“Be kind to yourself” she said. Good advice.
She, being one of the best teachers around, and the best Free Motion Quilter (FMQ) I know. FMQ has been the most difficult things for me to conquer in my sewing life. I have taken every opportunity to practice it for the last 5 years and have thrown out or turned perfectly good quilted pieces into dog beds because of my displeasure with the results. It was my third time in her class.
I wanted to show you a picture of my mediocre masterpiece before I picked it apart, but I was not able to take one that captured the whole runner where the stitching was still visible. This was the best I could do.
The first design element we stitched was this motif, drawn on freezer paper. I did some echo stitching around it and matchsticks at the top.
Echo stitching, as it turns out, is harder than it looks. It requires that you look at the FM foot and use all sides of it to gauge your 1/4″ distance. There were blind spots going certain directions. Next time I would add a few reference points at the tips to ensure I turned at the right spots. Also, I am not sure about the matchsticks I added at the top. Does it highlight the tip because the stitching is denser, or does the tip look like it is in the background because it is flatter than its surrounding?
Using freezer paper seemed like a good idea, so I looked for other designs where I could use it. There was a peacock on the fabric back that had potential.
It was so unusual I knew it would be the focal point so I placed it in an appropriate spot. It didn’t look like much initially and I hated picking out the freezer paper but with enough stitching, my peacock turned out okay. Using a plate helped me get a stitching line to ‘frame’ him.
The fabric back was a great inspiration for other designs but now I wasn’t as keen on using freezer paper. I stitched around the waterlily using freezer paper but then it was a simple enough design that I could eyeball the rest. A feather was next. I have never particularly liked feathers, but recently stitched one on a project and it was terrible. Now was the time to practice.
The stylized daisy was also simple enough to do without the freezer paper, but one seemed small and insignificant, so it was repeated three times. I also decided to try another feather, fitting into the large awkward space left.
After the large elements, it was on to fillers and borders. All can use more practice but consistency of size and stitch length will come in time (I hope).
Do you want to make a FMQ sampler? Here are a few guidelines:
- Start with a sandwich 15″ x WOF. A dark solid (or near solid) fabric with light thread will work best
- Divide your runner into 6-8 sections. Use your favorite marking tool to ensure nice straight lines and then stitch a double line 1/8″ apart.
- Add something of interest in most sections. Start with larger designs so that you can practice filler stitches around them.
- If a design you like is proving troublesome, try different variations. For me, it was circles. In the wavy section, my first circle (top) was closed but I didn’t like all the stops and starts so started incorporating the circles into the wavy lines (middle section). It worked for awhile but then lI started backtracking away from the stitching line (side ones). This gave the illusion of a larger circle and I liked that better but still wanted to try circles where the stitching came to the center, making for continuous stitching. I tried that next as a border (seen in the picture between the waterlily and first feather). This one was the easiest.
- Practice principles of design –
- REPEAT – double lines look better than single lines; use odd numbers (one if large or a focal point, 3 if you want it to make more of a statement)
- RESIZE – use small, medium and large variations of the same design (example: I have circles the size of dots, medium sized circles, and larger ones)
- REINVENT – make variations of the same design element (example: feathers)
- BALANCE – this is obtained from the size of your designs and density of your stitching.
- CONTRAST – You are only working with straight and curved lines. Each will be more distinct when placed next to each other
- Don’t undo mistakes. Make this for you (not as a gift and not to enter into a show). Take risks and practice everything you like. In the future it will be a great reference tool. It will give you ideas. It will remind you of things that work, or not. It will help you decide on a better approach. And you will see where you have come from, the improvements in your techniques over time.
- Most of all, have FUN. And be kind to yourself!