having all of my fabric prewashed as soon as it comes in the house. Saves me from wondering, "Is it pre-washed?" when the creative juices start to run.

But the best and most important thing was I found the surface of my cutting table again!


It usually gets buried when I'm sewing or quilting a project. This time there is no 'before' shot. Not that I'm too embarrassed to show you (go back through the archives and you'll see I don't mind sharing my messes!), but I just picked at it this morning and the next thing you know, it was done! So now I can actually get busy with actually starting the project!

I hope you are all getting some gorgeous Fall weather (Or Spring weather if you're down under) where ever you live. Here in Virginia it was beautiful today!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Free Motion Monday: The Beginner Edition

I am so excited to start this month's Free Motion Monday Quilting Adventure! We're going back to basics and giving some great info to the quilter who is just beginning with free motion quilting.

If you are brand new to FMQ, check out my posts How to Free Motion Quilt: The Set Up, How to Free Motion Quilt: Basic Motion and Tension, and How to Free Motion Quilt: The Designs. You can find all three posts and other handy posts on the tab above called, Tips for Free Motion Quilting.

Learn to free motion quilt
This pic was set up to go with the 3 part series above and is my most pinned pic on Pinterest.

Be kind to yourself and don't compare your beginning with someone else's middle (A quote attributed to Jon Acuff, I believe). Relax and don't practice on your quilt tops right away, use practice pieces instead. Quilting with a light colored batik on the top of a practice sandwich without thread is a great, waste-free way to practice when you are very new.


I won't be teaching the stipple here, at least not that puzzle-like design that is so prevalent. I wrote Two Reasons to Ditch the Stipple, to discuss why I don't teach the stipple to beginners. (Don't confuse the stipple (noun) or the larger meander (noun) with stippling (verb), confusing I know, but sometimes folks refer to the manner of randomly stitching a background type design as stippling (when smaller) or meandering (v.) when in a larger, random design.)





I'm starting off with loops. These loops are great for beginners as we are all fairly good at doodling circles around and around----meandering (the verb, not the noun, meaning the puzzle like design, got it?) around the open areas.


A word about hand positioning. I've been teaching classes in person for nearly two years now. There's something about FMQ that makes people feel like they've got to go crazy fast and avoid stopping. This leads to getting your hands out of position as you quilt or trying to shift your hands while still stitching. Both are a bad idea. Stop and reposition your hands so that they are on either side of the needle. Too far away and you run the risk of the above picture. Below is the misshapen loop that was stitched when the fabric wrinkled as my hands were too far in front of the needle.


Don't get your fingers too close to the needle either! Besides risking injury, if your hand runs into the foot, you'll have irregularities in your design.



 Don't forget to check your thread tension too! Sporadic tension issues can tell you that you are either almost at the tension sweet spot, or that your hand motion is uneven at those spots and throwing the tension off. A slight jerk of the hands can cause a slight jerking in the thread and throw the tension off.

I deliberately used a loose tension above, you're seeing the bottom side here. Below, the top tension is too tight, pulling the bobbin thread to the top. Using two different colors of thread is a great way to figure out tension, but keep in mind that under perfect tension, you may still see slight spots of color showing in the hole where the stitch is formed. Switch to matching thread colors and it will not be an issue. Contracting threads show every mistake so be kind to yourself (and to me, this was done in a hurry).



When quilting on a sewing machine, it is pretty easy to stitch small. It can be more of a challenge to stitch larger. Loops can be sized appropriately for different projects and variety can be thrown in with multiple loops in one area, varying the loop sizes, lengthening or shortening the distance between loops.


Above is about as large as I would do loops since I don't want to reposition my hands mid-loop. You can also take advantage of areas where the threads cross reposition your hands and to hide stops and starts

Below, I took advantage of the crossing threads to change my direction. It would have been nearly unnoticeable except I paused too long when changing direction and formed a knot of stitches that pulled up the brown bobbin thread.


Below I switched to double loops which is kind of fun. I then alternated between single and double loops.


I've recently seen this multiple loop style, like the below pic, on modern quilts but used more uniformly positioned than I have it here.


