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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Practice Quilt Sandwiches For Free Motion Quilting


A year ago, my machine quilting skills were pretty much limited to using a walking foot and stitching in the ditch.  I observed many new quilters that were quickly becoming quite talented in the area of free-motion quilting, and I decided to set off on a year of research, to see if an average quilter "like me" could learn to do free-motion quilting.  Or, as some might say, can an old quilter like me learn new quilting skills?

I began researching FMQ experts that had written books, as well as those that had created DVDs.  I also signed up for every FMQ class that worked for my schedule.  While, I'm far from being an FMQ Expert, I am truly impressed with how this year of FMQ research has changed my perspective on FMQ.  I have now quilted small and medium size quilts with beautiful FMQ Feathers and a variety of other designs, that I previously would have never thought I could do.  And, I'm confident, if you spend a year working on your FMQ skills, you too will be pleasantly surprised how much you will improve.  Yes, Virginia, you too can be great at FMQ!  Thus, I hope the 2012 FMQ Challenge inspires more quilters to take the pledge to learn and/or improve your FMQ

Today, I want to share with you some of my insights on Practice quilt sandwiches for Free Motion Quilting.  They are a critical key for you to learn and improve your FMQ skills.

Practice quilt sandwiches, aka Sample quilt sandwiches, can take on a variety of sizes, colors, and batting combinations.  As you gain more experience, you'll most likely want to be sure you are using a high quality quilt store 100% cotton, superior quality low-loft batting (100% cotton, wool or silk), and superior quality threads (40-50 wt cotton or silk thread).  Please refer to a prior post for more insights on supplies in general.

I prefer to thread baste or pin my quilts that I plan to do heavy FMQ work on.  You may be loyal to spray basting, which is not my favorite for FMQ, but I want you to form your own opinion by trying a practice quilt sandwich that has been spray basted vs one that has not been spray basted. And,  if you find your needle gums up, or you have problems with your stitching, do try a non-spray basted sample quilt and see if you find a difference in your FMQ! 

{above} Practice quilt sandwiches are an excellent way to check your thread tension, color and FMQ design.  I know many FMQ Experts that practice on quilt sandwiches made out of scrap fabric, blocks, batting from their quilt project.  To clarify, many like to practice FMQ and play with threads on a practice quilt sandwich that is similar to their primary quilt.  In the photograph above, I identified problems with thread tension, by playing with my practice quilt sandwich.    This problem can also happen by moving your sandwich too fast on curves, so remember to keep your sandwich movement and machine speed consistent.  Even for the experienced FMQ quilter, FMQ Practice quilt sandwiches can help identify and resolve issues before you work on your primary quilt.

While I tend to play with a new design on my practice quilt sandwich, there have been many times where I've played with new FMQ designs on a charity quilts.  In the case of this charity quilt (photo above), this was my first time to seriously practice with rock/mini-circle designs.  I was also bold to try to create a feathered flower design, without following anything that I found in a book, video or other source.  I would have never have attempted doing this a year ago.  While my feathered floral motif isn't great, this practice quilt sandwich still works, and will also be functional as a charity quilt.
For some of my practice quilt sandwiches I marked circles, using a CD, and then did various FMQ designs inside of these circles.
{above} This sample was created during a class I took with Diane Gaudynski.  While not one of the best student samples, I was pleased and definitely learned how to apply this technique to a variety of FMQ designs.   I'm definitely looking to practicing this design on more practice quilt sandwiches, to master it for use on my quilts.  To clarify, the above was my first attempt and quite a challenge for me.

{above} I also found it fun to use stencils to create FMQ motifs.

{above}This is a good example of using fabric from our stash and how some prints are simply not desirable for practice quilt sandwiches.  While it is fine to use fabric from your stash, try to use prints that will allow you to easily see your stitching.  


{above} this is an example of using stencils with other FMQ designs.  I'll later share insights about marking tools, as you can see in the fabric how the marking tool "bleached" the fabric.  There are many non-quilting marking tools that have sharp points and free flow of ink, but I've painfully learned the importance of using marking tools that are truly marketed for quilters.  Again, I'll share more on this soon.  In the meantime, I want to encourage you to thoroughly test any fabric marking tool you use, before you use it on a quilt project.
{above}  A good exercise is to use a stencil motif to mark your quilt and practice FMQ by quilting on the stencil lines, followed by using a filler design.
{above} Another fun exercise is to mark your quilt with a stencil design, quilt by stitching on the lines, followed by one or two echo lines of that design, before you pursue using a filler FMQ design.

{above} This Practice Sandwich is a good example of a variety of exercises.  I continually use every inch of a quilt to practice various FMQ designs.

{above} Here is a Sampler quilt design that works well to use to show a variety of FMQ designs.  You may want to create such a sampler quilt for the 2012 FMQ Challenge. Tomorrow, I'll also share a sampler quilt design that I'm recommending for those that want to create such a sampler quilt, using designs from the 12 FMQ Experts.

Remember, Practice Quilt Sandwiches are meant to be tools to help you learn and/or improve your FMQ skills.  Try using different batting (e.g. brands of batting, type of batting like a wool or silk batting).  Your practice quilt sandwich can work in a variety of sizes, but my general recommendation is for something along the size of ~18-24" x 18-24".  As you progress, you may want to practice one or two designs on small quilts, such as a Linus charity quilt.

