Friday, February 17, 2012

First FMQ Ever Friday

There's a first time for everything, and this was my first go at free-motion quilting. Seriously. I had to go out and buy a foot.

Bernina #29 Freehand Quilting Foot: $41.99. I got it for 20% less thanks to a sale!

I made a little quilt sandwich, put the same Isacord thread in my top and bobbin threads, and started going to town. 

Annnnnnnd eyelashes. Ugh. 

The back looked fine, though. My upper thread tension was at the lowest point, so I poured through the Bernina 1630 (Update '96) manual looking for guidance. No help. No mention of increasing bobbin tension, which seemed like what I needed. I googled for troubleshooting tips and found one suggesting I try a different bobbin thread. My bobbin full of Isacord had me wandering in a forest of green eyelashes, so I happily pulled it out of my machine.

I threw in a random loaded bobbin with some Dual Duty XP 100% Poly thread on it. 

Jackpot. No eyelashes. 

The bottom still looked fine. I figured this was as good as I was going to get today, so I went to town. 

Whoa. It's not pretty, but I expected much worse. I felt like it was easier to get the needle going a little faster. I didn't like the jerky motion of the slower pace. You definitely have to think ahead about where you are going. I can see how practicing by drawing on paper could train your mind how to plan.

You can see what I mean about the little pink bobbin threads showing up on the front. I'm not normally one to quilt with different color top and bobbin threads. I was really just trying to get a good visual on my tension today. I like using the same color thread normally to camouflage these sorts of issues. 

Here's the back. No bobbin catastrophes except for a few places which can be blamed on user error.

I wanted to hold it up to the window to see if I was getting the "stars" that people talk about when you can see through your sandwich. Apparently they're caused by your tension being too high or using weird (presumably giant) needles or skinny thread. I was pretty much star-free except for some areas at the points on the leaves and places where I'd rushed the fabric and caused big stitches. 

I was inspired to give FMQ a go thanks to SewCalGal's 2012 FMQ Challenge. She says she improved her FMQ by regularly practicing over the course of a year, and I'd sure like to do the same. 

Go check out her post about it if you haven't seen it. There will be a year of free monthly tutorials and some prizes too!

I'd love to get your thoughts on my troubleshooting today and hear about your own FMQ experiences.

I hope everyone has a great weekend of crafts ahead of them! 


  1. Oh....useful information about the stars...I enjoyed seeing your practice pieces.

    1. Oh yes, the part about stars came up in a class I took at International Quilt Festival in Houston last year. It was news to me, but many of the other students spoke at length about encountering that issue during long arm quilting.

  2. Claire that is so great!! It looks really good, you obviously have a feel for it!
    Have fun practicing!
    I did the free motion fridays at Fluffy Sheep Quilting and thoroughly enjoyed trying some of Leah Day's patterns. I do like doing fmq but need a lot more practice!

    p.s. would you consider turning off your word verification please?

    1. Lucy! Thank you so much for alerting me about the word verification! I thought I had it turned off. I can't stand word verification, and I might have never known mine was still turned on if you hadn't said anything. Luckily I found a handy link that showed me how to turn it off: Thank you! Thank you!