Thursday, June 14, 2018

Splendid Sampler 2 Block 1

Today is the launch of the new The Splendid Sampler™ Quilt Along! We begin with 20 Free blocks and then the book comes out and continue making blocks with it. Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson authored this series of books with help from numerous quilt designers and I am delighted to be one of them for the Splendid Sampler II.

Pat and I first crossed paths when she interviewed me for her American Patchwork and Quilting Podcast. You can listen to the episode by clicking through the above link. We later met in person earlier this year where we were both teaching at Quilt Weekend Maysville. She is a hoot and has such a heart for quilters.

The first block was contributed by Alex Veronelli, spokesperson for Aurifil Thread, so you know there's going to be a giveaway involved. Get the download by visiting the Splendid Sampler site as well as other fabulous links and instructions.

Check out his block and the Splendid Sampler Facebook Group! There's all kinds of inspiration there as well as a bit of guidance for fabric selection and how to manage a Quilt Along that releases weekly and continues for nearly a full year!

My version of Alex's block is below....

Alex's block is simple but constructed a little differently than expected so to give you these great angles without fancy rulers. It's a bit like a french braid quilt. These six inch blocks of the SS2 is a bit of a challenge for me as I like to do bigger blocks or wholecloth projects so I can get to the quilting, but it's good exercise for my piecing skills.

I pulled my fat quarters several times for this project! I wanted scrappy, but coordinated. I didn't want anything too matchy-matchy though! Then I kept adding to the project box.

The designers were encouraged to stylize the block background which was a little new for me as I'm prone to just snap a plain pic of a block on a table or design wall. I had to throw in this great charm I found.

I hope you will follow along with me as I work through these blocks. Of course, once I get the top done, I'll share my quilting plan with you. By then, I'm sure I will have switched over to our new website and blog. I have started with a redesign of my current site which you can find at You'll notice two blogs there as I have listed one short post on the blog already which will eventually replace this one.

How about you? Will you join in the Quilt Along? Have you done the first one? Maybe started once upon a time, but never completed it? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Amy's Quilting Juggling Act

Hard on the heels of teaching at the Janome Education Summit, I've been dabbling in quite a few quilty projects, though only a few or them involved quilting with rulers or ruler work. Click on the above link to read about the summit and links from other fabulous participants.

Janome passed along some photos from the event, so I thought I'd share them with you too. The Summit was my biggest class yet in teaching free motion quilting with rulers. Thank goodness we all had the same machine (Janome 9400), ruler foot and the Janome Ruler Work Kit for our rulers.  That made it a lot easier even though some of our participants hadn't done free motion quilting before.

Here's a great shot of Sarah Ann Smith! It was an honor to have her in class as she's been an inspiration over the years. She totally did her own thing with the project and gave a fabulous write up on the quilting with rulers class segment on her blog.

Have you seen the Jelly Roll Rug yet? Just had to make one of these fun things. I used a jelly roll and two rolls of pre-cut batting strips, but it's an excellent project for using up scraps of batting.

The trick to getting a nice flat rug instead of a ruffled thing my husband said looked like a swimming flounder is to make sure to sew on a large flat surface (pattern gives a suggestion how to set up machine next to a table if you don't have a machine cabinet) and to ease the fabric around the curves. I loved using my Horn cabinet for this.

As soon as I returned from the Summit, I had to get cracking on my shop's Row by Row pattern and project. Row by Row (aka rxr) is like a giant shop hop, all across North America (possibly elsewhere? Unsure) where travelling quilters collect either free patterns or buy the kit from shops. If you are the first to show a finished "row" quilt with 8 patterns from row shops, to a participating shop, you will win a bunch of fabric. It's something really fun to add during your summer travels.

My "row" is actually an 18 inch block as they are allowing different pattern sizes this year. I played with my machine's decorative stitches and a couple of different weights of Aurifil thread on it. I'll write up more about Row by Row closer to the launch date of June 21st. 

