Today's Topic Feb.4/11...FMQ

day2dayFebruary 4, 2011

I want to learn to do free motion quilting. I am practicing on small blocks and can't seem to get a rhythm going and the tension isn't right and the work is messy on the back.

Love2sew suggested spray-basting plus maybe a few pins to keep things together.

A friend suggested keeping the feeddogs up. (I haven't tried that yet)

How do you do it? Would appreciate any comments//hints.



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I'm going through the same thing. I did find out that you need to tighten the thread tension when this happens, also taking curves too fast causes this. I guess it's just learning how to regulate the speed and the movement. If I could afford it I'd get a stitch regulator but that ain't gonna happen anyways soon. Try sewing a straight line after adjusting the tension, when it looks good, then sew a curve, if you see it getting messy on the back on the curves but not the straight lines, it's your movement and speed that needs to be worked on.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 7:31AM
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Thanks for the tips Rita. I think my problem is my speed and jerky movements...certainly takes practice to get it right!! Didn't even know there was such a thing as a stitch regulator. Will have to look at that.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 7:44AM
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"pedal to the metal"!!!
Sew as fast as your machine will go and move the fabric slower than you think you should. (you can move the fabric a little faster once you get more comfortable with it). Avoid jerky motions. Stop often if you need to. Keep the feed dogs down. Just work on a simple meander patter ( stipple) until that works for you, then try a more detailed pattern.

Hope that helps!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 7:53AM
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I don't know what kind of machine you have, but I had a Brother PC-650, and it wouldn't FM. When I asked the dealer about it, they told me it wasn't built to FM. Something about the gearing didn't allow it (that's my technical version!!). This was also an embroidery machine, so you think it wouldn't have any problems going different directions, but it did just as you are describing. Then, I bought a Brother quilting machine. It only does a straight stitch (very fast!), but is designed for FM, too (different gearing). Being new at it, I still have problems with the tension, but nothing like the pulling and mess that is had with the embroidery machine. That is just me trying to get my hands and speed adjustment figured out. So, you might check with a dealer about your machine. It might not be you?

One thing that was stressed in the class I took was not to pick up your hand until you stop sewing. If you try to move your hands while stitching, you are move likely to have the sharp jerky lines. For me, that is a really hard thing to do! Also, rubber gloves or quilting gloves to keep the fabric from moving slipping under my hands has helped.

I'm still new to FM, so I feel your pain! I want to learn how to do feathers and all the pretty quilting I see, so I'll keep trying.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 8:00AM
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I can't get it at all....
I love to see the work others do though. I wish I could help you.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 9:16AM
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It takes time and practice. You need to regulate your speed and hand movement until it becomes second nature. Don't expect good results immediately. Be patient and practice a lot.

Tension seems to be a problem all the time. I had to try lots of adjustment combined with lots of threads to find the one that my machine liked. Once there, I stick with that setting and that thread only. Haven't had a problem since.

Make a quilt sandwich of a large, bold print - maybe something ugly you find in the remnant box, and practice by tracing all the figures and around the flowers, etc. This is a good pallet to start with to get used to the motion. Feathers come later. You can get stencils of designs and draw the lines on to follow. I usually make my designs with a pencil on paper and then trace it to a plastic template sheet and cut it out myself. I can also draw it right on the block with a washable marker.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 9:22AM
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Forgot one thing - drop feed dogs and use a darning foot. It hops along as you sew releasing the tension between each stroke so you can move fabric more easily.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 10:26AM
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I've started practicing on FMQ, too, as a newby. I did put the feed dogs down, but found that every now and then it's as if a fabric seam catches in a hole on the throat plate.

Has anyone found it necessary to use a teflon sheet IN ADDITION to having feed dogs down?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 11:00AM
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Besides dropping the feed dogs and increasing the tension, it helps if you can slow down the speed of the machine - then you floor your foot pedal.

