Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sewing with Certainty - Free Motion Quilting

I priced getting my first quilts done by a local long arm quilter... yes it is "quilting with your checkbook!" and at the rate I was kicking out quilts it would have to be a BIG checkbook. (I started with a goal to make quilts for 16 of my family members!) I quickly decided that if I was going to quilt... I was going to have to learn how to quilt them on my home machine.

I am the queen of "straight line" quilting.... notice the quotation marks... there is really nothing straight about the lines I quilt as I'm cramming half of a king size quilt through the tiny neck of my machine... but if you squint your eyes when you look at them you can see where i intended for them to be straight..... my husband sees straight lines.... at least that is what he tells me.... and why I love him so much!!

I have tried FMQ with a free motion foot... I have not figured out the tension problems yet... it is still on my list of skills to master. But... for the most part I'm happy with my straight lines... so I'm not in that big of a hurry and may wait till I buy a better machine.

So... If you do not quilt your own quilts... here is my list of things i have learned along the way.

1. You don't need a walking foot...I'm sure it might make it easier... but since I don't have one... I don't know.

2. My first few quilts looked terrible... but i finally figured out that the basting of the quilt was my problem.

I baste my quilts on my hard surfaced floors. The first thing I do is tape the backing to the floor as tight as I can. Lay the batting down and smooth it out from the middle. Then lay the quilt top down and smooth it out from the middle. I start pinning in the center and smooth more out as I go. (I don't stretch it like the backing, just smooth) I try to figure out how Im going to quilt before I pin so that I can put my pins between where my lines will be. (I confess my quilt tops are rarely perfectly ironed when I pin them... so maybe I wouldn't have as much smoothing out to do if I did that... i just hate ironing big things!)

 Invest in good big safety pins for basting... and put them no more than 3-4 inches apart. I buy the bag from Walmart that are less than 6 bucks for 50 or 60 of them. I have two bags and usually can have one big quilt and one small quilt pinned at one time. I do use more than one bag on the queen and king size quilts.

I then trim any excess backing fabric and quilt batting to 4 inches. (if I have more than that I tend to get it folded over somehow and sew it to the back of the quilt.)

3. Take the time to roll up the excess quilt on each side and have support to the left of your chair for it to rest on. When I get lazy and don't roll up the excess or the shoving through side, i end up with wrinkles. I use a stack of tubs (2 large and one under bed is the right height for my desk) to rest it on.

3. Quilting lines.... I have drawn my lines on the quilt with tailors chalk once. (and my knees ache enough after pinning... I just don't want to stay down on the floor that much!) Usually I follow some pattern in the piecing and eyeball it.

I have three different MO's for my quilting....

first choice and easiest.... I quilt on both sides of my seams. I like the look it gives. (Christa suggested wavy lines across it and i may try that on a quilt soon)

second choice on small things like table runners -  the straight line or matchstick quilting... I think I mentioned in my last blog post this is therapeutic for me, sew a line, lift the foot swing it around, lift the needle, put the foot down, put the needle down... sew a straight line. do it again and again and again. Honestly my table runners use as much thread as i use on a throw or twin size quilt!!

third choice is diagonal lines. I eyeball these as well and sew from one corner of the block to the other... works best eyeballing if your squares are smaller than 6 inches!

and of course.... combining them...

Really it is not hard to quilt on your machine. Afraid to start with the big stuff... make a table runner!

I am linking up to Quilty Habit's Sewing with Certainty series


Viki said...

i love straight-line quilting too, it's so simple and effective!

one of my favorite methods is using a wavy/serpentine stitch along the seam lines. in case you are wondering what it looks like on a finished quilt, here's a link to one i did a little while ago

Lorna McMahon said...

Straight line quilting does look great, especially along both sides of a seam line. You are doing wonderful work! Keep it up!

Missy Shay said...

I've decided to straight line quilt my next couple of quilts, it is a lot faster for me than FMQ is.

JoyceLM said...

Regarding the walking foot: it was the best investment I made when I started quilting. (Luckily Sears still had a walking foot that could be used with my older machine.) I'm trying to learn how to FMQ, but I still do a lot of straight line quilting & quilting in the ditch & I couldn't do it without my walking foot. I use it to put on my binding & since I sew that on completely by machine, it would be a struggle to get through all the layers without it. And a great non-FMQ book is Foolproof Machine Quilting by Mary Mashuta.

ChristaQuilts said...

I love all your "straight" line quilting! It adds so much yummy texture :-)