I'm really excited about this fabric line by Hope Yoder that we've got in the shop, especially the panel. I decided to order two more bolts of the panel in the thoughts that this might be the basis of my first either Quilt-along, or a new online class. I've got kits for this quilt featuring the panel in the shop right now, but I'll let you know more about what I want to do with it soon. Need to get the additional panels in before I launch something online.

Speaking of hosting a Quilt-along or a new online class, I'm working on two big changes for you  and my business/teaching.

Ever since we bought our bricks and mortar shop, Sew Simple of Lynchburg, I've been neglecting this blog and my video making. I've been scattered in several places online too and it's been quite a juggling act. To make up for my lack of blogging and video making, I've been shooting more live Facebook videos and they certainly helped me feel more connected to you in my online audience, but I've really been spread thin. Live videos are fun and easy to do, but lacking when it comes to organized instruction.

I finally reached out to a pair of mentors of mine and asked them what to do with my websites. I was afraid to hear how bad my sites were as I'm the one who set them all up, so they're a bit amateurish, though fit for my tiny budget. Their advice? It was that I need to condense the various sites into one site if possible and shorten the url. If you've ever heard me struggle in a video to say "I'm Amy from Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures," you know they're right!

So....I'll be transitioning everything over to!

I'm excited about the change though it will take a lot of work and a bit of time to get everything moved. If you follow the blog via a feed reader like Bloglovin' or something else, I'll let you know when the blog makes the switch and you'll want to change your settings to the new blog. This blog will stay online, but I won't be adding to it once I make the switch.

Lastly, I'm looking at doing some of my own online classes! These will fit somewhere between the highly scripted classes I did with Craftsy and my very casual, informal Facebook live videos, or even my YouTube videos. This will give me better control over the content I teach and how I teach it. Some classes will be free, others will be paid. All will be full of great information and taught in my laid-back style.

I'm very excited about these changes and I hope you will be too! Let me know your thought in the comments.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Janome Education Summit 2018

Earlier this week I drove up to a lovely Marriot conference center in a wooded business park in the northern end of New Jersey. I was there to teach quilting with rulers and the use of rulers when quilting on the Janome 9400 to a huge room full of Janome Educators and Janome Artisans and influencers. In other words, I was teaching the folks who teach others about using Janome machines!

Kimberly Einmo, the new Janome spokesperson, kicked things off with a great presentation about her creative career and a class on making flying geese using her ruler, fabric and pattern. Y'all know I'm a bit challenged when it comes to piecing. Piecing in public? Well, let's just say, while it looked OK, I was slooooow compared to all the other quilters.

I did make pretty rainbow confetti!

She's so incredibly nice and she stuck around to take my class on quilting with rulers. Janome was giving out little pins throughout the event and this was the one given out for my class! LOVE it. So true.

It was fabulous teaching a class in ruler work in which everyone had the same machine, same ruler foot, and rulers. Probably eliminated about 40 minutes of my material on what foot and ruler thickness needed. Also, the ruler mode setting on the Janome 9400 (and the 15000) means I don't have to keep repeating "Remember, lower the foot before you lower the needle! Raise the needle before you raise the foot."

I had a custom panel created for the class as there were some 30+ people in the group. If you're quilting with rulers, you really need places to put the ruler against, so a printed/marked/pieced top is really the best to work on and this saved me a lot of time.

We used the new Janome Ruler Work Kit for our rulers too. This meant coming up with different shapes and designs than I usually use.

What was fabulous is that several of the educators and Janome Artisans were not quilters and so they were new to free motion and still did quite well. Being a group of educators and experienced quilters too, we had several folks take off and run with the technique, doing their own thing. Janome Educator based in Texas, Terry Mingee (below), was actually a "fan" of mine and it was so nice to meet him.

Nicole of Modern Handcraft took her rulers to the project she made in Kimberly's morning class. She was so enthusiastic and sweet. She was off and running with ruler work. She also may have inspired me to play with hexagons.....

One of these people was Sarah Ann Smith whose book, Threadwork Unravelled, I read and studied as I was first learning to free motion quilt, so I was pretty excited!She's an amazing quilter and has been a Janome Artisan for quite some time.

