I have come to realise, the more I learn about how other people piece and quilt, that often I break most of the rules, mostly in my quest to get done sooner. I aim to get a competent job done rather than aiming for perfection or for a quilt that could be entered in a show. If I were ever to enter a quilt in a show, someone else would have to have done the quilting as mine is competent but mediocre. So here is how I FMQ. It works for me but it will make real quilters cringe in horror.
1. I do not lower the feed dogs. It seems to work better for me that way (incidentally I have a Janome 7700 which is a cracking machine).
2. I quilt with Aurifil 40wt or 50wt. I use 40wt when I want a more defined look and 50wt when I want the quilting to fade more into the background and just hold the thing together or create an over all texture. Using these threads, I do not need to play with my machine's tension for FMQ.
3. I use the closed toe FMQ foot. The open toe one always seems to get snagged in seams.
4. I FMQ with the stitch plate set to the open setting. On the Janome, you can have the closed hold setting and the open hole. This is a wider hole in the plate, meant for wider stitches like zigzagging but, for some reason, my machine FMQs better with this open.
5. I put the same thread in the machine top and bottom.
6. I hold onto the thread with my right hand as I thread the machine with my left hand. I have noticed that, if I do not do this, I get all sorts of loopy mess underneath. This is my one most important tip and the one thing I do which really makes a difference - I always double check that the loops aren't appearing underneath after I've quilted a few loops after re-threading.
7. I use Superior titanium topstitch needles. I cannot recommend these needles highly enough. Although slightly more expensive than other needles, they last way longer and stay sharper way longer and are worth the extra cost.
8. I leave my stitch length set at whatever it is already on - usually 2.2. I do not put this to zero.
9. I do not pull my bottom thread up to the top when I start. OK so this makes little nests on the back each time I start but I just trim these at the end of the whole process. I know this is not how proper quilters do it but this is how I do it.
10. If there is a long thread on top when I start which will get dragged around by the closed toe FMQ foot, I stitch a few stitches in place and then snip this thread to about an inch long. All threads like this get trimmed in the final "snagging".
11. I wear a pair of bright pink gardening gloves. These are not chosen because they are better than quilting gloves but because I went to a garden centre one day, saw them and bought them. To test out which pair were the most grippy on cotton, I rubbed them on my 12 year old's shirt whilst we were in the garden centre. This weirded him out. My husband was all excited that I appeared to be showing an interest in gardening by buying gardening gloves. He lives in hope that one day I will take an interest in housework, cooking and gardening. Slim hope.
12. I use a Janome FMQ bobbin holder. If you are confident in changing the bobbin tension on your machine, you would not need this but I am not. The tension on the FMQ bobbin holder is lower than on the regular one so the thread can fly through the machine as I FMQ like a speed demon.
14. I don't stop as frequently as I should so I often get funny little areas which have gone wrong. I try never to unpick. I remind myself that I am not aiming for perfection and that the quilt police are not visiting any time soon.
15. I use my machine's quilting table which is a plastic see through slide-on affair and holds more of the quilt at the right level. I also put a chair to my left so that parts of the quilt not on the table sit on the chair and do not pull so hard on the quilting.
16. I also add a cushion or two onto my sewing chair so that I am higher up in relation to the quilting.
17. My current favourite quilting stitch is a loopy meander. I can do this fast and furious and it looks OK. Not professional but OK. In general I like overall quilting designs rather than designs that pick out different features on the quilt but that's just me. I also like dense quilting.
18. I like warm and natural to make a quilt look really nice but I prefer Heirloom 80/20 for a quilt that you use on the sofa to snuggle under so I mostly use the Heirloom because quilts are for snuggling more than for looking.
19. I sing along to my quilting, sometimes I hold an imaginary lesson where I'm teaching quilting to an imaginary audience which is odd since I'm not that skilled at it. I guess I'm teaching to proper beginners.
20. Once I'm done and trimmed square and bound, I take the whole thing to the sofa, in front of something good on the telly and trim off all the little threads. I have a small pair of scissors in one hand for this, a pair of tweezers for teensy threads and a Korbond lint roller to pick up all the threads. Snip, roll, snip, roll, snip, roll. That roller keeps a messy job all nice and tidy.
And that's how I quilt. Fast and mediocre. Nothing wrong with that.