Sunday, January 29, 2012

Free Motion Challenge

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!


  1. Wow, your quilting looks terrific! I'm so glad you are combing both challenges and turning out some great projects along the way. Congratulations on your success.

  2. Your stitches look really even - that's a great result!

  3. Your quilting looks great. Glad to hear you had a better time with the free hand quilting. You got one done.

  4. Congratulations! It looks fabulous!
    I love Aurifil thread and have the most success with free motion quilting with it.

  5. Wow - great job on the quilting!

  6. Your quilting looks great. I also have joined the FMQ challenge and I am trying to use it on both my Elna and the long arm machine that I purchased in 2008. That machine has less than 20 hours and I have challenge myself to learn to use it in 2012.