I was also excited to finally meet Liz Thompson of the Janome Canada blog, Janome Life. Her blog post on the Janome ruler foot combination has brought me quite a few new readers and followers over the years. We've come close at a few Janome events over the years, but it wasn't until now that we were able to meet. She also did a great (and hilarious) demo on the Janome Quilt Binder Set.

I wasn't able to attend the rest of the Summit and had to get back to Sew Simple, so I missed the rest of the activities. But my several of my fellow attendees and I are sharing links to each other's posts this week. Click through the links (more at the end of this post) to see more of the attendees and their take on the event.

It was truly an honor to be asked to teach the teachers for Janome and to meet and teach so many other wonderful folks who have also made it their business and calling to teach, encourage, and create.

Kimberly Einmo:
Nicole at Modern Handcraft
The Janome America blog has a post on the event. (Or will have it up soon)
Joanna at KustomKwilts has a great overview of the whole event!
Sarah Ann Smith is doing a series of posts on the event. I'll post the links as I get them.
        Part one

I'll continue to add links as they become listed.
Jessica VanDenburgh of  The Straight Stitch also posted and you should go see what she thinks of my class.

BTW, this is not what I expected to see out my room window in northern New Jersey! How nice and peaceful.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Shredded Thread? Four Things to Check

Today, I thought I'd share with you four tips for troubleshooting shredded threads, especially when quilting in free motion. Three are fairly straightforward, but the fourth can be a real challenge to describe well and I have yet to remember to take a picture when it has happened to me. But I have a graphic to help.

But first, let me mention a few other things that can cause thread shredding, particularly when stitching in free motion. Free motion is a real test of all the variables of your machine and set-up because you're doing things very differently than when regular sewing.

1) Bad thread. Obviously cheap, dirty, sun-damaged thread is pretty easy to check. Some of us don't keep any cheap thread in the house, others of us may find some works fine for some projects and purposes. Sometimes we grab an inferior thread without realizing it, because we were cooking for color only. Sometimes, good thread goes bad. There could be a manufacturer's defect or other issue. If new to free motion quilting, the jerky motion of our hands can be enough to cause some cotton and most rayon threads to break. Once the hand motion is smoother, a wide range of threads can be explored.

Does your machine chew up thread?

2) A problem with thread delivery. This covers a wide range of how the thread feeds off the spool and into the machine. I like to think of the thread content as the food for the machine and the spool as the plate or bowl for the "food." Figuring out how to best feed the thread (no junk food/thread!) off the spool or cone is much like deciding whether you need a spoon or a fork for a particular meal. I'll go into my food analogy in another post, but it's never a good idea to serve food on a cracked other words, check your spool, spool caps (you're using the proper spool cap for a horizontal spool pin, right?), cone or cone stand for snags and rough spots. Check any other area that the thread passes as it enters the machine. Also make sure you're serving up the thread in the correct manner. Some threads do not like the extra twist created by feeding off the top of the spool. Sometimes the extra twist causes the thread to break, while other times, it can cause the thread to get loopy, and make a weird stitch, usually in the bobbin case.

3)  You've fed your machine well, but it's having thready indigestion! It may have digestion issues. Check for snags, damage, stray threads in the thread path. This particularly important in regards to the needle, needle plate and bobbin case. Try a new needle in case the current one is damaged. Try a different size or type of needle to better suit the thread you're using. Inspect the needle plate for damage too. If a needle has broken or hit the plate, it may have caused damage in a place that was avoided in regular sewing. The same is true of the bobbin case and hook. Sometimes the needle passes too close to the edge of the needle plate. This may be a bent needle or it could be a needle bar that needs re-centering by a service tech. If using a non-hopping free motion foot, setting the foot too high over the project will also cause shredding as the fabric "flags" up the needle.

4) Finally the other thing that presents itself as shredded thread is actually something a little different. I've mentioned before that many machines do not like to free motion directly in reverse. It's always been a difficult thing to explain. It has to do with how a stitch is formed and where the needle thread travels. For one of my presentations while teaching at Quilt Weekend in Maysville KY, I made a graphic to show what can happen and why.