As a beginner, you may want to choose a medium size meander design - think a puzzle piece with rounded edges. I find it helps to draw your FMQ design on paper with a pencil, then trace the design a number of times with your index finger before you start stitching. This kind of gets your mind going with the design before you actually start stitching. Repeat as needed!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 11:31AM
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Thank you for all the comments and suggestions.

Robbi, I do have a Brother machine. Maybe that's the problem.

I am going to write down all the hints I've received and keep it close to the machine.

Again, thanks for taking the time to answer. I appreciate it.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 6:52AM
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I hadn't heard that some machines aren't geared for FMQ. Good to know!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 7:52AM
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There may be some confusion about machines being "geared" for FMQ. If you can drop the feed dogs on the machine, it is quite possible that you can do FMQ with that machine. It is well known that many quilters FMQ quilt with their little antique Featherweight Singers. I know my mom's Singer from 1951 has a screw that you can loosen to drop the feed dogs. I've not done it yet, but that's just because I don't have the time to play around with it.

Other sources say to cover the feed dogs with a card taped on to allow FMQ.

One reason that the older machines can allow the feed dogs to drop is because that is how darning was done on the machine. Yep, people actually used to darn holes in overalls, pants, shirts, linens and socks! Imagine that! LOL!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 8:31AM
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It seems reasonable that you should be able to do FMQ on any machine if the feed dogs can be lowered but maybe some are better for FMQ than others.

Yes Teresa, I remember my grandmother darning socks and overalls. Those folks never wasted a thing. Nan had 2 apple barrels. She would lay her frame on the barrels lengthwise and hook rugs on the frame. The barrels contained every scrap fabric that she could find. Later, I remember that she used pantyhose a lot for doing the background areas. I cannot remember her quilting..maybe she just didn't quilt.

She also made jams in bottles. The bottles weren't sealed like mason jar lids. She would put a coating of melted parowax on the top. Sometimes when you'd open the jam the top bit would have some mold. She'd just take the mold off and eat the jam. Her and Granda had cows and horses and a veggie garden. She would go to the garden a couple of miles from home and near the salt water. She'd 'turn' the cut hay and then gather driftwood on the beach, tie it together and bring it home on her back to be used as firewood.

Sorry I'm rambling on here...your mention of darning brought back a lot of nice memories. Thanks.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 8:47AM
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It is interesting how some machines may be better geared to FMQ than others, and I agree. I have a Bernina it is not the greatest for doing FMQ. I attribute it to the wide opening for the needle. Machines that have a straight stitch needle plate make a better stitch in general, JMO.
I do FMQ quilting on my 1904 singer treadle without lowering the feed dogs. I just zero out the stitch length. I have a FMQ foot for it. So far I have only done stippling on it and it turns out really nice.
Here is a pic of my practice piece in the FMQ quilt along I did.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 11:24AM
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Like many others have said, drop the feed dogs, use a darning foot, and wear quilting gloves with the kind of rubberized fingers. (I think rubber gloves might get too hot & my hands would sweat!) I got mine for about $8.00 and it was well worth it! It keeps your hands from slipping on the fabric and gives you more control. Then ... practice, practice, practice. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 12:12AM
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Sometimes books help. I loved reading Harriet Hargrave's "Heirloom Machine Quilting".

I also have heard that Diane Gaudynski's "Guide to Machine Quilting" is very good but I have not read that one. I did watch an episode of her on 'Simply Quilts' and it was inspiring.

I have not seen postings by DamascusAnnie on here in awhile, but she does beautiful FMQ on her treadle machine and had posted a video of her working. I remember she said something similar to what Teresa said - to trace the pattern with your finger over and over to imprint the motion on your brain. Kind of like penmanship practice!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 12:47PM
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I am a novice at FMQ but have done a few things. I have tried different kinds of quilting gloves, rubber gloves from working in the OR (they tore too easily), but what I found that was inexpensive and worked well were light wt. garden gloves with rubberize palms. Jayne

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 2:26PM
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