Is FMQ fun? Well, yes it is. Is it easy? Well, no not really. But it is possible, and possibilities are what life is all about. Five years ago I decided to learn this crazy thing called Free Motion Quilting, FMQ. I stumbled across this wonderous machine called Tiara that was only for free motion quilting and it was like lighting striking! Talk about love at first sight. I looked at my husband and said “I am buying this!”
I had been making quilt tops for several years on my 45 year old White domestic sewing machine. And then using a walking foot to do straight stitch quilting. It was difficult, tedious, and boring. I knew in my heart that FMQ would not be boring. I did not know what an adventure it would be.
He looked equally thunderstruck. “Don’t worry”, I said, “I will use my own money.” That did not seem to comfort him in the moment. But we did bring a Tiara Babylock sit down quilting machine home with us and she waited patiently for several months to me retire.
Now this is not a machine that does the stitching for you, it does not magically produce perfect looking quilts. It does one thing, it stitches when you press the pedal. There are no feed dogs to move your fabric forward. You move the fabric and everything that emerges from that needle going up and down is under the control of your own two hands. It has no “auto pilot”.
Retirement dawned in early 2015, and I set out to learn FMQ. Nothing went right for quite some time. I did not know what I was doing. Not even a little bit. The manual was 6 pages long and did help much. I looked for videos on YouTube, but they were not basic enough. All the quilters on YouTube zipped along without a problem or hitch and I could barely get moving. My threads shredded and snapped every few inches. My stitches were long and my lines ragged. It was ugly and I was not having fun. Yet. But I kept trying. That first year, I made 18 quilts and with my “newbie” FMQ. Was I ever discouraged, disgusted, disgruntled or dismayed? You bet! But I did not quit.
Slowly, ever so slowly, my FMQ improved. I am nothing if not stubborn. I realized that using the same thread I had learned to sew with 50 years earlier might not be the best choice and bought more expensive, glossy, pretty poly threads made just for quilting. My threads stopped snapping. I made a dozen more quilts and dozens of placemats and table runners.
Then I found a FMQ Facebook group and the clouds cleared. Here was a community of quilters who could help me. Have a problem? Ask a question. Want to learn? Here is a tutorial. And yes, it finally started to be fun. And my FMQ improved.
Racing with the quilt to finish and feeling that I had to keep up with the machine was not the best strategy, I learned. I am the boss, not the machine. We are going slow and we are going to go smoothly. I was determined to become an FMQ artist. Yes, that’s right, we are artists on this journey.
Now I have my own FB group, Fun With Free Motion Quilting, started in June 2019 with Sandra and Cathy. We have fun, we help each other, we encourage newbies and we provide resources. We remember our own learning adventures and that we are still on that journey.
I also have a Babylock Tiara group, which I started in desperation, looking for help with my sit down quilting machine. It made me have to research and step up my learning curve. Gradually, we all learned together how to get the most out of our Tiara’s.
Both groups are doing a FMQ Challenge right now for beginning learners. Sandra supplies the videos from her Free Motion with Sandra YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt-0nP_M-Isy8c3S45Avvqg.
There are no costs, no advertisements and no catches. We do this out of our love for FMQ. All who want to learn are welcome to join Cathy and Sandra and I in the Fun With Free Motion Quilting group. The rules are simple, be encouraging and be committed to learning FMQ. And there is no such thing as “perfect”. We can’t do the work, the practice, for you but we can encourage and we can help.
Here is the first workbook in what will be a series. You can use any machine that you own, vintage or new, sit down quilter or domestic machine.
Happy quilting, Lennea