I was excited to find another useful online challenge to help direct this year's quilting: the Free Motion project has a new tutorial from a different quilt teacher every month. I signed up to do this because I need to learn to use my machine more confidently for more different tasks. I do a lot of good work with my walking foot, and I'm getting better at using my embroidery machine for quilting, but I am committed to mastering free-motion quilting as well. When I first joined the Newington Schoolhouse Quilters several years ago, one of the first meetings I attended was a free-motion quilter talking about her techniques and giving a great "you can do it too" pep talk -- the next week I tried exactly what she suggested and had a fair amount of success, although it was with my old, much smaller machine that was direly in need of a tune-up at the time. I feel like it's a shameful thing to feel like I should "need" a long-arm machine that costs as much as a car in order to turn out great-looking quilts, so the time was right for me to find this challenge.
I had wrestled my way through the triangles placemat with fair results, but it seemed like my thread broke more often than it should have. I keep my machine well-cleaned, it's operating smoothly, and I change needles very frequently. I finished the placemat feeling frustrated but determined, and went online to do some research, at which time I stumbled onto the FMQ challenge.
The video tutorial by Frances Moore was fun and inspiring; as soon as it was over I picked up a pencil and started doodling the leaf motif. I spent a few minutes putting together a 21-inch square to use for the FMQ project (one last hurrah for January's Rainbow Scrap challenge color - farewell to red!). My plan is to do the same thing with every month's color & motif and assemble them using my old favorite, the quilt-as-you-go assembly described by Marcia Hohn at the Quilter's Cache.
I set my machine to use the free-motion spring-activated feature, put in a 90/14 quilting needle, and threaded some Aurifil 50-wt for both the top and bobbin. I have no idea how long it took, but it came out great! I didn't have one single problem with thread breaking or popping off the tension hook. Even when I ran out of bobbin thread in the middle of the square, I had no trouble at all getting started back up and burying the threads to hide the join. I'm already thrilled with the results of this challenge!