Friday, January 13, 2012

Free Motion Quilting - Attempt #1

Of all the different components of making a quilt, the actual quilting is really my least favorite part. In fact, I think that might be why I like making large quilts. Then I can justify sending them out and having someone else quilt them for me! I generally do straight line quilting just to get it done fast. On the rare special occasion, I'll do some shape tracing on a quilt like this one. I have taken a free motion quilt class locally, but can't seem to find my notes from class (typical).

So I decided to join in on Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge 2012. With one exercise per month this should hopefully get me to practice FMQ. And maybe if I get good at it I won't hate it??





So the first tutorial was posted here and I got my scraps of batting and fabric together to make my quilt sandwich. I practiced my leaf shape.


It doesn't look too horrible from far away. Just a little wobbly, definitely in need of some repetitive practice. Shall we take a closer look though???


WTH people!? Tension issues? Of course the tutorial doesn't mention much about threads and tension. She uses King Tut and AMC. I have neither of those in my stock and wasn't planning to buy special threads for this. I guess I should google and see what weights those threads are?  I used Gutterman and my usual 90/14 needle.

Here was the nightmare on the back... if you can see past the crazy fabric.


I stopped and put back on a regular foot and ran a basting stitch around the outside. That seemed to help shore up the tension a little better and I was able to finish up like this.


Still, you can see the loop from beneath is definitely more on top than it should be. Adjusting my tension didn't help. I'm remembering now that with my bobbin, I should be putting the thread through the "finger hole". I'll do that next time.

Anyone have suggestions? Those who are good with FMQ - what do supplies do you use? Do you change tension? Anyone else joining in on this challenge?


21 comments:

Sally said...

What type of machine do you have? I used to take the presser of the foot but now i leave it on. I also don't change the tension from what it was with normal straight sewing. It just takes practice. But i also find if you move more slowly then it works well.

Pat said...

There are little washer-like things (very thin plastic circles that looke like notebook paper reinforcements) that go in your bobbin case. Inexpensive, for a back of 12 (?). They help. I think you have other tension issues though. Also might be a thread & needle combo issue. Try a 16 needle, with 40 weight thread in both top and bottom.

Shannon said...

Oh, that is so frustrating!! I hate when that happens! I check and change the tension for every project before I start. I find that I have to change a lot between piecing and quilting with the walking foot. The tension usually falls somewhere in between for free motion. I also use a size 80 needle - usually when I have a tension issue that can't be fixed by changing the tension, I change the needle size.

Lindsay said...

That looks very frustrating and is part of the reason why I am so afraid of FMQ! Thanks for sharing this challenge though, I think it will help me to get over my fears and start practicing!

Thanks also for the info about spray basting. Even though it takes longer I think I'll stick with my pins!

KD-Quilts said...

I had a Brother and never had a single tension problem FMQ. I just got a janome and had that same eyelash problem on the back. After some research and help from friends I learns that I needed the tension to be at 8 and the bobbin tension just past 0. After this my stitches came out perfect! Hope that helps you a little!

wipgirl said...

You should also check out Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting blog. She's doing a weekly challenge to get people practising FMQ, since you never get good if you don't practise, and she's talked quite a bit in the last week or so about tension issues (and how sometimes it's not tension but just not moving your hands fast enough for the machine or moving your hands too fast for the machine speeed).

Lee said...

Tension always seems to be a huge problem with freemotion! For some reason I have to crank mine up to 8 to do FMQ. 8 would be a CRAZY setting under any other circumstances on my machine. So don't be afraid to just keep adjusting until it looks right.

Also I think the speed that I'm moving the quilt affects my tension as well. I set my machine's speed control on medium to medium-fast, and that seems to help me get the rhythm right. It's all about the interaction between the speed of your needle and the speed of your hands moving the quilt.

Good luck! Don't give up!

