Sunday, 18 March 2012

How I FMQ - what not to do

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.
13.   I push the pedal hard to the floor and quilt as fast as possible.  I always have the machine set so the needle stops in the down position so I can stop, re-adjust and re-start.

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.

55 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the info on FMQ. Great list of tips.

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  2. All this sounds fine to me; I don't even aspire to enter any judged contests--I quilt for fun and for my family....I am just learning to machine quilt and as I read all the various (and I am sure terrific) quilters directions--it makes me almost nervous to even TRY it. As soon as my foot comes in, I will give it a whirl...Julierose

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  3. Thank you for this, I do a lot of what you do too, sometimes I leave the feed dogs up sometimes I put them down, I have been changing my stitch length to zero but will try leaving it and see what it's like. I didn't know there was a different bobbin holder though...will be looking into that to see if it fits my machine. Hugs

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  4. Love this, sounds like something I could actually achieve... lol

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  5. That sounds good to me. No need to justify ourselves for doing what we enjoy for an audience we love.

    Keep up the good work.

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  6. ROFL, I particularly like the trip to the garden centre - first find a 12 year old to weird out... Hey, maybe I can borrow yours ;o)

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  7. I would be one of the absolute beginners and i would love to be taught by you! I am sure this would be a lot of fun!!!

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  8. Love the tips. I never drop the feed dogs. I set the stitch length to zero if I remember. I started using gardening gloves, the yellow and blue ones with the rubber on them. My machine doesn't like to FMQ with cotton quilting thread, and I have a lot of it. I likes Gutterman 100% poly for FMQ. I use the cotton for stitch in the ditch and straight lines using a walking foot. I did some practice pieces. About a year ago I decided if I waited any longer, I would never learn. Watched the videos from Leah Day and went for it. Not perfect, but good enough for me. Keep on stitching

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  9. I love this! I am really short 5'1'' so I figured it was just my height that made it impossible for me to see what I am quilting. I am hoping on of these days to get an adjustable sewing table with a built in insert, but until then I sew with my computer chair jacked all the way up so I can barely reach the foot petal.

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  10. Yep! LOL--thanks for validating quite a few points in FMQ'ing that I've come to love also!! Good work-keep it up and thanks for the chuckle!!

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  11. Love it! Especially No. 11! I do not think I will be taking an interest in any of those other things either. My husband would especially like the cooking one...he gets tired of Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches for lunch every day! Thanks for the tips!

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  12. If it works for you than it's good. Sometimes we have to adjust ourselves instead of following whatever it's supposed to be the best way to do things.

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  13. Love this insight lynne! And I totally agree with your not aiming for perfection theory, no one notices when you are tucked up with them! I think the glove story is my fave :)

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  14. Sounds exactly like what I do,but I use a Bernina. Great minds think alike, I say!!

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  15. Much less stressful; I believe....I am just learning to FMQ; never going to be good at it, but trying to get comfortable. You had lots of great tips. thank you

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  16. Wow, Lynne, I had absolutely no idea there was such a thing as a FMQ bobbin holder! I just ordered one online for my Janome. Thank you!

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  17. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    Guess Mr G thought you might want to pull on a leek with those gloves on?

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  18. thank-you Lynne for all that information. I am scared spitless to free motion because I usually pick it out. Well, not any more!

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  19. And what's wrong with any of that, it works for you and that's what counts. Do pull up the threads, it really will save on the birds nests :)

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  20. I really enjoyed this post. What is the difference between dropping the feed dogs and not? I have a Janome 6600 and was wondering if I could give it a try. My fmq is also dense and more utilitarian. Sometimes I get eyelashes but I always check after the first two inches of stitching. If I rethread everything it goes away. I always just follow the steps in the manual and drop the feed dogs. I have tried the closed metal foot but I have problems with that one so the clear open one works better for my machine.

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  21. love your tips - especially #6 - whodathunkit? I'm with you on doing as little ripping as possible, and my husband wishes I'd spend some more time in the garden. Ah well...

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  22. I'm gonna try it your way and see if it's a better fit for me. FMQ is one area I have trouble with and had actually wondered if leaving the feed dogs up would help. Thanks so much for sharing!!

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  23. Sounds a lot like how I quilt! I have the same machine, but have not tried changing the bobbin ...will have to check that out. I do change the top tension though, so that probably is about the same. Glad to hear some else does "good enough" FMQ !!

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  24. I found myself nodding along reading your post! We use the same machine & I don't change the plate position or stitch length either, I've also been known to forget to change the foot over without too much detriment to the quilt!

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  25. What a great list of tips, Lynne! I hope to get a new machine and learn to FMQ this year :)

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  26. I do many of the same things that you do, Lynne! And it works out just fine. So nice to see the process laid out.

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  27. I did not know there was a special fmq bobbin thing for the Horizon, I will seek one out for me. I usually turn the stitch length to 0 but I forget and when I remember I uses a super slider thing but otherwise mostly we quilt the same. Oh and I push my machine in front of my desk so that the quilt can spread out on the desk behind the machine, which really helps.

