After a top has been collaged, it is time to put a batting and a backing behind it, and quilt it. This is a time when I get a little nervous! Generally, I like my quilt top (because I kept experimenting until it was done) and my hope is that during the Free Motion Quilting I will not wreck it!
When sewing, a needle goes up and down, and feed dogs- little teeth, move the fabric along creating a line of stitching. There is only one direction you can go: straight toward yourself (or away from yourself, depending on how you look at it).
In Free Motion Quilting (FMQ), the feed dogs are lowered, meaning nothing is pulling the fabric along. The quilter’s hands can move the quilt in any direction under the needle, right, left, forward or back. Squiggles or leaves, bubbles or flowers, triangles or circles…anything can be “drawn” with the needle and thread.
In FMQ on a domestic machine, it is like drawing on paper, but the pencil stays still and the paper is moved.
What are the Challenges in FMQ?
FMQ takes practice to coordinate your feet and hands while working on a bulky object in a tight space.
FMQ is a challenge to get the right sized needle, right sized thread (bobbin and top), tension (bobbin and top thread), and presser foot all working together. My recommendation is to work with a straight stitch machine where fewer things can go wrong.
What is Good FMQ?
In regular sewing, a stitch length is chosen. Stitch length tells the feed dogs how much to move the fabric per stitch. In FMQ, there are no feed dogs, so stitch length is determined by how fast the needle is moving (controlled by a foot pedal) and how fast the quilter’s hands are moving. Slow needle and slow hands lead to long stitches – generally undesirable, as long stitches could easily get snagged. Fast needle and fast hands lead to microscopic, dense stitching which I think look “labored” and unattractive.
The goal is nice even stitches, which are created by coordinating your feet and your hands! This takes practice. The FMQ’er needs to keep a consistent speed through curves, straight lines (when one is tempted to speed up!) and in the middle of the quilt as well as the edges
Good FMQ looks just as nice from the back as it does from the front (no rats nests!).
Good FMQ certainly does not distract from the quilt top, and hopefully FMQ enhances the top. That’s the goal, anyway!
Feel free to email me with any questions you have on FMQ!