Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Helpful FMQ Tools

Quilt made by Angela Walters

There are a few tools that I have come across that makes your free motion quilting flow much more smoothly. One of my favorites is The Supreme Slider. It is a sheet made of Teflon that sticks to your machine. It has a single slit that is placed over the hole that the needle falls into during stitching. The slider reduces the friction between your quilt and machine making it much easier to glide the quilt along your design. For someone like me that carries all of the tension in my neck and shoulders, it makes a world of difference. The less strain on your muscles, the less likely you will fatigue them and have to stop early :) The cheapest one that I found was on Amazon:

Another tool that comes in handy are quilting gloves that helps you to grip onto your quilt better. I just use a pair of Fons and Porter that you can purchase for $5 at JoAnn's. I don't use them a lot now. I used them mostly in the beginning when quilting felt more foreign to me. They are very useful, but they can get in the way when trying to grab onto little things like thread. Sometimes I get tired of taking them off and on so when I feel like I'm really in the flow of things, I'll just take them off completely and set them aside. They are still good to have, though.

Useful item number three would be bobbin washers. I have not tried these yet but I plan on ordering my own set. Adding these into your bobbin case help prevent your bobbin thread from bunching up and breaking. They also help to prevent the bird's nests that can sometimes form on the back of your quilt (yucky!).

The most important tool of all is your sewing machine. If you are looking for a sewing machine specifically for quilting, make sure you really do your research. Last summer when I knew that I really wanted to get into quilting, I bought the first sewing machine that I found that had the basic fmq capabilities (ability to lower feed dogs and had a darning (fmq) foot that came with it). It was fine, but I knew I was never going to be able to quilt the way I wanted to without some major struggle (ain't nobody got time for that!). So here are some things you must consider when picking out a machine-
*the ability to drop the feed dogs
*darning (fmq) foot for free motion quilting
*walking foot for regular, straight quilting (you can still have cool/modern effects with a walking foot- I quilted my first three quilts with a walking foot and it's a great transition from never quilting at all to fmq)
*An extension table
*As much throat space as you can find! The throat space is the open space to the right of your needle. This was the biggest thing that my first quilting/sewing machine was lacking. I could barely fit my big quilts and my hand in there to comfortably quilt. The quilting machine that I currently have has 9in of space. I feel this is sufficient for me to feel comfortable while quilting.
*Also, fmq puts a lot of wear and tear on your machine. My first machine was a lighter, computerized model and I thought it was gonna blow up, it was shaking so much from my fmq attempts. So the second machine that I got was more industrial-made with metal parts (instead of plastic) and had the ability to sew at higher speeds.
I have the Brother Nouvelle 1500s. I am so pleased with it! I didn't have as big of a budget for a sewing machine so I had to find one that gave me the biggest bang for my buck. I couldn't be happier. I'm glad I didn't decide to buy a more expensive one. Janome and Bernina are both very popular (and very nice), but I couldn't justify financing a sewing machine (even if it is the love of my life! Just joking...).

Are there any other tools that you find helpful in fmq? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Helpful Free Motion Quilting (fmq) Resources!

Let me start by saying that I was born without a single artistic bone in my body. I never realized that I could be creative until I started quilting this past year (made my first quilt in 2013). So here is a little disclaimer: If I can quilt, you can too!

I started sewing when I was ten. I was in 4-H and made a bunch of garments for projects. So when I took my first quilting class this past spring, the cutting and piecing portion of quilting seemed pretty intuitive to me. I fell in love with the process and how therapeutic it was. It offered me a peace and joy that garment making never did. Not that I don't enjoy garment making. If I had more time I would love to be able to sew all of my own clothes. Quilt making just feels more natural to me. It doesn't matter how my day has gone, if I come home and turn on music, sip on some rejuvenating coffee and start working on my current WIP I can get lost in a completely different world. Garment making is a means to a great end for me (look at my outfit!). But quilting is a realm where my hands just take over and all of the day's previous thoughts just melt away.

Enough on that little tangent...As I immersed myself on the world wide web I found the limitless possibilities for me in the creation of modern quilts. Along with modern quilts, comes free motion quilting. I was intrigued, but really scared. It was unlike anything I've ever done! I thought, I can't even draw a stick figure-how am I suppose to make designs on a sewing machine? My first attempts were absolutely pathetic! But I knew this was something that I wanted to learn. Although, I'm not even close to being a "pro" I'd like to share some of the resources/tips that I have found useful in this past year. 