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  28. great tips Lynne ... I'm going to try the stitch length thing ...

    On my old 50s boy you can half lower the feed dogs which I've found works better for me than totally with or without ..

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  29. Thanks for a great post. I usually drop the feed dogs, but when I forget I really can't tell the difference.

    I need to see if I have a closed toe FMQ foot. My open toed one gets caught sometimes and I say bad words at it.

    I use the regular bobbin case but I have one of those silicone bobbin washers under the bobbin itself. It does seem to help.

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  30. Great tips!! I don't drop the dogs either, oh and I have a chair to the left :)

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  31. You are speaking my language. I never lower the feed dogs. Its chaos if I do. I thought it was just my dirty little secret. So nice to be out of the FMQ closet!

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  32. Once again, I love how you put yourself out there! It's great how there is so much room for how to FMQ. I do many of the same things. The best thing you hit upon is that perfection is not paramount.

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  33. Thanks for sharing your process. No quilt police here!

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  34. I hate asking stupid questions, but here goes. If you don't drop your feed dogs, how do you make the loops without turning the entire quilt around?

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  35. I wish I could get more confident in loops and meandering. So far I just do straight lines, or small concentric circles.

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  36. easy peasy ... mykind of fquilting. thanx for all the tips!

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  37. I think that is a bloody good way to do quilting. Fast, loose and with voice accompaniment. Whatever works I say. Every machine is different and every person has a different way of quilting. x

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  38. We are pretty much running parallel to each other here when it comes to FMQ - way to go girl
    One tip you forgot however is - do not be afraid, don't be to hard on yourself, jump in and give it ago...
    and if you've got a particular pattern you want to try, practice drawing it out on scrap paper until you are comfortable with it, and it's second nature when you sit down at the machine to sew.

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  39. I have much the same philosophy to quilting. I shall never be a show quilter and never aspire to be. I quilt for fun and if I have to start following all kinds of rules, it will cease to be that. I still find machine quilting terrifying but hand quilting takes so long. I shall have to persevere. I love the lint roller tip. Thats such a good one. I dont take messy work downstairs for the clearing up. I may do that now after I have bought one of those. Thanks so much.

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  40. Thanks for the down to earth approach Lynne. I am not a brilliant FMQ person but now I like to get the job done and life is too short to unpick much or at all in my book!

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  41. Lots of this sounds like me. I am an impatient quilter too. I could use some gloves though. I don't have any.

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  42. Great tips, Lynne, thanks!
    I didn't know there was a FMQ bobbin holder. I'll have to ask the dealer here.
    I have pink gardening gloves for quilting too. Bought them at Beth Chetto's Garden Centre in Colchester.

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  43. we are sewing machine twins! i love my Janome Horizon.

    and, you know, i've never done FMQ; it's all straight line grids all the time over here. i'm too scared to try it, but i might do it with your "rules."

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  44. You 1)crack me up!!! 2) are a wealth of knowledge 3) get the job done and in my eyes that is all that counts!! :) I do have to say in these the biggest difference in me (I am crazy new to quilting) I have a speed setting and mine is turned WAY down! So you are up on me! I sew at turtle speed and a little less than mediocer!!

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  45. Love this post! I also have a Horizon and love it! I didn't know about the FMQ bobbin holder though. I use a Supreme Slider which I find invaluable. Thanks for the fin tips!

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  46. Great post, great attitude, don't stop.

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  47. Thanks Rachelle for asking that question. I was beginning to think I was the only one who didn't understand. I've got an old Singer whose feed dogs can't be lowered and usually have to put a plate over them for FMQ. So I tried your tip, Lynne, with no plate and the FMQ foot - and it works!!! without turning! Thank you! It must be the foot which makes the difference, not lowering the feed dogs.

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  48. I love this post! I think you have the right attitude to your FMQ - Quilt Police be damned!

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  49. Great post! I laughed out loud when I read about your gloves...I did exactly the same thing in Blooms Garden Centre rubbing my hands on my shirt to see how it would grip. My gloves are a hot pink pair too! :o)

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  50. well this is an impressive list of tips for something I have done once and badly. My FMQ technique is 1) grip the material tightly with both hands. 2) close your eyes. 3) press your foot hard down on the pedal 4) madly pull the material, oops I mean fabric, left and right and up and down 5) pray you don't get your fingers trapped under the needle. 6) gasp in horror at the result.

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  51. Thanks for keeping it real! :) Sounds like you do a better job than you think!

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  52. Great tips list. I'm new at quilting and i'll be sure to look into these tips every now and then.

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  53. My next sewing machine must have the needle down capability. I'm still a novice at FMQ, but am not as fearful of trying it on an actual quilt as before. Thanks for the tip on the needles.

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  54. I love watching how other people do this, thanks for all the fab info! Awesome job. xo

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  55. Some great tips there - thanks for sharing.

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