Wish You Were Here! Free Motion Quilting Workshop

Photo courtesy of Sue Heinz

Free motion quilting.  We all want learn how to take our machine quilting to the next level.

On Saturday, several of us gathered at the Textile Center for a Free Motion Quilting workshop with Sue Heinz.  Although our FMQ experience coming into the class varied, I'm the one who's never tried it.  Not even once.  Heck, I've never taken a quilt class either.  It was a day to become more familiar with popular designs on paper, experience many of Sue's favorite techniques and tools of the trade, and even try out our new skills with our machines.

Before taking out our pens and pencils, Sue talked extensively about her favorite quilting basics including how to get the most out of starch, Elmer's school glue, and Sharon Schamber's method (Part 1 and Part 2) for hand basting without pins or spray adhesive.

1, 2 ... Sixth time's a charm!

Then we started with step-by-step instructions for free motion designs including pebbling and stipple but moving into more intricate grid and medallion work.  Sue stressed the importance of becoming confident with drawing the design before threading your machine.  We concentrated on speed and control, setting in the "muscle memory" which would help us later while Sue looked for any bad habits.  I'm sure she found a few!

For meandering threadwork, the trick is to think where you want to head next so that you don't leave gaps in your design (or lift your pencil from the paper.)  As we moved onto more complicated patterns on chalked-in or stitched grids, that part became easier because Sue's already mapped them out.

She taught us several of her own designs, available in her books at Kismet Quilting.  

For a little taste of what we got in the class, you can watch Sue's video demonstration of her grid pattern "Rush Hour" as well as her "Knot So Fast" method for neatly tying off and burying threads.

First Steps... Don't Look!
I have to admit, the classroom environment aided productivity once we started to sketch and stitch.  Just like in our guild meetings, I found it helpful to compare and contrast my work with other talented quilters.  It eases stress to have that instant feedback.  At the end, when we actually put foot to pedal, my very first awkward stitches were a fun experience with very little gnashing of teeth.  It was liberating to be trying something new with so many other machines happily humming around me.

Some of my classmates generously offered photos of their work sandwiches.  I hope this is helpful for those of you working on this at home.  You're not alone!

Ellen's Meander practices stitch length control

Check out Tracy's first "Fuschias"

Tracy shows off the possibilities of Gridwork

Chris' Sampler - I love it!

It was also helpful to learn how seemingly complicated designs break down into doable steps.  I was intrigued by the intricate possibilities opened-up by grid and medallion work.  (Just think of a medallion as a grid in pie-wedge form.)  Additionally, being able to try tools (like Flaun's favorite, the Supreme Slider) was eye-opening after first experiencing the friction inherent in FMQ.  And how much future stress was eliminated by Sue's quick tip to use a hand mirror to check the back of your work as you go?  Lots to think about.  I guess that's why it can be useful to take a class.  

See you next time!


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