Archives for posts with tag: free motion quilting

I began my journey into free motion quilting a few years ago, and am getting serious about it again.  I have a sampler quilt with blocks made from mostly Tula Pink’s City Sampler book.  It is time for this quilt to get finished.  For one thing, it is first on my WIP list, (maybe that list WILL help me keep focused) and for another thing, I plan to submit it to my guild’s annual quilt show Stitch Modern coming in March.


The beautiful thing about quilting this quilt is, I can quilt  it in small 6″ sections at a time.  Today, I only had time to quilt 2 of them.  But I feel accomplished anyway by seeing a completed block.


Today: Many thread breaks = many tails to bury…. sigh.

Here in this blog space I share my troubles and successes, and I keep trying to improve as I go along.  Last week, I had no random thread breaks but my quilting foot kept catching on the thicker seam areas making smooth quilting lines difficult.  Today, I decided to lift my quilting foot a little (I have the Leah Day mod as described here).  Soooo, the quilting lines were smoother and easier BUT I was getting thread breaks.  Dang it!  It is so irritating.  The curious thing about free motion is, there could be more than one thing causing the problem.  My current primary suspect: tension in the quilter!  Plan: yoga stretches and deep breaths in between stitching.  Hey, even if it doesn’t solve my thread problem, it will make me feel better.  So that’s a win!

Just one more sharing moment for any new to free motion quilters out there.  I found that while I am quilting, I am intently focused on the mechanics of things (where my hands are moving, how fast the needle is going, breathe, where the bulk of the quilt is, is my bobbin about to run out) that I have very little room/energy /mojo for the creative left-brain design aspect of the quilting.  If I try to think up a quilt design for my block on the spot, my mind goes blank!  I’m curious if this has happened to others.  My solution to this has been, at night when the lighting is bad or worse, I turn on The Office (yes, binge watching it on Netflix) and then doodle and draw and play to come up with my designs.


The next time I sit at the machine, I have my designs ready, plus have already practiced it once with paper and pencil.  This way, I can give 100% to the quilting mechanics without sacrificing good design.  Hopefully, as I gain more experience, and my muscle memory begins to take over I can forget about the mechanics and focus on the fun part. Yay!

I have been researching and practicing my free motion quilting skills, eager to quilt my sampler quilt. But realizing my skills needed a little work,I am brushing up before I am really ready to tackle a big project. This quilt has already taken so much time that I can’t bear to use it to practice on, it deserves a nice clean finish.

Enter, Leah Day of The Free Motion Quilt Project, and she is nothing if not creative and reassuring!  She does NOT, however, candy coat this process. She reminds us to spend LOTS of time practicing.  One thing I love about her is, she is not afraid to throw out all the rules and find her own way.  We definitely benefit from her time dedicated to trial and error, and experimentation to get the best results.  Why reinvent the wheel when you can just purchase Leah’s Craftsy class and watch it as many times as you want until you get it?  I bought her Free Motion Quilting a Sampler class, and she has lots of tips to share there.  One of the things she does is modify her quilting foot – and it works, I’m so glad I tried it!

Modified FMQ foot: open toe, trimmed bar, elastic rubber band

Modified FMQ foot: open toe, trimmed bar, elastic rubber band

I have a Pfaff Grand Quilter 1200, and it’s quilting foot from the manufacturer is a) high shank b) hopping foot and c) closed toe.  My first hesitation with following Leah’s lead on modifying my quilting foot is, it’s expensive AND what if it didn’t work…? Replace my $40 foot for the sake of experimenting?  No thanks!  I couldn’t find many testimonials verifying her method – so I felt insecure about jumping right in, and that’s also why I am telling you about my results.

The key, for me, was buying a cheap foot to test the theory, and use it until it wears out.  Then, I will know whether I want to adjust the factory supplied foot. Here is what you do: First, determine whether you have high shank or low shank machine feet, your owners’ manual should tell you that.  Then search online and make your purchase.  I bought mine for around $18 including shipping, the low shank feet are even cheaper.  Follow Leah’s instructions in the craftsy class, and you won’t be disappointed.  Please, please don’t ruin your expensive quilting feet without first testing this out!

Before this modification, I had trouble seeing my stitches with the closed toe foot.  Clipping that foot into open toe really helps with visibility, go figure!  Also, this machine had a hopping foot which irritated me.   I found making smooth and straight lines difficult with the hopping foot, and it also caused problems stitching over thick seams.  My sampler quilt in particular has lots of seams, and some of them get quite thick at certain points, and the hopping foot seemed to make passing through those areas difficult.  Clipping the extra bar on the foot eliminates the hopping motion, while the rubber band gives you the flexibility to raise the foot to a place where it won’t catch on seams.  It’s a brilliant system, and I have had wonderful stitching results using this foot.  Fingers crossed I will perfect my skills and FMQ my sampler soon!

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