Thursday, 5 January 2012

Free Motion Quilting Challenge - Month 1

Over the last few months, I completed my first quilt top thanks to the classes over at Earthly Goods quilt shop. I've learned the ins and outs of cutting and piecing, but the blanket I made is still unfinished, because I haven't actually figured out how to quilt it yet. 

My plan for 2012 is to learn to quilt on my home sewing machine. I've got three activities lined up that should help make that happen: I'm taking a day-long course in February, participating in Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project, and I've signed up for the 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge.

I got started on the January exercise for the FMQ Challenge as soon as the video tutorial was posted. The pattern to master this month is a network of heart shaped leaves. Since I'm very new at this, I don't plan to skip any steps. I drew the pattern out on paper to get a better understanding of it.

The leaves didn't turn out all that well, and I drew myself into corners a few times, but it gave me a good understanding of what to do on on the fabric. I slapped together some 6" fabric and batting squares and just jumped in. I took Leah Day's advice to leave my feed dogs up, and it made a huge difference! I got the tension right without constantly snapping the thread, which had been my biggest problem in the past. My first try ended up looking like this:

Not bad for a beginner, but definitely not good. I loaded up a second little pink square and tried again. My biggest problem at this point was that my needle was only catching the bobbin thread 50% of the time (at best) and making the stitches look even more jerky than they were. I looked around for solutions to this, and most sources seemed to agree that changing your needle was the best solution.

First, I tried a small sharp needle. Terrible! None of the stitches were catching at all. So I went the opposite route and loaded up the biggest needle I could find - that one that stays behind in the box because you can never figure out when to use such a big needle. That solved the problem. Yay! Finally, on my 3rd little square, I was getting smooth stitches and the pattern started to look pretty good:

I was really happy with the result, and decided to turn my last two practice squares into mini mug rugs. I added some decorative black stitching over the beige practice leaves and turned the scraps from my squares into binding.

Each square has one pink side and one burberry side, so they make a cute set. I'm especially proud of how the flower on the last one turned out. I'm pretty amazed at how much I've improved in just the first week of this challenge and can't wait for more! Most of my FMQ practice this year will be turned into cat blanket donations for my local humane society. Stay tuned next week to see the first blanket together with my first attempt at stippling.


  1. Looking good! I like the heart shaped leaves and especially like the close up of the beige on beige.

  2. Nice leaves! See you later on the challenge!

  3. Stitching really looks great for first try. New needle always a big help for me too. Love what you did with the samples. Just great.

  4. Nice progress. Has anyone else noticed how hard it is to get black/dark thread to stitch out smoothly? Mine always look raggedy. I think the problem is more with the dark thread than the quilting process. Your light thread leaves look wonderful.

  5. Nice leaves and good idea to make a useful item out of your practice pieces.

  6. Keep up the good work. Your leaves look great for a first time out!

  7. You are doing wonderfully!!