If you are brand new to FMQ, check out my posts How to Free Motion Quilt: The Set Up, How to Free Motion Quilt: Basic Motion and Tension, and How to Free Motion Quilt: The Designs. You can find all three posts and other handy posts on the tab above called, Tips for Free Motion Quilting.
|This pic was set up to go with the 3 part series above and is my most pinned pic on Pinterest.|
Be kind to yourself and don't compare your beginning with someone else's middle (A quote attributed to Jon Acuff, I believe). Relax and don't practice on your quilt tops right away, use practice pieces instead. Quilting with a light colored batik on the top of a practice sandwich without thread is a great, waste-free way to practice when you are very new.
I won't be teaching the stipple here, at least not that puzzle-like design that is so prevalent. I wrote Two Reasons to Ditch the Stipple, to discuss why I don't teach the stipple to beginners. (Don't confuse the stipple (noun) or the larger meander (noun) with stippling (verb), confusing I know, but sometimes folks refer to the manner of randomly stitching a background type design as stippling (when smaller) or meandering (v.) when in a larger, random design.)
I'm starting off with loops. These loops are great for beginners as we are all fairly good at doodling circles around and around----meandering (the verb, not the noun, meaning the puzzle like design, got it?) around the open areas.
A word about hand positioning. I've been teaching classes in person for nearly two years now. There's something about FMQ that makes people feel like they've got to go crazy fast and avoid stopping. This leads to getting your hands out of position as you quilt or trying to shift your hands while still stitching. Both are a bad idea. Stop and reposition your hands so that they are on either side of the needle. Too far away and you run the risk of the above picture. Below is the misshapen loop that was stitched when the fabric wrinkled as my hands were too far in front of the needle.
Don't get your fingers too close to the needle either! Besides risking injury, if your hand runs into the foot, you'll have irregularities in your design.
Don't forget to check your thread tension too! Sporadic tension issues can tell you that you are either almost at the tension sweet spot, or that your hand motion is uneven at those spots and throwing the tension off. A slight jerk of the hands can cause a slight jerking in the thread and throw the tension off.
I deliberately used a loose tension above, you're seeing the bottom side here. Below, the top tension is too tight, pulling the bobbin thread to the top. Using two different colors of thread is a great way to figure out tension, but keep in mind that under perfect tension, you may still see slight spots of color showing in the hole where the stitch is formed. Switch to matching thread colors and it will not be an issue. Contracting threads show every mistake so be kind to yourself (and to me, this was done in a hurry).
When quilting on a sewing machine, it is pretty easy to stitch small. It can be more of a challenge to stitch larger. Loops can be sized appropriately for different projects and variety can be thrown in with multiple loops in one area, varying the loop sizes, lengthening or shortening the distance between loops.
Above is about as large as I would do loops since I don't want to reposition my hands mid-loop. You can also take advantage of areas where the threads cross reposition your hands and to hide stops and starts
Below, I took advantage of the crossing threads to change my direction. It would have been nearly unnoticeable except I paused too long when changing direction and formed a knot of stitches that pulled up the brown bobbin thread.
Below I switched to double loops which is kind of fun. I then alternated between single and double loops.
I've recently seen this multiple loop style, like the below pic, on modern quilts but used more uniformly positioned than I have it here.
Don't forget pebbles! They're essentially loops all next to each other. Below, the blue line goes between an area of pebbles where I changed the thread tension a bit.
Finally, I switched back to simple loops with nearly perfect tension. You can still see the dark brown bobbin thread peeking out of the needle holes and contrasting sharply against the orange top thread.
I encourage you to give loops a try if you are new to FMQ and to play with loops if you aren't so new to it. Next week, I'll show you some other simple variations of loops like leaves, hearts and more.
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