This month I have made the resolution that I will become better at free motion quilting. Basically, for me, "better" means that I'll do it at all; in the past when I have made quilts I have either used "stitch in the ditch" or tying to finish them. That's all well and good, but I really wanted to be able to do the pretty quilted designs I see from other quilters out there.
How hard could it be, right?
Yeah, it's pretty hard. However, with the help of the Sew Inspired Blog's Focus on Free Motion Quilting Month, I felt brave enough to tackle a few projects last week.
I should start, I suppose, by telling you that I sew with a fairly basic (but very nice) Singer sewing machine. It does not come equipped with any kind of long arm quilting mechanisms, and it doesn't even have a walking foot (though I may invest in one in the very near future). It's a good little machine, and so far it has done everything I ever asked it to do. I should have known it would continue to stand by me through this adventure. :)
For my machine, the manual only tells me to remove the presser foot and drop the feed dogs in order to free motion quilt. I found I also had to mess around with a few things like tension and stitch length to get the motion of quilting to be comfortable for me, too.
I made a special project first, but I won't be showing that off until later when it arrives at its new home. After that special project I made two baby quilts for Project Linus:
I'm not sure if I ever really talked about it before, but for a part-time day job I work for Candice at Wee Essentials. As part of our work, we use quite a bit of fabric, resulting in quite a lot of left-over scraps that aren't quite big enough to make any of the Wee Essentials products. We just can't stand the thought of throwing them all away, so we came up with the idea to make them into baby blankets to donate to Project Linus. I made these for that project; they're 18-inch preemie quilts for the NICU at Vanderbilt Hospital.
These little quilts were the perfect size to practice free motion quilting, because they were small enough to maneuver easily. I imagine the king-sized quilt I eventually want to make will be a much bigger challenge, ha ha.
Anyway, here are some close-up shots. The first blanket I did a sort of loopy-loop line along the straight stitching lines from the quilt:
I like the way this turned out because the quilting doesn't take away from the fabric at all, but it just adds a cute little feminine design to the quilt body itself. Plus, it was fairly easy to do since I could still follow the stitching lines as I quilted.
For the second quilt I did a sort of big scallop for a few rows of quilting and then a big figure-8 sort of a design. I don't like how this worked out as well, but it still works:
This little crafty adventure wasn't 100% easy. First off, I think I broke my top thread about a million times. I also had some tension issues, where the underside of the quilt ended up with loopy sections like this:
Luckily, after washing, most of these are barely noticeable and there's really only one or two on each quilt.
Here are some Things I Learned About Free Motion Quilting through my practice on these quilts:
- It's best to use a quilting design that is small in scale. It was easier to keep my stitches even and to make the design look nice when I made small movements with the fabric and needle.
- At some places my tension was off; I think this is because I moved with inconsistent speed. Sometimes I really got into it and I sped up my fabric moving and I think that was too fast for my machine. I'm trying to keep in mind that my machine has a basic speed level for straight stitching and I should probably try to match that with my quilting movements.
- I broke my thread, a LOT. I think this is a combination of problems including using cheap thread and moving too erratically with my stitching. I'm going to try to slow down the stitching a little but also invest in some nicer thread the next time I make a quilt.