TheaM said...

your top tension is w-a-y too loose - try tightening it (right-tight) a little bit at a time until the tension on both top/bottom is even. Always practice with different colors of top/bottom thread - it's easier to see which is causing the problem that way.
When in doubt - re-thread the machine from start to finish -- the thread may have 'jumped' out of a tension or guide somewhere along the way to the needle.
Also - never use a 'partially filled' bobbin - the bobbin tension can be affected if the bobbin is not wound smoothly with a constant tension.

Marci Girl said...

I tried FMQ for the first time right before Christmas, and I was lucky and had success with very little effort, though at first my stitches did look like yours, so it must be a tension issue. I normally have my tension around 5 or 6, but had to move it to around 13. Good lucky Becky!

Kati said...

So sorry about your thread issues. I've had very few problems with FMQ on either machine I have. I've usually used Gutterman, so nothing fancy. I up my tension just a bit-- 4 is normal on my machine and I do 4.6. I've only had problems when I forget to actually put the foot down--really dumb user error. :) Good luck and don't give up. Quilting is one of my favorite parts of the process.

LJ said...

I, too, have joined the FMQ Challenge. I love that little leaf design and thought it was the best FMing that I've ever done - it was explained so well. I'm NOT an expert but have you checked out: freemotionquilting.blogspot.com

Leah doesn't drop her feed dogs and just moves the stitch length down to 0. I had pretty good luck doing that.

Hollie said...

I wish I could help with some thoughtful advice but I am a free motion chicken. Hope you figure out your tension issues.

Carissa Pierce said...

It looks like you forgot to drop your presser foot. When using a darning foot for FMQ, it is really easy to forget to drop the foot. Try doing a small sandwich again but this time be sure to engage your presser foot. I took my whole machine and quilt over an hour away to a quilt shop for help. When I got there, I was informed that neglected to drop the foot...

Good luck!

Carissa

Leila said...

Did you use a new needle? Sometimes that can help.

CitricSugar said...

I just got a new janome for Christmas and have finally started to try my hand at FMQ. I had to ratchet up the tension on the top thread to get it even. Also, I found that I had much better luck ignoring the instructions and setting the stitch length to .75 rather than zero. I haven't practiced too much but it does seem to be working for me. I use Gutermann 100% cotton thread, 80/14 size needles.

Another thing: the sewing machine store sold me a spare bobbin-chase but the tension on it is slightly lower than the regular one. It's specifically for finer fabrics and FMQ - I haven't tried it out yet but it's supposed to help get the tension more even throughout. It has a coloured part so that you can tell which bobbin-chase is which.

Barbara Sindlinger said...

You can't be afraid to play with tension. Each thread, batting and fabric and all the combos each require different needles and tensions.

SewCalGal said...

Each machine, thread, needle combination creates a variety of challenges that make it difficult to add info into a tutorial for this challenge. But, througout the year, more insights will be shared.

How long since your machine has been serviced? Oiled, cleaned? While you can do FMQ with Guertermann, I must admit I've had much easier and better results with higher quality 40-50 wt threads.

Keep playing with your tensions. You may want to simply draw straight lines or circles, although the leaf motif is still a good exercise to troubleshoot your tension issues. Time to pull out your manual and play with your tension settings. Your FMQ work is fine, I think this is a machine issue. But, you may want to try a spool of Aurifil, or Superior 40-50 wt thread and see how your machine responds.

SewCalGal
www.sewcalgal.blogspot.com

Mandy said...

When I first started fmq I kept reading that I should take off the tension, but I have found that I have to take it all the way up to 9 and it works great.

Claire Jain said...

Oh man, I definitely need to attempt some FMQ myself. Thanks for sharing this info!

Quilter Kathy said...

Definitely looks like a tension issue. I would rethread and make sure the thread is in the tension discs well. Don't thread the machine when the pressure foot is down or it doesn't thread properly. Keep at it...your quilting looks great in spite of the tension issue. Your needle and thread combination should work well.

Margaret said...

giant back loops indicate you should immediately rethread the top thread. If it still loops some, then tighten the top. You'll find its easiest to tension equal weight threads, or use a bobbin ever so thinner.

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