Ali Wilkinson

FMQ Lessons

needledown_nz_FMQ_lesson_ 1Does free motion quilting scare you? It terrifies me. I’ve read Angela Waters’ books and watched countless YouTube videos, and I understand the theory, but when it comes to actually putting it into practice I find all the excuses in the book not to take that first step. So now having bought a decent machine with big harp/throat space, acquired an extension table for the machine and the correct darning foot, and decided I can’t go on paying a small fortune to long armers to do basic edge to edge quilting for me, I realised that the rubber must hit the road and I have to get on with this and learn.

I am part of a group of quilters in Christchurch and we call ourselves Stitch Sisters. Actually, the rest o them meet far more than me as I am a bit reclusive at times when sewing and my work and family commitments don’t fit well with the sewing get togethers, but I am there in mind! The Stitch Sisters organised with Verina to have a series of lessons on how to FMQ. The first one was two weeks ago but I missed that due to my burst pipe, so today I had a bit of catching up to do.

Our project was a small bowl. I chose some Anna Maria Horner fabric from my stash to make mine and a bit of left over Tula Pink for the bidding. I started off with a calico quilt sandwich learning about hand placement and how to move the sandwich in rhythm with the speed of the needle and stitches. I have to say that the latter was somewhat tricky and I am far from mastering it. I’d also say that I am not super smooth yet, as can be seen from the spiral quilted onto the sandwich I turned into the bowl.

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I found that in some directions as I spiralled around and around that my hands were not moving at the right speed and this resulted in very tiny stitches compared to the parts of the spiral where I was more in rhythm and where the stitches are nice and even. On the calico practice sandwich I found that where I could see the entire quilting pattern I was able to sew evenly and with consistent stitches, but where the sandwich was moving away from me the presser foot prevented me from having a clear view of where I was heading and so I subconsciously hesitated and slowed down which made the stitches shorter. This is something to practice.


The bowl was a great project to practice that hand placement and steady feeding of the sandwich. It was a simple project that just involved making a sandwich of two fabrics and some batting, quilting a free motion spiral from the centre to the size of a dinner plate and then cutting the actual circle. Then we gathered the edges and sewed on some binding. Et voilĂ !

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4 more FMQ lessons to go – next time we will do free motion loops, then we will quilt to follow a pattern printed on some fabric and then the big mother project of all will be a quilt sampler on a solid whole cloth and I am really looking forward to that. Photos to come later, of course!

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