Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A FMQ Light Bulb Moment

I have been doing a lot of reading in preparation for my Free Motion Quilting Basics classes which I teach at my LQS.  I have especially been reviewing these books.  

After reading through First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli a second time, something finally clicked.  Christina recommends quilting away from you in a counter-clockwise direction.  She says that this makes it easier to see what you have already quilted, so you don't run into your previous stitches.  

It was her words of a counter-clockwise direction that finally sunk in.  That is backwards from how I have always quilted with all over designs like meandering, loops, and swirls.  When piecing or quilting with the walking foot whatever you have just sewn goes behind the needle.  When quilting away from you, what you have just quilted is in front of the needle and you are pulling the quilt towards you.  Completely backwards!  

I believe that most techniques are worth trying at least once, so I have been experimenting quilting away from me for the past month since my first class.  It was difficult to wrap my mind around quilting backwards.  However, I have to say that I now absolutely love it!!!  

I have taken some pictures along the way to show how much better the view is when quilting away from you.  

In the following picture I am quilting my quilt Cherish with a flower design from Christina's second book (which she calls Cherish).  I have just finished one flower and have limited space between flowers to quilt before starting the next flower.  This is what my view would normally look like when quilting towards me.  

In this next picture I have drawn over what I just barely quilted with black and my previous quilting in blue.  

Now look at the difference when quilting away from me.  

It is much easier to quilt between those flowers.  

Especially when my cream thread blends in so well with the yellow.  

And my quilting machine (a Tiara) has a great view.  Imagine the difference it makes when quilting on a domestic sewing machine.  

There is a lot more machine blocking the view on a domestic.  And I have had crinks in my neck from peering around behind the needle before.  

I have also quilted away from me on my husband's quilt and my brother's quilt.  In the picture below you can see I am quilting away from me and to the right up into the corner.  

I have to say that not only is the view better, but I have less drag on the quilt itself.  I am now changing the direction I quilt an all over pattern.  

I will say that I think this only makes a big difference on all over designs when sitting down to quilt.  When quilting in rows like on this blue baby quilt, I still quilt one row away and the next row towards me.  (That keeps the design more continuous.)

I also don't think it would make a difference on block designs, because you have to quilt the entire shape anyway.  

In my second Free Motion Quilting Basics class last Saturday, I encouraged my students to try quilting away from them.  I think they liked the view better as well.  

As a side note, I just wanted to say that it was so nice teaching the same class more than once (same class different students).  This time I went in with more realistic expectations for what we could cover during the class.  I spent the first hour going over background information: batting, needles, thread, basting... Then went over starting to quilt and tension.  They then worked to get good tension on their machines.  After which I talked about doodling and different quilting designs.  Then they doodled before moving on to quilting those designs.  While I still wish the class could go longer than three hours, this is what the manager feels is best.  I will teach the basics class one more time next month.  I have a part two where we will quilt a baby quilt scheduled for next month as well, however no one has signed up for that yet.  

My students really liked my handouts.  Only one of them had previous experience with FMQ, and she especially loved the handouts showing multiple designs.  

I am looking forward to my next class and continuing to quilt with a better view!  Please tell me that I am not the only one who didn't know this.  What direction do you normally quilt?  


P.S.  I will be linking up with some of the fun parties on my sidebar.  Check them out to see what other quilters are doing.  


  1. Oh Jasmine you are making such great progress with your FMQ. I hope to follow your lead and get in a lot of practice myself this summer when I am off. So glad your classes are going well. Every quilt shop needs a basic class like yours.

  2. I was not brave enough to try FMQing without a class first, and I took a class from Elizabeth Hartman at QuiltCon in 2013. She had us start in the lower right hand corner of our samples which forced us to quilt away from us. As I had no previous experience or bad habits, this just always seemed the way to go. I have to admit that puzzling out the best way to move and use my long arm has been a trick, recently, though!

