Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cabbage Key, FL

Today I did a little free motion quilting (FMQ) on a gift quilt. The center of this quilt is large, pieced hearts in five different fabrics: a green, a gold, a dark brown, a medium brown, and a rusty red.

I wanted each fabric to have its own FMQ motif, so I sketched a number of ideas. Because the hearts are squared off, it was a real challenge for me to come up with five different designs. Ones that look good on my sketch paper didn't always work the way I wanted them to on the large heart. I use a piece of clear plastic and a dry-erase pen to test the designs.

The blue tape around the edge of the plastic keeps me from drawing right off the edge onto the fabric! I need to write something like "draw only on this side" on the tape, too. Even after wiping off the pen, there is still some that lingers so I try to draw on the same side of the plastic each time, keeping the pristine side down. The plastic is 8.5" x 11", so you can see how big these hearts are.

Ready to stitch the first red heart. I wear Wonder Grip gardening gloves to keep a good solid hold on the fabric as I guide it under the needle. There are specialty quilting gloves for this, but garden gloves work just as well and are cheap. I like this brand because they are nice and tight on my small hands.

The first time Sean saw the gloves, he read the brand as Wonder Girl and commented that it was a bit grandiose! Harrumph! I may not be very good at FMQ, but I'm getting better all the time.

By the way, for my non-quilting readers, the "free motion" part of this technique means that instead of letting the sewing machine pull the fabric through in a straight line, the feed mechanism is disengaged so the fabric can be pushed and pulled around in any direction. The direction and stitch length is completely controlled by various body parts, with stitch speed controlled by the foot pedal. At first, this feels a lot like patting your head while rubbing your stomach while writing cursive in a mirror.

Anyway, the FMQ design that I chose for the red hearts is a simple, angular set of triangles and diamonds that fill up most of the space. I used Angela Walter's "dot to dot" method, and finished quilting those today. That's the good news. The bad news is that because I used red thread, the motif is very difficult to photograph on the red fabric. But here it is on the back. If you look closely you can see the squared off heart outlined in cream thread.


The backing fabric for this quilt is fleece, and I used no batting. I had this great red, cream and tan argyle fleece, but it wasn't quite big enough to cover the entire back. So I pieced it with some cream fleece in a big checkerboard. Fleece is interesting to work with: it doesn't fray, but it also doesn't iron flat. So I finished the seams by sewing them down on the back (the inside of the quilt.) Fleece is also quite stretchy, which is a mixed blessing.

On the green hearts, I chose a FMQ motif that makes the heart look like a giant hosta leaf. It ended up right between two sections of fleece.

I'll share more bits and pieces of this quilt as I work on it, but the big final reveal won't happen until after the recipient has it safely on his/her lap.


  1. Looking forward to learning more of your techniques for FMQ. I have tried FMQ a couple of times and have mixed feelings. I certainly need more practice. While in our storage unit at home base I pulled two small quilts to practice on. Not sure how much longer my hands will allow me to hand quilt 😏 I have 3 more quilts I am working on for the grand boys I would like to hand quilt.

  2. I like the two designs you've done so far. I have heard about the dot to dot technique but haven't explored it yet. Love the hosta leaf.

  3. Thanks to your comment on my blog, I have found you, and wow, look at all you've done!! And I love, love, love the photo of the quilts on the boat in your header. And then I read that you wouldn't be displaying them that way again. Aw, but they look so pretty there! I will definitely be back!


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