Some quilters like to keep their practice quilt sandwiches, others will re-purpose them.  The possibilities to re-purpose are endless:  hot pads, lining for inside of bags, totes, table toppers, wallhangings, pet beds, etc..

Do remember to practice.  If a design feels like it is giving you a challenge, remember that repetition helps to embed that design to your muscle memory.  Try doing a particular design ten times, but keep repeating it, till you master it.  Remember, I'm not an FMQ expert, but I'm no longer satisfied with quilting in the ditch.  There are so many beautiful FMQ designs that I want to master.  I'm certainly looking forward to mastering 12 new FMQ designs, or more, in 2012!  And, I hope you are too!

31 comments:

Quilt Kitty said...

Wow,some of that looks a bit daunting at this stage but ready to give it all a go.

Quiltin' Sandy said...

I haven't even used my walking foot yet, and my machine is a few years old. I have always quilted by hand but would love to do FMQ, I will definitely give it a try in the New Year. :0)

Teresa said...

I can't wait for this year. I'm looking forward to encouragement to try new things.

Jackie said...

I'm getting excited! :)

Kristen said...

I am really looking forward to this. I've stitched in the ditch and stippled for years and I am ready to spread my wings! Besides, I refuse to pay someone else to do something I'm quite sure I can do myself! :)

Cynthia Stockdon said...

This sounds exciting!

Billye said...

How exciting! I'm really looking forward to this challenge. I hope I'm up to it!

StitchingBahma said...

I'm so excited about getting started. It looks like it will be quite a challenge but I think I'm ready! Thanks.

Rashida Khanbhai said...

I definitely am looking at joining in, but will be Feb before I do. Look forward to it.

Sharon said...

I am so glad that I have decided to take this challenge. i have also stitched int he ditch until I have gotten bored with it and when I make my purses I have tried doing some stippling but I hope after this year I will be able to grow from that. Thanks for all your tips and ideas they help me to focus on a direction that will help me learn....

Barb said...

I so enjoyed seeing your different samples and how you have worked on improving your skills. Thanks!

Cornwoman said...

Thanks! I'll probably be re-reading this one a few times.

Sue Daurio said...

You bet I practice! I've been practicing all week. Can't wait to get started!!

Lisa said...

Wow. You do great work already! Can't wait to get started!

@pril said...

The first picture with the eyelashes on the back, look like what I've been doing. I can't seem to get it right.

@pril
KoolBeenz-blog.blogspot.com
For-the-Love-of-Pie.blogspot.com

Talin's Corner said...

Wow your quilting looks fantastic. I can't believe you learned all this within one year. I love the quilting you did in the 5th picture (class with Diane Gaudynsk).

WoolenSails said...

You definitely learned how to do beautiful free motion, wonderful pieces.
I am going to practice this year, my main problem is the sandwich, I hate pinning so I have to get used to it;) I want to do charity quilts, so thought lap quilts for the elderly and wheel chairs would be a good way to start and practice.

Debbie

MC said...

So far I've only ever practised FMQ on test quilt sandwiches, but I'm hoping to donate everything I create for the challenge this year to my local humane society, where they will become security blankets for abandoned kitties. (This is is inspired by the Snuggles Project)

KaHolly said...

WOW! You progressed so nicely. I just might give it a try.

M and M plus 3 said...

Looking forward to the challenge. I'm trying to get things finished up to be ready! Thanks for sponsoring this challenge!

Hillbilly Tonya said...

I've got a bunch of ugly yellow, but top quality quilters cotton that is waiting on me to get started. I think I just will.

I love the new bloggy look!

Josie McRazie said...

I cannot reiterate how much I am looking forward to this challenge! I am so psyched!!

Kat Scribner said...

Hmmm, mastering 12 designs? So...this is not the beginner class? I haven't learned to stipple yet. We are a Christian home,so there won't be any wine-wasting moments either. Okay, relax first? I'm counting on a stash of chocolate.

Cecelia said...

Wow! That is awesome, can't wait!

lcscottage said...

Loved seeing your samples and what you learned from them!

KnittyAJ said...

Can't wait to get started.... Love your samples.

Lorri said...

This looks so difficult! Ok, ready to give it a try first thing tomorrow!

shelly said...

Hay now went and got some quality muslin at local quilt shop....and some lovely batiks as well. Will cut make some sandwiches for the freemotion lesson.
Looking forward to new learning adventures and a banana split which is how we bring in the New Year at my house.

June D said...

Fun idea to put the practice design in a CD circle!

And I'm so glad you mentioned charity quilts to be used for practice too. I've seen the little practice sandwich idea, but it seemed pointless to me to just have a bunch of little examples. So putting them together using QAYG is nice - but it's more real world to actually practice with a little lap quilt. Less time too as you can just self bind and be done! Quilts for Kids http://www.quiltsforkids.org/ and other places would be happy to get the resulting quilt. I actually did this with my first two quilts - it was very freeing to know that there would be no critical reviews of my attempts...

Fran said...

I think I'll make quilt sandwiches all the same size for the challenge, then I can either put them all together for a wall quilt sampler, table runner or trash can liner. :) This is going to be fun!

Librarynan said...

Thanks for hosting this FMQ Challenge, it seems like there are a LOT of quilters out there who want to do "nice" quilting... and I'm one of them.