 You can see in the above image that the stitch basically has to "decide" which side of the needle it will lay as the needle goes into the fabric. In this case, the stitches are from an embroidery project, not free motion, which explains the slanted stitches (tighter bobbin tension). No shredding here, but it shows how while we can move in all directions, the needle is still set up for one direction sewing. Usually it does just like the above, going to one side or the other, but sometimes, the thread is directly under the needle as it goes down.

Essentially, the "working thread" that travels around the bobbin case as a stitch is formed gets pierced by the needle. This splits the thread and presents as shredded thread which breaks after a few stitches. It doesn't happen when backstitching with the machine in reverse while sewing regularly because the feed dogs are in better control of the movement and timing of the stitch formation and the slack is pulled more evenly.

There's not a lot one can do about this other than to avoid free motion quilting by pulling the quilt directly towards yourself. When doing circular motions, statistically there's a chance of this happening over just a few stitches. It's a pain, and some machines and thicker threads have more issues than others.

When it comes to quilting with rulers, this backwards motion can happen more often as it's really easy to run a ruler along the side of the foot. Try to set the project and ruler at a slight angle and this will help avoid that directly backwards action.

I hope you found this helpful. There are quite a few things that need to be checked when there's a thread issue beyond tension and this should help you troubleshoot things if you have this problem. I think we all do from time to time. Feed your machine well and it won't go to chewing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Janome Quilt Binder Set

I have tried out the Janome Quilt Binder Set recently, and I think this might be just the tool I need to get more of my sample quilts, as well as utility quilts bound up in a jiffy! I seem to stall out at the quilt binding stage, but with a little more practice, I'm going to get caught up.

 Now, there are a couple versions of this binding set for different machines. I had one that came with the existing inventory when we bought the shop. It was rather old and the packaging showed it. It's not a cheap tool, so I knew I'd have to play with it if I was going to prove that it was a worthwhile item. I set it aside and there it sat.

When I got it out finally, I discovered it was made for the bigger 7mm stitch width machines like the 6600P, MC7700, 11000, and the like. I didn't have any of those machines in the shop so I tried it on a smaller 7mm machine, the 4120. It fit that machine, but just barely. It was a little hard to maneuver.

But after just one test quilt, I went ahead and ordered the set that would fit on my 15000 and other Janome 8mm stitch width machines, like the 8900, 8200, 9400, etc.

Corners were easier than I expected. However, once I moved to a real quilt, I had trouble lining up the edges of the 1/2 inch binding to get it to stitch down perfectly, all in one pass. I do think trying to work under the small space of the 4120 was partly responsible.

I was able to stitch the entire binding down, including all four corners in 57 minutes! That didn't count for the final joining of ends, and I missed the binding in a few places, but overall, it's definitely worth doing it enough to perfect the technique!

I'll keep you posted on this tool and whether I think it's worth the investment.

Also I am happy to announce that the Ruler Work Upgrade is now available for the Janome 9400. The demand is great and it's getting into an out of stock item quickly. In fact, Janome is sending me a loaner machine so I can shoot videos of the ruler foot in action and it's been put on backorder! If you have the 9400 and want to do ruler to your dealer asap! Yes, it's totally worth it! The software update will make it impossible to clunk your ruler foot and your needle clamp together. Janome is the only machine on the market with such a foot and feature.

By the way, many of you have asked about the Glide thread that I use for so much of my quilting. I sell it online, but have yet to list it in as many colors as we actually have at Sew Simple of Lynchburg. But I an excited to share that we now carry the Angela Huffman Glide Thread Collection. Ten cones at a great price in a handy storage case. You can order it at Amy's Quilting Adventures.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Janome 9400 Ruler Foot and Upgrade

So many people have been asking me about a ruler foot for the 9400 and I can finally let you know that it's almost ready to launch. Dealers have already gotten this information, so while I can't really tell you all about it until the public launch, I can tell you its on the way and I'll give you full information about it shortly!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Free Motion Quilting Videos and More

Happy weekend everyone! Or likely, I hope you had a happy weekend, by the time you read this. A big box of the thread is on it's way to my thread giveaway winner, Dyan.

