Today I decided I had to take the leap, and try freemotion quilting on a small quilt. Once I’d done it once — basted the quilt, quilted the quilt — for better or for worse, at least I would have tackled that first hurdle. No longer would I hem and haw about “actually trying it on a real quilt”. So I selected a quilt top — it was a baby-sized top, not very well pieced since it was one of my early attempts at quilting. I figured I could go ahead and do whatever to it, and I couldn’t make it much worse. Thus it was a perfect candidate for a first attempt at FMQ.
Here’s the part where I was a bad mom. I needed a backing fabric, and I couldn’t find anything in my stash that seemed to go AT ALL with the quilt top. Then I spotted this length of flannel that Mouse rescued from the fabric scrap bin at guild. It wasn’t an exact match by any means, but it did contain blue, orange and green whorls, so it could be construed as “going with” the green/blue/orange top. It was big enough. And, because it was from the scrap bin, it was free. Since Mouse was at school, I made the executive decision to steal it from her stash, thinking I could simply replace it with something even nicer if she complained about it. Well. Yes, she complained. She blasted me — quite rightly — for taking her fabric from her stash without her consent, noting that, “You would be mad if I used YOUR fabric without asking!!” Absolutely true. I apologized, and promised to buy her some new flannel PJ fabric to make up for it. She finally calmed down and forgave me, but BAD MOM.
Anyway, moving on to the actual machine quilting — it went well, in that the stitch length wasn’t horrible, and I only had “nesting” (tangling bobbin thread) twice — both times were after I’d experienced broken thread, had rethreaded, and was restarting. Another time, I think I would re-thread, then do a little test stitching on a scrap first? Anyway, I quickly discovered the nesting, and only had to pick out a few inches of bad stitches, which wasn’t so bad. However! what didn’t go so well was my attempt to do a wave design. It might have been partly my lack of practice at controlling the fabric while stitching. But also, it felt like the quilt was not sliding as easily as I would have liked, thus giving me some jerky movements. Maybe this was due in part to the fact that I used a flannel backing — more friction? — and that I don’t have a teflon mat to cover the plate of the machine. Also, I don’t have a quilting table, so the quilting perhaps has more drag? Finally, I have a weird freemotion quilting foot that I got from the “loose parts” bin at a local quilt store, that might not be the best. It jumps and squeaks a lot as I sew, and maybe is creating part of the problem?
By the time I was halfway through quilting, I was wishing that I had opted for a simple meander. Since a meander isn’t any design in particular, but just wandering curves and twists, I could have probably gotten away with the inexact stitching, since it wouldn’t be so obvious when I messed up the design. What, for instance, was happening when I stitched this?? Not very wave-like at all!! And even my good sections of wave design look more like claws than waves or spirals.
Nevertheless, the whole thing is quilted, and I no longer have to worry about tackling my first quilt. I can move forward to “doing better than last time”.
In terms of solving some of the issues I encountered with this first quilt — I’m not sure how I will tackle them. Leah Day has a video where she shows you how to physically alter your FMQ foot with a pair of pliers… I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that to a foot I just paid $30 for. DH is threatening to buy me a new sewing machine — one with a deeper throat and a quilting table. I know I could buy a teflon mat, but I’m afraid it would be too large for my machine. So… I need to consider my next steps.