Friday, July 4, 2014

FMQ Another Try!

Sorry but the giveaway here has closed. You can still try at Shay's blog.
Shay from Quilting in My Pyjamas  (in Australia) and I (in CA of the U.S.A.) are retrying Free Motion Quilting, together today, that far away. Have you tried FMQ yet?  I have an old 1960s home sewing machine that doesn't drop the feed dogs,  doesn't have needle up or down choices and probably a world of other apps that the newer machines have... but I love it. It works. It's one of the machines I learned to sew on, oh so long ago!

So I'm showing you my practice piece. I sandwiched a rainbow block from about 4 years ago. I thought, if it turned out well I'd make all the blocks for that quilt in this method called Quilt As You Go. (Melody Johnson has a tutorial for you.) It was quite new in the 80s, I think. It would be a great way to start out in Free Motion Quilting, too, because you only quilt one block, or a smaller portion of your quilt, at one time.

I pin basted from the center out, and tried to leave as much space for maneuvering as possible.

Here's the luscious orange I'm using for the back of this block. If I use the contrasting colors on the back of each block, I'll have another rainbow on the back, and not need a big piece of fabric.

(Who's old hand is that?) I pulled up the bottom thread. I figured I didn't want to start with small stitches. (I really don't like the look of that starting method.) If the FMQ turned out lovely I could always fasten the ends later. If it looked ugly - ripping would be easier.

Set the machine for 10 stitches to the inch.

At the last second, I remembered to put on the FMQ/darning foot, and raised the throat plate so the feed dogs wouldn't be engaged. That's how you do it with an old machine, I guess.

You know I was procrastinating when I got out the sewing machine owners manual to see if there was something I'd missed. (Went to the kitchen for water, bathroom and talked to the hubby for a few... anything, anything to put it off... are you like that?)

Finally I did start, in the center. At first I was really slow, and moving the piece instead of allowing a flow of movement... Then the thread broke, still wondering why. (Figured the fates thought I should get my post done.)  I don't like what resulted, but you know what? It was fun! I will try it again - and again. (That's how I got to be as good as I am at paper piecing, and so I'm determined to get good at FMQ.)
I can see that smaller stitches would be good, and more and more practice... maybe a plan of action ahead of time. (Here I thought just a meander would be the way to start.)
Do you have any advice for me?  a tip?  Leave another comment here for a chance at the giveaway in yesterday's post.  Shay and I will be grateful for any thoughts.

The giveaway is still in effect today. See the previous post to see requirements to win 14 fabulous batik fat quarters.
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So here in the U.S.A. it is Independence Day! Hurray!
 Our neighborhood has a parade through the streets from the grammar school to a central circle where ice cream and popsicles are given out. It's such a sweet tradition started by our neighbor who ran a day care at the time. Here are some pictures.

 This one was a particularly good waver.

This is my hubby's favorite part - the dogs.  (I think he was one in a former life.)

So that's it for my portion of the QAL... Check out Shay's FMQ over at Quilting in My Pyjamas
She will be showing her FMQ results, and taking comments for a giveaway there, too.

(You have at least 4 ways to win... please take full advantage of us.)
Thanks for your tips and comments. The giveaway has now closed -
Happy 4th of July to everyone, and Happy Independence Day to us in the U.S.A.!


  1. It's ok to take breaks! I'd recommend some gardening gloves. I feel like I have more control on quilting curves when I wear them, although with just one block at a time, that might not be an issue. I'd also do some cursive lower case e's over and over. I always start like you did and bring up the bobbin thread. The only way I got better at fmq was to do like you are doing and to dive right in. Congrats for starting!

  2. I can not even machine quilt straight lines without taking tons of breaks. Sometimes when I have practiced free motion the top stitches look but the bottom stitches look awful - really a lot of different sizes going on there.

  3. Good start. I can drop the feed dogs on my sewing machine, but when I do I often have bobbin thread tension issues when I free motion quilt. So now ... I still use my quilting foot, of course, but I STOPPED dropping my feed dogs. No problems with tension, so far. Yes. I free motion quilt with my feed dogs up just fine. There is some resistance on the backing from the raised feed dogs, but it's not a problem. I just push the quilt around and meander or do loop-de-loops. Seems I heard about quilting with feed dogs up on a YouTube video clip.

  4. Oh yeah. I wear garden gloves when I FMQ. Bought them at a dollar store.

  5. Ellen from

    I know all the words, except some exclusive to Australia. I am in Florida, US.
    My tip is to use a vintage sewing machine with a vertical bobbin. You can pick them up cheap in a thrift store. They do the most beautiful FMQ stitch.