First off, practice, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! Although books, video tutorials, a new sewing machine, and other tools have helped, it has taken me almost a year of practice on scrap quilt sandwiches that I made before I was comfortable with fmq on an actual project. Along with practicing, remember to persevere and not to be too critical of yourself. It is very awkward at first, like you may already know. Not only are you trying to draw designs using a fast moving needle but you are probably trying to figure out your machine's tensions, and how to wrestle such a big quilt on a small machine. Another great way to practice is by doodling designs you want to learn. I got this great advice from Angela Walters. Doodling will help you get down a certain design and help to you to figure out how to consistently fill in all of the space on your quilt.  Maybe I'm watching tv, so I'll just pull out a sketchbook, colored pencils and bring up Pinterest on my Ipad and search for a quilting design I want to practice and get at it! Angela Walter's new book, Free Motion Quilting Workbook shows you how to go about that process.

My favorite sources of inspiration are Angela Walters and Leah Day. They are amazing quilters who have dedicated a lot of time to teaching people about this artform. One day I hope to be half as good as them! (Click on logos for links to their webpages)

They are great teachers and both teach a number of classes on Craftsy. The classes do cost money, but they are definitely worth the money. All of the classes I've taken have been very in depth and informational. They have given me the confidence to do things I don't think I really could have on my own.
If you are new to fmq and still haven't felt that "oneness" with your machine for fmq (I'm laughing in my head at the way I worded this because there are many times I wanted to throw my machine across the room) I would take Leah Day's class Free Motion Quilting A Sampler. It walks through foundational tips you need to know before diving in and presents 15 different designs. Make sure you use the link from her website because it gives you 50% off! (Click on picture for a link).

Once you feel a little less awkward with fmq I would progress to Angela Walter's classes that focus on different designs and how to incorporate them into your quilts. I'm currently enrolled in Dot-to-Dot Quilting and Machine Quilting: Small Changes, Big Variety (links in pictures).

These have been the most helpful teaching resources for me thus far. Stay tuned for my next post on some of the helpful products I use in fmq and as I talk about what to look for in a sewing machine for quilting :)
Happy quilting!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hello, everyone! This is my first official post on this blog. I'm super excited to start this and become more connected with my fellow crafters out there on the world wide web. I'd like to give a special shout out to my husband for helping (and by helping, I mean doing ALL of the work) to put together a presentable blog for me :)
My hopes are to share all of my quilting projects through this blog, but you will probably see the many other facets of my life on here too! This will probably include my best friend, my husband. We live in a small town and nothing is more important than our family (fortunately both sides live very close by) and our church. We are the crazy people who decided to have four dogs (three dachshunds, one boxer mix) but we love them and couldn't imagine an evening relaxing in our home without them! We are total foodies and always looking for something new to try. We love a good story and watch a good deal of movies. Although I like to dabble in many things (as far as crafting) my heart primarily lies in making quilts and getting absorbed in a good read :)

For my first post, I will share my most recent finish. It is the Lotus pattern by Jaybird Quilts.

With the exception of the backing, it was made entirely of the Art Gallery Fabric- Pat Bravo's Indie collection. Art Gallery is probably my favorite, but I really don't discriminate when it comes to hoarding fabric :)

This was my first experience free motion quilting on a full size quilt. It is not anywhere near perfect, but I'm happy with it! I never thought I would have gotten this far. I quilted leaf-like designs in all of the lotus flowers. I decided to not quilt any design within the triangles. I like the effect that has because it makes the triangles pop out of the quilt. I love the third dimension that quilting adds to a quilt. I just started quilting a little over a year ago. I was fine with the cutting and piecing because I sewed a lot of garments for 4-H projects. The quilting aspect was entirely new for me. It brought me a lot of frustration this past year trying to figure machine tensions, technique and channeling an artistic side to me I never thought I had- but I'm glad that I stuck with it. The whole process of making a quilt is not for the impatient and I've had to learn to slow down enjoy every aspect. That's hard in our world that is so production driven and when you feel like you only have so little time to work on your projects anyways. I'm loving it all so far, and I hope I can learn and be able to accomplish more!