I've been working on my websites lately. Yes, sites. Ridiculous really. I have three of them, three email accounts (inbox zero will never happen) and all of the typical social media accounts for all of them. It's enough to make me feel like I have a split personality!

As I work to bring these pieces together, one thing I have stuck to is a single YouTube channel. You can find me there under my own name, Amy Johnson, but for some reason, until recently, I didn't have a link here on the blog to that channel.

Now I do.  See the upper left hand corner of the blog. Ta da!

On my YouTube channel, you will mostly find free motion quilting videos with and without rulers. You will also find videos on machine techniques and other quilting techniques as well. No family stuff, no matter how much my middle school boy begs to use my followers to jump start a YouTubing career. OK, there was that unfortunate time when I didn't realize that I needed to change some settings so that every follower didn't get a notification to every train video I put into a playlist for my little boy. (Which would be that same middle schooler I referenced. Where does the time go?!) Anybody remember that?

I am working on getting some new videos posted there soon and my channel introduction is certainly in need of updating, as well as some of the older videos. But if you never have checked it out beyong the videos I post here on the blog, you might want to check it out.

Be kind. You won't find super polished videos there and some of them are apparently more 'real' than people want to see. I even get some trolls from time to time, including the recent, "What a mess!" comment I received on a video of a workspace I had in my house back in the thick of baby raising. The whole point of the video was to share that you can make space for creativity even in the mess of life, that not all of us have polished studios worthy of an IKEA or Where Women Create spread. OK, it was a bit sarcastic and self deprecating, but it was real.

Some videos show rulers I no longer use, but back when no one else was talking about quilting with rulers, that was what I had. Not sure whether to keep those up as tribute to how things have changed over time or what. But I'm just learning and sharing as I go. That's what life is all about anyway.

Love y'all! Thanks for coming along on my quilting adventures.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Thread Winner

Hello from windy Virginia. I'm keeping this short as the internet has been spotty all day due to the crazy amount of wind we've been having, leaving trees down in a lot of places, and power out for a lot of folks. It was bad enough that the kids were even out of school. Several times I heard the bell that signified we had a customer, only to find that the wind had blown the door open. It even blew over our A-frame style chalkboard that is very heavy!

There were 720 responses to my thread give away and the random number generator chose response #427, which was Dyan. I'll be emailing in the morning from the shop.

I may do another one of these giveaways as I have a bit more thread to re-home, next will be smaller spools.

That's it for now. Wherever you are I hope you are safe, at a comfortable temperature (Gotta hedge there for my followers is other geographical climes.) and getting to do something creative.

BTW, have you joined my new Facebook group? Not just the blog's page, but Amy's Sew Simple Adventures, where I'm pulling together creative quilters from both my blog and my brick and mortar shop to share, encourage, teach and more. I've been doing quite a bit of live video there, including live quilting. It's been fun to connect in real time. Make sure to answer the 3 questions when you ask to join.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Thread Giveaway and a Mystery

Happy weekend everybody!

Things have been hopping here at the shop and we now have some part time help to allow me to get more creative quilting and sewing stuff done in the studio and work done at the computer.  At the computer, it's mind-numbingly tedious except for when I can pop into social media land and write a blog post or something and can connect with people online. I did start free motion quilting a shop sample the other day, which made me very happy!

One of the things I had my main employee do lately is to fold fabric and make some order from some of my personal stash in the studio. We decided to pare down a bunch of stuff and since we are a retail shop, for the most part, if I don't sell it, I don't use it. Typically, that means I sell what I use because I find it's what works best.

But sometimes there's another reason why I don't use a perfectly good product. Maybe another nearby shop carries it, maybe there's competition from the maker of the product itself, or maybe I just don't have room for a product similar to what I already have.

All this to say, I have some ginormous cones of the thread that I will likely never use. Some I never actually used at all, but were given by other quilters or ordered on a whim a few years ago.