  6. You did it Terri! Great start at conquering the hoodoo voodoo of FMQ! You're doing great!

    I've been taking breaks every 15 minutes or so - I find my concentration lagging beyond that. We both need to relax too shoulders are hunched up las if I stiffen my body Im going to have better control or something. Im trying to stay in one general area too and thats hard - because the fabric seems to have a mind of it's own.

    We will win this war!

  7. I laughed at the procrastination line. I find myself doing that same routine.
    I wish you the best in this process. I will tell you this; I was using an older machine to learn FMQ on. I finally gave in and bought a used Janome 6500 for $500. It was the best change I could have made. Being able to drop the feed dogs makes 1000% difference. Also, the newer machine has a bit larger throat and then I wasn't stuffing the fabric through so tightly.

    Just something to consider.

    Take care,
    Bernie @

  8. Yay, Teri, for jumping in! I am self taught on an old mechanical machine. Point one....gloves, and hand position. Thread....try using a finer thread like aurifil or softtouch with a 14 needle. Thick threads tend to snap and break when we change direction in fmq....especially when first learning. Also suggest you practice drawing your stippling on paper to develop some muscle memory and get the flow down. Put on some helps get the motion and rhythm. Feed dogs....up or down. If your have drag from them.....take a business card and punch a hole in the center for the needle and then tape it down to your machine over the feed dogs. But always use that darning foot. And last is speed....not too slow (gives ugly stitches)....not to fast (broken needles and tiny stitches that are awful).....think mama bear, and be in the middle range. Hand movement is slow and smooth. It takes practice. Every hour you stitch, you will see improvement. And yes, lots of breaks. I will send you a hand out that I use in my classes from a magazine that covers a lot of details. Keep it up and look forward to seeing you going all over the place.

    1. Debbie, these are great suggestions. I bet you are an excellent teacher!!
      Bernie @

  9. Well done Terri, I have an old machine too, so will look into the feed dog issue. It is so brave of you to try it even on an older block. I get so scared that I will ruin something. I think you made a fabulous start. I think I procrastinate like you. :-) The hound on the parade looked cute.

  10. Off to a good start! Instead of lowering your feed dogs you can set your stitch length to 0 (or as small as possible), this stops the feed dogs from moving so they won't grab the fabric. Also try going faster, the faster the needle the faster you move your fabric and the smoother your stitching line.

  11. SoozeM beat me to the punch - set your stitch length to 0, because you are determining your stitch length, by how fast you make the needle go up and down and how quickly you move the fabric around. Also, I would really recommend basting spray - I use June Tailor basting spray that I get at Joann's. It's much easier to use than safety pins, and you are less likely to get pinches on the back, especially with the feed dog situation on your machine. You will get prettier curves if you are running the machine a bit faster. You might want to take some "ugly" fabric that you really don't like and make a quilt sandwich, just to try moving and different speeds. One last bit of advice - Christina Cameli has written a great book called First Steps to Free Motion Quilting - it's awesome! Great advice and wonderful projects that will have you quilting like a pro in no time!

  12. I have been trying to figure out how to FMQ on an older machine; thanks for telling how you did it!

  13. I recommend you purchase a 'Supreme Slider. It makes a huge differnce. It's a slick teflon piece that lays on the sewing bed. I can tell immediately if I forget it. You can purchase one just about anywhere. I purchased mine here.

  14. Good going! You know, I have a 401A too, and although I don't use it for my primary FMQ machine, I'm pretty sure you can drop the feed dogs on it. I remember trying it about 4 years ago. I'm going to have to look at my manual and the one I downloaded. I know with mine, the gears needed cleaning and lubricating because they were kind of seized up from never having been lowered, but I was able to get it freed up. Anyway, I'm so happy for you for giving it a try!

  15. I agree with lots of the comments above, 1. use a Supreme Slider (I can always tell when I forget to put it on) and quilting gloves, (I've used cheap cotton gloves but prefer Machingers now) and I wouldn't start with a stipple. I hate stippling as I think its quite tricky to start with. My suggestion would be to make a sandwich using some fabric with a medium to large size floral pattern or similar and simply follow the lines on the pattern to get your hand/foot co-ordination going. It means you don't have to think so hard about what design you're doing but just follow along. Then once you feel more comfortable with that you can try a design. Personally I find a looping vine design is an easy starter one. I would also try a slightly bigger swatch to start with to give you more space. Good on you for having a go, its nothing to be frightened of! Although the first time you snap a needle can be a bit startling!

  16. Our twin machines (401A's). It is the first machine I've come across that raises the throat plate to dis-engage the feed dogs. Interesting feature. I still haven't had time to play with my 401.


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