Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Use and Set Up My Favorite FMQ Foot

It's no secret that I love my Janome and the Janome Convertible Free Motion Foot Set for free motion quilting. I had someone ask for more information on how to use this wonderful foot, so I shot a little video.



Since this is the end of our month long focus of free motion quilting for beginners, I figured now was a great time to post it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Free Motion Monday: The Beginner Edition, Week 4

Time for our last Free Motion Monday: The Beginner Edition! Yes, I know, technically it's past time, since this is Tuesday. But that's just how it had to be this week. I am looking forward to seeing some work shared in the Link Party at the bottom of this post. Share your work if you are a beginner, or show some of your earlier work when you were a beginner if you now have more experience under your belt.



 I did another video this week on taking that "open S" into a spiral this week. I love doing spirals and similar shapes. They can be so much fun and so very versatile.

Spirals and scrolls for beginners in free motion quilting
Scroll on right, spiral on left.
First, there's two ways to come out of the initial spiral shape. The first will create a scroll shape but going along the initial curve. The second will create the spiral by going out "over the top" of the curve.


I am going to take next month off from the Free Motion Monday Series as I am getting behind on several projects. I'll still be blogging, but not using the Linky, nor committing to a post on every Monday.

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. I love seeing what others have quilted up!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Throwing a Little Light on the Subject

A little light on lighting, anyway. In my little studio I have a lovely window that faces South and another that faces West. Even though the westward one looks out on the covered porch, I have pretty good natural light during the day for general uses. Plus, there's a decent ceiling light in the middle of the 9x12 foot space.

But I work on many of my projects at night after the kids go to bed. Daylight is best for taking pictures for the blog and stuff. It would be such a boring blog without pictures. The other main time I work on my quilting and sewing is during our "Quiet Time". Blessed, wonderful, quiet time. Then there is fabulous light in my room unless the weather is awful or very sunny.

That southern exposure can be too bright, especially bouncing off my white, high gloss sewing table. Blinding! So the shade is pulled down and then the lighting isn't so great. Today I bought a 3 light floor lamp at Wally World (Walmart) for $25 and a few bulbs. I'm hoping it will help with the photography, at which my skills are awfully basic.


I'm not sure about the bulbs yet. I bought 2 'daylight' fluorescent bulbs and used an incandescent that I had sitting around the house. Bulbs have gotten spendy and I need to research what I need before buying any more.
I started this project at the shop, so I used the Janome 8200 that is on display. Nice machine!

I also worked on a project for the shop. The owner doesn't have an actual "open" sign. He prefers the subtle opening of the window blinds as his 'we're here!' statement. When I mention an open sign, he keeps talking about getting one of those programmable digital signs. I think they're kind of tacky unless it's an electronics store or something. So I made a quilted sign to use for now.


I got it halfway quilted, and realized I didn't do the blanket stitch inside the 'P'. I'll fix when I'm up at the shop next. I did finish quilting it. I decided I'd use clear thread to quilt over the decorative stitches I used to machine applique the letters. That didn't work so well with these satin-stitch ovals.



But it worked quite well with the star stitch below and the blanket stitch. I loved the blanket stitch I used on this machine. I echo quilted the letters in black and quilted the rest with a variation of the open-S shape design from Monday's post. More linear, with a swirl thrown in here and there.


If this was to be a wall hanging, with a child's name instead of OPEN, for instance, I would probably line the letters so the background fabric wouldn't show through. That means to use a double layer of fabric for the applique. Cutting the background fabric is an option, but I fused these letters, so that wasn't going to work here. But this is fine for the purpose.

Now that I have some better lighting, I'm looking forward to working on a new project and taking plenty of pictures! I am looking forward to some extra stitching time this weekend. How about you?

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!