These are all polyester threads in a variety of sizes, great for quilting your quilts. The colors are a bit of a mishmash too. But they are free for the taking to one lucky reader.

Just fill out the simple form below and I will draw a random winner next Friday, March 2nd. I'll even ship it free.

 Also, we are participating in a special mystery quilt project with some other great shops across the US and Canada. If you're interested in the Brown Bag Mystery Quilt, and don't have a participating shop near you, you can purchase one of our bags and we'll mail you the clues! Check out our Brown Bag Mystery Quilt kits at Amy's Quilting Adventures.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Quilting with Rulers: Orange Peel and Continuous Curves

One of the neat things about being a Craftsy Instructor is it's a great source of questions regarding quilting with rulers on sewing machines or sit-down long arm machines. Good questions, even those that someone might think is a stupid question (and I don't think there's such a thing), let me know when there's an area that needs a deeper look and better explanation than I can do in seven 20 minute somewhat one-sided lessons.

I've had a few questions over the years as to what size ruler to use for orange peel or continuous curve designs in squares of piecing, usually with someone asking for a ruler recommendation for a particular sized block.

It's quite a difficult question to answer with words, or at least explain the 'why' of the answer. But today, I just felt like giving this question a fuller explanation and since it's longer than really can fit in the Q&A portion of the Craftsy platform, I figured I'd tackle it here. (Of course leaving a link in the class platform.) So here goes....

Q: What size ruler do I need for an orange peel design on a field of 4 inch blocks?

A: It depends.....

See? That's why it's hard for me to answer in words! If I were a ruler making company, I'd probably tell you exactly what size, or sizes for each block size, and a handy link to buy said rulers. That's why my second Craftsy class (instructor affiliate link) is all about making the most out of rulers you may already have.

I do have a shop that I sell rulers from, but I'm first and foremost a quilter, and the frugality that's been a huge part of my life as a stay at home mom and now, as a small business owner makes me leery of adding stuff if I don't need it. But IF I think I'll use it, I do love having the right tool for the job! (Anyone needing proof of that can look at my car and then look at my wonderful Janome 15000 and see where my priorities are....ahem.)

I managed to work up the following graphics to illustrate my point. For a series of 4 inch blocks, it might seem like the answer is a circle or arc that reaches across the corners of that block, or whatever sized block.

The problem happens when you realize that the desired circle would have the same diameter at the diagonal of that square. In the case of the 4 inch square, having brought out my long neglected Pythagorean theorem, is that would be a circle measuring 5.66 inches. Which you aren't going to find a ruler in that size, not even an arc (arc rulers have the same sized curve as the circle they are named after).

The more likely measurement is to use an arc or circle (I prefer arcs when you go to larger sizes, BTW.) for twice the size of the block. This gives you the orange peel in a diagonal orientation which is the traditional orientation of the orange peel block.
  So for this 4 inch block, an 8 inch arc is used. Which is an easy sized ruler to source. My favorite on my high shank machines is the QPC #8. Westalee makes an 8 inch arc as well, for those with low shank machines.

But what if you don't necessarily want that diagonal orientation? Maybe you are going for more of a "continuous curves" design? The diagram below* shows some different options. In my second class with Craftsy, I show how you can play around with the rulers you may already have to test sizes and blocks on your quilts to see if they will work for the design you have in mind.
*Partial patterns shown for clarity's sake.
In the red, that is a curve close to what is drawn up in red in the first illustration, but it's not quite. It represents what a 5 inch arc might look like, but it won't quite make a perfect circular shape and you aren't likely to find a 5 inch arc. There's the Westalee Circles on Quilts template which gives a large range of circles with their rotating template, but I personally would find it tedious to do this design if I had to set the pin every time.

In blue you'll see how a larger arc or circular ruler might look going from corner to corner. You lose that rounded shape to that of a more squared off shape, but the effect is still pretty fabulous.

In the green are 4 inch circles. You can see that they dip in too far to work corner to corner, but would work in a diagonal overlap for 2 inch squares or for completing the entire orange peel within the 4 inch shape.

