Monday, 16 February 2015

Two lies and a truth about free motion quilting

I'll be the first to admit to being a novice at FMQ; I've only been trying for a few years. If you're looking for a complete, professional guide to starting free motion quilting this isn't it!

There are many great resources out their for beginners. Some you have to pay for (the incredible Angela Walters's Craftsy classes jump to mind immediately or even a class at your local quilt shop) and some are free (everything you could ever want to know is available at Leah Day's website which regularly had new videos and projects). It's all out there.

There are a few things which have jumped out at me over the last few years of learning - two of them no-one ever tells you and one which I wish I'd realized sooner.

1. You can't FMQ on any old sewing machine. Some people will tell you that you can use any machine that can sew a straight stitch and, whilst that might technically be true, in my experience that isn't true for a beginner. My baby Brother machine couldn't drop its feed dogs; instead Brother provided a little plastic plate to cover them up. Unfortunately the first time the quilt sandwich pushed against the plate, it popped up, blocked the needle, which then snapped and pinged up in my face. Twice. After dicing with an eye injury I had to admit defeat and straight line quilt instead.

2. Some designs just aren't possible on a domestic machine. Those beautiful designs you've seen on award winning quilts were probably done on a long arm machine where the quilter can access the whole width of the quilt top in one sweep. Don't get me wrong - there are lots of awesome patterns that you can achieve on a domestic machine if you can only access 10" square or so of your quilt at any one time, some patterns are going to be out of reach.

3. Now for the truth. A friend of a friend was recently playing the piano with a grace, fluidity and accuracy I could only envy. After he had finished, I said to him "there's a magic button someone on the piano that lets you play like that, right?!". "Yes", he replied "but they only show you where it is after the 700th hour of practice."

FMQ requires practice, regularly. When I started out I wanted to be able to flawlessly quilt feathers, spirals, flowers and more. And I wanted it now. No waiting. I've now grudgingly accepted that I need to keep practicing to stay good and get even better. One day I'll find that magic button, I know it's there somewhere.

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