  3. Thank you for sharing, Jasmine. Great information! Also glad your classes are going so well. Some times we want to practice before we comfortable moving to a higher level so don't give up on the baby quilt FMQ class. If it doesn't fill, try again in a few months. Thanks again, Jasmine!

  4. that makes sense but not really sure how I do it but I will pay attention on the next quilt. I am hoping it will be this weekend! great tip and thanks for sharing.

  5. Since I stand to quilt, I have my table height at elbow level. I like it higher than most so I can see what I am doing! I have to quilt left to right, but I can and do go top to bottom to top down the quilt when fmq. I will be checking which way I do swirls though next time as I haven't got any idea which way I go!

  6. I will be quilting one of my quilts this next month and I'm very happy to hear you tip and your experiences with quilting away. I can see the advantage of it and am anxious to try it out on my quilt.

  7. Quilting away from me? I'll try that! Thank you for the tip as I tend to get stuck in small spaces and it looks as this will help me avoid that with a better view of where I'm going. I hope all of your classes go well :)

  8. I think it is great that you were up to the challenge of trying something new. This will really help you as you teach. Your quilting is really looking amazing!

  9. Well, having just finished another tree in my Brrrrr Park quilt, where I did swoop-dee-swoops, I go both ways. I was thinking of our conversation of the other day on this very topic, and tried to figure out which way I liked better...it didn't seem to make a difference for this pattern; in fact, the "normal" way of the fabric feeding to the back was better as I could see the point of the next triangle I was aiming for. I do know that I also get cricks in my neck from peering behind the needle! Will try to pay attention on the feathers part of this quilt...heading to your Boot Camp post for the links!

  10. My natural inclination is to start quilting in the top left corner and work my way down the quilt, but that does sometimes cause me some trouble when the thread blends so well I can't easily see where my stitches are. I've been taking one of Christina's classes on Craftsy. My eye opening moment came when I realized it was okay for me to stop the machine and think about where I needed the pattern to go and the best way to get there. I did a quilt today with one of her patterns and I found myself mostly quilting away from me, which worked out so much better!

  11. Great info Jasmine. What little I've done, I think I was doing the same as you. I wish I was close to take your class! Your handouts look great :)

  12. I have heard of this tip before somewhere but never remember it when I actually quilt. I'll definitely have to make sure to remember to try it on a few quilts I want to do FMQ on and see the difference!

  13. I'm sitting here reading this and holding my hands out in front of me trying to visualize how I do this! I'll definitely pay attention to this the next time I'm doing FMQ at my machine! Great tip!

  14. jasmine, leave it to you to make it clear! I mostly quilt toward myself and clockwise if I remember it right. I will have to try this. LeeAnna

  15. Thanks for the tip, I'll have to try it out!

  16. Hmmm. I quilt downwards because I longarm and that's how I was taught. I wonder if you can quilt upwards on a long arm? Probably? I agree, though, my quilting thread usually blends in and it's hard to know where to go next!

  17. I like how you illustrated this post. It makes what you are talking about so clear. And no matter which direction you go, your FMQ is beautiful. I'n a novice, but I FMQ on a domestic machine and usually start in the bottom right and quilt away from myself. I may have learned this from reading Elizabeth Hartman's blog. But for the last quilt I did, I was able to quilt some parts in rows the entire length of the quilt (a little less than 60 inches). I bunched it up horizontally under the arm of the machine and then quilted my way out (the quilting was going from left to right). The quilting got easier and easier as the bulk came out from under the arm, and I still generally worked away from myself. Good luck with your classes. I'm sure you're a great teacher. Your handouts look really helpful.

  18. How great to see the words I have read in Christina's book actually shown in great detail. You did a great job showing how much better the view is when you "quilt away". Thanks for writing this post and sharing your success Jasmine!
    Glad to hear how well your teaching in a class is going too!

  19. I've been wanting to practice a little FMQ on my domestic instead of being so reliant on my longarm. I'm so glad you posted this tip. It seems like a small detail at first, but I think you're right. It will make a huge difference!!!


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