Whew! There's my exhaustive (exhausting?) explanation of what seems like a simple question. I hope this helped.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Never Stop Learning!

Whew! I just got back from a 5 day stay in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am invigorated, inspired, and my brain is pretty much overloaded. I went to a gathering of quilt shop owners for the purpose of learning more about the industry I am in and how to be a better shop owner, both online and in my 'bricks and mortar' shop.

Barn quilt at the rest area between North Carolina and Virginia.

I can't share a bunch, but I can tell you that if you are lucky enough to have your favorite local quilt shop owner attend, you can be assured that they are working hard to give you the best experience possible. There were 70 shops represented and I was the store owning newbie. To say I was a bit overwhelmed is an understatement. Quite a few had been in the business a good long time, including one who had been open for 36 years! Yet, they came to learn even more to help their shops and to help them better serve their customers.

Do you like the Row by Row Experience? I certainly do and I got to meet Janet Lutz from Calico Gals in Syracuse NY who is the creator of this national event.

I met a ton of shop owners, but one of my favorites from afar is the lovely Jan from The Pickle Dish in Ontario, Canada. Her shop is in the most charming, possibly haunted, Victorian building.

We got to see some of the newest products and notions, and received quite a few goodies. I took a huge embroidery trolley to carry my machine and all the fabric I never got around to sewing with (because I was busy listening and learning) as well as all the typical stuff you might take to a quilt retreat.
Yes, that is a Janome 15000 buried under a ton of stuff!

I did sew a quick baby quilt using Shannon Cuddle from one of their super easy kits. I loved how well my machine powered right through putting the shaggy binding on it.

Love that Janome Acufeed Flex foot!

My two big take-aways? First, make sure to provide plenty of inspiration along with excellent customer service and fun. Second, all work and no play makes for a burnt out shop owner.

Something else I am trying to do is pull together the two halves of my business, one online, the other our shop in Lynchburg. Our family business is what's known as a "bricks & clicks" operation. Sometimes it leaves me feeling pulled in several directions but I love all the various pieces. Each side of the business has its own Facebook page, blog, and now Instagram account! To create a space that hopefully bridges the gap between both worlds, I set up a Facebook group called Amy's Sew Simple Adventures. My ego wouldn't let me name it (or the shop) Amy's Sew Simple, since it has a totally different meaning if you read the possessive Amy's as a contraction of "Amy is" hee hee!

I'd love to have you join me and several of my quilting friends and customers there. I see it as a place to foster creativity, quilting, and general stitching goodness. You have to ask to join and posts are only visible to members, but it's not meant to be a secret society. Just want to keep the creepers, spammers, and hucksters at bay. It's a safe space where we can all share what creative projects we are working on and ask questions about sewing, quilting, and the like. (It's not a place for others to sell stuff.)

Now, back to the unpacking and going over my notes so I don't forget all the great info I heard this week. Never stop learning!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Free Motion Quilting Tips: Moving the Quilt

I was asked a question in an older post the other day, but had no way to really answer the question so that the person could see it, as it was posted as a comment on someone else's comment. Since no email was given and it was a good question (And seriously, I need to post something! New employee begins soon, so let's hope I can get some time to write.) so I figured I'd answer it on the blog as a post.

Question: I am having a terrible time trying to move the quilt for fmq. I have used a quilt top with thin cotton batting (mistake)and minky on the back. I am using machingers gloves. I have tried with feed dogs both up and down, but it won't budge. I would be so grateful for any suggestions.

Move that quilt!

So first, let's flesh out this scenario a little bit.


She posted on a post I did about using Minky for the back, so let's address this first. I don't have a ton of experience with this fickle material, but some brands work great and others are flimsy and the fuzz almost clings to the sewing machine's bed and table surface. Some almost demand a ball point needle because they are stretchy. Most of the time a universal needle will do the trick.

The minky side of a baby quilt I did.

She is smart to mention that the thin batting might be a mistake. A thin batting can lead to the machine eating the quilt. This can be mitigated by using a single hole (or straight stitch) needle plate, a new needle, and sometimes the above mentioned ball point needle (which might not work well with a woven cotton top, especially batiks).


