Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Free Motion Quilting: A Beginners Perspective





Well, I have finally done it. I've finally spent some time becoming familiar with free motion quilting. You know I have been dying to do this for like a year now. Now that I have logged some time at the machine, honing in on this skill, I have some mixed feelings. I learned so much doing it and still appreciate the art of it all… but… oi I'm just not sure it's for me.

I decided to get some more practice doing my free style quilting on making another fabric bowl. I just love them…what can I say?!? They're so freaking cute and fun to make. Plus, I'm not going to make a quilt just to practice free motion quilting on. I mean, come on, right? Like I have time to make a quilt right now. If you got a different project to try it out on, let me know gurl.




Remember this fabric? That's right; I used it for a purse a while back. It's like a light corduroy and I still haven't picked up any heavy weight interfacing so I needed something with a little stiffness. I'm not sure it was the best fabric choice to make my free motion quilting debut on since it's so busy. It was also confusing picking a thread color for it. I did try using a multi-color thread that I was hoping was going to look the best, but it turned out white just looked the best.
I traced the pattern off my computer screen on this notebook paper at 70%. If you're a good little seamster you can figure out the size from this or you can trace your own pattern or better yet, print it out. Anyways I only had a 19” x 28” piece of this fabric (hence the math on my pattern) so I shrunk down the original pattern so I could get enough pieces (12 petal pieces and 2 center/base pieces). I decided not to do different fabrics for the exterior and interior of the bowl.
LOOKIE What I Remembered To Do This Time! I remembered to iron the fusible interface on first BEFORE cutting. Who says this sexy dog can't learn new tricks? I'm just happy that I am learning from my mistakes.
This picture is classic maverick seamster - I cut all 12 petals (sides of bowl) pieces at once using an elaborate folding technique. Oh dear… when will I ever learn???

Hehe… never…
I really liked how last time I made them a littler larger and cut them down. It's really makes the world of a difference when you go to put them together to have a clean edge - makes it easier to bind them. So after cutting everything out I worked on what type of pattern I was going to free motion quilt.









I call the one on the right the sea shell and the one on the left the flower. I totally wish I did the flower pattern now, but it is pretty difficult and I just didn't feel confident enough to do it on the first time. But now that I have completed the project, I think I could have done it.

Now comes the part of this blog where I start to share what I learned free motion quilting. It's crucial to know how to set your sewing machine up before even trying this (obvious you'd think....). Not completely understanding how to get my machine set up properly prevented me doing this technique for a very long time. For my machine you gotta change the needle, lower the feetdogs, change the presser foot AND (here is the thing that f**ked up my sh*t) is that you have to move the presser foot lifter into a hover/mid-level position.






Man it is the hardest thing for me. I don't know if you have to do it on your machine but it is weird to me. I have got such strong muscle memory when it comes to lifting the presser foot up and down when sewing that it was hard for me not to do it. The other thing is that if you have to stop you can't easily pull out the thread if the presser foot wasn't up all the way. So here is what happen, I would have to stop quilting for some reason and I'd lift the presser foot up from the hoover position and then forget to make sure it was back in hoover position when I started sewing again.... and here's what happens when you accidentally forget to put the presser foot into the proper place……… I did this more often then I would like to admit.






That was frustration number one. Number two was my thread. I bought some sh*ty quality thread and it was not good. It just caused more problems than it was worth. I mean for a dollar more you can get some good quality thread. I have never had these problems on other spools I bought in the past. Only when I use this crappy, inexpensive thread. It was one of the first things my mom told me when I started sewing, “buy good thread, you'll never regret it”. Boy, was she right (do not tell her I said it or that I used crappy thread in my machine).  ANYWAYS... the pictures above illustrate this frustration.

Here it is all trimmed down and quilted (Don't ask about the center piece stitching – let's just say I should required to have a permit to even use a rotary cutter). I like it, obviously the quilting portion of this project requires more practice…. This is definitely novice work at best. The original pattern and tutorial I saw at Gret's Quilting Studio, she appliqued a cool design on each one and then free motion quilted around it (I think). Which I think is such a great idea. Yea..... I got A LOT more practicing to do.



Okay, I will tell you more about some things I learned about free motion quilting at the end, but let's finish up the project while I still got your attention. There's one thing I want to talk about. I deviated (shocked? you shouldn't be) from the way from the instructions and how I did it last time. What I did might make the difference when you go to sew your own fabric bowl together......


The instructions are to zigzag stitch each of the petals together along their sides BUT what I did this time instead (maybe by accident or maybe not – you'll never know) was to stitch the sides together by folding or stacking them on top of each other. I can't really explain this so I hope you can get what I am saying from this picture…. The seam on the left is stitched across the two pieces and the seam on the right the two pieces are stitched stacked on top of each other and sewn from the top. You can see that the downside of this way is that the bowl loses its reversibility and there are no visible seams on the inside. But the reason why I choose to do it this way on all of the sides is because it makes the petal pieces stand up tighter. This may be a solution for the lack of strong interfacing. I wish I could show it better… but it is something you gotta try for yourself.









I love it even though it reeks of rookie. The bottom needs to be weighted because it is a little tipsy (A very wise, learned seamstress taught me about doing this). I like it despite its many flaws – now that's deep.







Okie dokie here is everything else I learned about free motion quilting when doing this project. Hold on to your granny panties, this is gonna be a long one:

  • Crappy Thread = Never Again. Not only is it a source for headaches but why would you want to do that to your pretty pretty sewing machine?
  • Speed is King. Moving at slower speeds I think is harder; the sweet spot is a controlled quick speed.
  • Something was going on with my needle when I was doing free motion quilting. It was like making a clicking or like a ting-ing noise. I think if you look close at the pictures… its looks like the bottom stitch got pulled up through the fabric…. That may not make sense, but was that the problem that cause that sound? I'm not sure I know enough about sewing machines but it sounds like the needle isn't properly engaging with the bobbin. Now that sound only happened when I was free motion quilting, every other time is fine. I changed the setting on the machine to make the stitch tighter, closer together. I'm not sure if that is what I was supposed to do or not, but it felt right when I was doing it. I don't know, maybe I need to take a class.
  • I get what eyelashing is now, but not sure how to prevent it. Any suggestions?
  • This sounds a little random but the posture you have while sewing is so important. The first few pieces I was like hunched over and so I tried it just sitting back and relaxing and the experience was much much better.
  • I am still not sure how I should be rotating the fabric under the needle. I tried a couple different ways but never really got which way produced better results. Sometimes I just freed my mind from over thinking and just did it and that sometimes produced nicer work. But this can't just be a luck or a intuition based technique. There must methods. There must be!!!
  • Uhhhmm…. I think that's all for now…. But PLEASE if you're still reading and got deep and powerful skills of free motion quilting then, please, Direct me o wise one. Because as of right now I like it, but I think I like geometric patterns of quilting better AND they can be done without the hassle and heartache.