Don't forget pebbles! They're essentially loops all next to each other. Below, the blue line goes between an area of pebbles where I changed the thread tension a bit.


Finally, I switched back to simple loops with nearly perfect tension. You can still see the dark brown bobbin thread peeking out of the needle holes and contrasting sharply against the orange top thread.


 I encourage you to give loops a try if you are new to FMQ and to play with loops if you aren't so new to it. Next week, I'll show you some other simple variations of loops like leaves, hearts and more.

Ask questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer you. Link up a blog post showing your work below and we'll a-go a-visitin'!

 Here are the link up guidelines:
  • Keep your post relevant to this quilt along please. Spammy posts will be deleted.
  • Make sure you link up to the individual post, not your home page as nobody wants to have to search around for the post if they're a little late to the party.
  • Reciprocate! Link back to this post somewhere in your post or use the clickable blog button in your sidebar. You've got to dance with the one who took you to the party, so make sure you link back.
  • Don't be a wall-flower. (Talking to myself here too. In person I am so stinking shy!) Visit the other links, be sociable, and leave comments.
  • Please make sure you leave me a way to contact you if you are a no-reply blogger, especially if you ask a question.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dresdens are Done

I finished up with Ellen's lovely Dresden quilt late last week and other than a border design that I decided had to be ripped out and changed, I really enjoyed it. Though I only had little bits of time free to work on it, so it felt like it took forever!


The pictures aren't the greatest, as we've been having overcast days.


I was going to do piano keys or beadboard on the outer border (at the bottom of the above picture) but I was afraid the print and my lines of stitching might not run parallel enough and then run the risk of looking all crooked.


Seeing the shape of the dark parts of the batik made it easy to decide to do another fern feather around the border.


 Shot of the back. Looks pretty good, I think. Can't wait until Ellen has it in her hands and lets me know what she thinks.


I merged the spiral background design into a border with fern feather leaves for the narrower border. I also used my Sue Pelland Leaves Galore ruler to mark the spines and spiral border.

I like doing quilts for others from time to time, but find it horribly nerve wracking. Ellen was fabulous with her permission to do what I thought the quilt needed. I am probably more critical of my work than any of my customers, but that can be a good thing.

But teaching folks to quilt their own quilts is what makes me the happiest! Next Monday will kick off a month of designs and tips for beginners for the Free Motion Monday Quilting Adventure and link party. Come join the fun.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Free Motion Monday: Gimme a "C"! Week 5

It's the last post for the "Gimme a C" series here on the blog. Coincidentally, it's report card day for my oldest 2 kiddos. Happily, I am only seeing "C's" here on the blog. After being homeschooled until 3rd and 4th grade, I am pleased with straight B's. What a big transition for them!

Speaking of transitions, back to quilting.


I shot a video of my latest C's. I even tried out some Aurifil while doing it. I've been wanting to see if the thread would live up to the internet hype. I haven't stitched with it long enough to make a judgement yet and I only have one spool of the white, 50/2 thread. (How does one get lucky enough to get spools for free from these folks? Seems like everybody's reviewing it these days.) I do like the slight sheen of it and had no problems while stitching during the video.


I'm keeping this 5th post of the month short and sweet, but if you've been practicing along, please link up below and share what you've done.

Next month I'm going to post one beginner design each week. So if you're new to free motion quilting, follow along to get that all necessary PPP done. (Practice, practice, practice!)

Here are the link up guidelines:
  • Keep your post relevant to this quilt along please. (This month is unspecified, so anything dealing with free motion quilting is fine!) Spammy posts will be deleted.
  • Make sure you link up to the individual post, not your home page as nobody wants to have to search around for the post if they're a little late to the party.
  • Reciprocate! Link back to this post somewhere in your post or use the clickable blog button in your sidebar. You've got to dance with the one who took you to the party, so make sure you link back.
  • Don't be a wall-flower. (Talking to myself here too. In person I am so stinking shy!) Visit the other links, be sociable, and leave comments.
  • Please make sure you leave me a way to contact you if you are a no-reply blogger, especially if you ask a question.