A thin batting might also lead to a top that wrinkles or bunches as you move it. A thicker batting (I love an 80/20 blend of cotton/poly) tends to be easier to move across the surface of your work space.


Speaking of the surface of your workspace, if you haven't read it before or are new to free motion quilting, you might want to check out one of my popular articles on how to set yourself up for success with free motion quilting.

She didn't mention using a Sew Slip or other Teflon-like material to help smooth out the surface, but I highly recommend one.

I wish I had more clarification on this person's project! But until I do, the part about feed dogs up/down and it won't budge has me wondering. Since she mentioned Machinger's gloves I can assume that she knows that she'll be moving the quilt herself. It leads me to wondering about the foot she is using.

The free motion foot...

So, first one would need a free motion foot. I figure she knows this, but it never hurts to mention it. A free motion foot or darning foot is made to allow free movement of the top under the foot, instead of holding it down against the feed dogs so they will feed the fabric through.

A free motion foot made for a high shank machine would certainly press the quilt against the feed dogs or bed of the machine if used on a low shank machine. So one would want to make sure this isn't the issue.

The most common type of free motion foot is the spring loaded hopping foot. This foot hold the fabric down while the needle is in the fabric. This type of foot takes a certain level of speed before it's hopping fast enough to allow free motion of the top. Go too slow and it's a very jerky motion and you can hear the needle 'ting' as it comes out of the fabric.

With a non-hopping foot, there's an adjustment for height. If it's set too low, it's going to hold the quilt in place.

When using a hopping or non-hopping foot and you feel like you've adjusted it to the best of your ability, and it's the right one, and yet it's too low (or even too high) take a look on your machine for a presser foot pressure adjustment. This isn't a feature on some of your modern, lower end models, but many vintage machines and mid- to high end machines usually have this feature. reducing the pressure can have a tiny effect like raising the foot, while increasing the pressure is much like lowering the foot.

Also, raising or lowering the feed dogs actually has an effect on the space between the machine bed (or feed dogs if up) and the foot. This in effect is like lowering or raising the foot height. Since there is absolutely no relation between the tension systems and the feed dogs (other than feed dog timing in regular sewing (like when the fabric puckers) which looks like a tension issue, but isn't), I suspect that those who like to keep the feed dogs up are actually decreasing the space between machine bed and foot. Having too much space between machine bed and foot can cause stitch formation issues, which can be mistaken for tension issues. This is because the fabric is 'flagging' up the needle and messing with the top thread as it forms a loop for the machine hook to grab and form the stitch.

I do drop my feed dogs when I quilt, but I know plenty of quilters don't. Do what works for you. But if you leave the feed dogs up, make sure that they are covered if you can't set the stitch length all the way to 0. Otherwise, those feed dogs will fight you. Not all machines will let you set the stitch length all the way to 0.

You've got to move it, move it....

Finally, how you place the quilt can impact how well you can move it. Unless you are working on a small table topper or placemats, do not lay your quilt out flat. Do not roll it into a log either. Logs are heavy and flat quilts are too. In either method, you end up moving the whole quilt. That's pretty hard on the hands, especially as you move, drawing designs essentially with your finger tips.

Instead, use the 'puddling' technique, also known as smoosh and stuff, or 'hills and valleys'. You only need the area around the needle, between your hands, flat. The hills and valleys act as hinges for the quilt to move, leaving the bulk of the quilt beyond a valley or two to stay still.

I only move the area right around the needle!

You may have seen these free motion quilting suspension systems that are on the market, as well as the DIY versions that some quilters have rigged up. They can be useful for creating essentially the 'hills' allowing support for the weight of the rest of the quilt.

So that's about all I can come up with on moving the quilt given the information I was given. I hope the person asking finds some answers (feel free to comment again so we can get more clarification) and that the rest of you find some value in it as well.

As always, leave me a comment, like, share and all that other jazz if you've enjoyed this post. Hearing what you think helps me to provide you with better information.