Beginning Free Motion Quilting (again)

I know I have written about beginning free motion quilting before, but I’m afraid my first experience of FMQ was not a great success, so I gave up, and stuck to straight lines and hand quilting. Back in August, though, I bought a Very Expensive new sewing machine – and one of my main justifications for that frighteningly large purchase was that it would help me tackle FMQ again. But I admit, I have been putting it off and putting it off some more, worried that it was me, not my old machine that was the problem. And I just didn’t want to start and be rubbish all over again. But when I was up at Black Sheep Wools for Sew Saturday recently, I met Charlo of Quiltification (who is a completely fabulous FMQ-er) and she gave me a little (very kind!) talking to about getting a grip and stopping being so scared of it all.

**Disclosure: I’m a Craftsy affiliate, and if you click on any link in this post and sign up for a course I will get an affiliate fee. If you do, I hugely appreciate your support.**

So I signed up to this course on Craftsy and off I went:
Start Free-Motion Quilting

The first thing I learned is to post photos of all the FMQ I do on Instagram for support and encouragement. I am totally indebted to everyone there who has been kind and reassuring to me – they also have been excellent at pep talks!

The course is really good for taking you through all the basics, I particularly like the really useful advice about the types of thread and needle to use (I had totally been getting that wrong!). But I wish that the stipple wasn’t the first pattern to try (although this seems to be a common approach) – to be honest, this probably is just my problem – I find it really tricky. Here’s one of my early attempts:


I am pretty pleased with the stitch length and consistency (and the back looks absolutely fine, unlike my earlier attempts with my old machine), but my stipple looks so seaweedy..! My curves are way too sharp and although I keep trying to get the same smooth round curves that Elizabeth Dackson demonstrates so well, I just can’t seem to do it. To be honest I find it very intimidating – even using really small quilt sandwiches to work on, I was wondering how to cover all that space and thinking about where to go next whilst sewing, got me in a total panic.

I liked the flower petal pattern better (the third lesson – and very clearly demonstrated):FMQ3

I liked being able to echo my lines, so felt a bit safer – although still tending to get a bit stressy about where I was going to put my next flower – as you can probably tell, I was trundling off all over the place, and there are some crazy twists and turns and all sorts of oddities. Fun to do though!

I preferred the boxy patterns of circuit board – although was a fairly sad first attempt, I really enjoyed it:


It’s a bit Etch-a-Sketch isn’t it – almost as wobbly too. Here’s my most recent sample piece. I decided to cheat (although my support team on Instagram tell it isn’t cheating) at use my Chaco liner pen to draw a grid to keep me on track:


That’s a lot better isn’t it! This was after a fair bit of practice, and I know (and I’m sure you do too!) that that’s the key to getting the hang of this. I’m really enjoying the Craftsy class – as Dackson demonstrates the various patterns, she chats away and introduces the different techniques, how to grip (or not) the fabric, the tools that are useful, ways to baste quilts, methods of making big pieces of wadding out of small pieces, how to mark fabric and much much more. There’s also 3 free quilt patterns, which are all winners (especially the lovely mod kaleidoscope pillow). What’s interesting to me, is how different some of her methods are to the ones outlined in Angela Walter’s book, Free-Motion Quilting. But that’s ok I think, because there doesn’t have to be rules does it – as Charlo pointed out to me in her pep talk – The Quilt Police do not exist!

Are you a free motion quilter (tell us your top tips)? Or a beginner like me? Or too scared to try?

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14 thoughts on “Beginning Free Motion Quilting (again)

  1. I’ve been trying to improve my FMQ for a few years now and although I’ve cracked the stippling, I’m still pretty rubbish at the rest!!! I’ve even tried to learn to draw in the hope that it will help. I think that although practice helps, you either have it, or you don’t. By the looks of the last one, you have it!!

  2. Your examples look super you should be well pleased with yourself. I have been quilting for ages now, even teach classes including basic FMQ but am always scared to commit to a whole quilt, until this week – just stippling, but I am thrilled with the results. Practice, practice, practice.

  3. I’ve avoided free motion too. Yours are looking great!
    My few attempts were just too wobbly. Like you, I met Charlotte and was so impressed with her designs, I thought they’d been done on a long arm they were so good. For now I’ll stick to my wavy lines, or follow the lines.

      1. I’ve done some FMQ but, like most of my sewing, it’s not very good – the trouble is I am always in too much of a hurry! Luckily, I’m not afraid of the Quilt Police so I just carry on and hope for the best.

  4. I’m very much a beginner and making it up as I go along. I find it works better when I remember to relax, and breathe!! I’ve just FMQ’ed a dragon cushion (IG @bikerunsew if you’re interested) and I’m so happy with it. Not perfect, but there aren’t any rules so who cares what others think, I think it’s awesome 🙂

    1. Aww, you are very kind, but there are an awful lot of very very bad attempts that I haven’t taken pics of 😉 I really do recommend one of the Craftsy courses (and am not just saying that!).

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