Saturday, 29 March 2014

Planning around your FMQ design

So you've decided on a FMQ design to go on your freshly completed quilt sit down on your machine...and off you go!

Wouldn't that be great:)

Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as that. I was thinking about this the other day and thought I might like to capture the steps that I go through to start FMQ on the actual quilt.
1. I start with doodling the design when I am coming to the end of construction of my quilt see whether the design will flow for me and what areas are going to give me some trouble.
2. After doodling for a few days, I start drawing a bit more purposefully - drawing the design into rows, going from left to right and returning back from right to left ( this is in preparation for the quilt which will be quilted in quarters in a clockwise direction)

This is the design I chose for my baby quilt: Jester Hats by Wendy Sheppard. Saw this on SewCalGal's FMQ Challenge in 2012.

3. As you can see lots of doodling going on I start thinking about scale.  For an overall design this step is important as I want the design to be somewhat consistent.  Would be great if one could just sit down and rattle it off, but I would not think that many people could do that. For my current quilt, I looked at the blocks which are 8" square and decided I would use them as a bit of a grid. The idea is that I would fill half of the block with the design as I travel along from the centre of the quilt to the outer border, hence my design would fit into a 3-4" space as I go along.

4. Next, trialling the design...I usually have a bit of a practice before I start on the quilt, and this involves a number of samples, as I am also trialling different threads, tension etc.

As you can see I used a fairly large sample and while this may appear quite wasteful in terms of fabric this is quite useful when aiming for a larger scale design. On my sample I started out a tad too narrow for my liking and then was able to spread it out a bit more to a nice open design only to loose the plot when I came down to the border fabric...I started to become a tad too big where my spaces in between started to be about 1" apart. Seems that my limit is somewhere around the 1/2" - 3/4 " spacing. That level allows me to stay reasonably consistent in the design. More practice is probably indicated to work a bit more on interlocking the design a bit better. Next one looked definitely better.

6. Now for the big step of actually going on the quilt. As odd as this sounds but I usually have a drawing of the design at the scale that I am aiming for close by so that I can look at it while I am sewing...this helps me to stay on track.

Incidentally I also am trying out my new Pinmoors. Only got one packet to start with, so I am using both, Pinmoors and basting pins on the quilt. 

Well, this is how far I got on the quilt...certainly gives a lot of texture to the quilt. Took me a while to get into a rhythm with this design and I struggled a bit with the scale at times, but I am glad I pushed past this and did not fall back into the familiar meandering.

Popping over to Leah Day's FMQ Project Link Up to see the progress of the Building Blocks Quilt that Leah has been working on.



  1. Thank you so much for sharing your insight(s) on how to begin FMQ on a finished quilt top. I'm so new to FMQ that sometimes I just want to jump right in and sew. I would also be interested to know how you decide what to quilt on a top. I am working on finishing some quilt tops and I am thinking of what to do, but don't know how to decide. I've always wanted to learn how to stipple and I'm working up to that. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Fantastic review of your process Karin and your efforts really paid off ! The quilting is just beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love how you showed us all your steps in preparation for quilting. Sometimes, quilting takes me such a long time! I also practice and leave a sample close by. I always FMQ too small! I'm trying to quilt larger. I like the idea of choosing a block on the quilt and using that as a way to control the quilting. Thanks for sharing! Very useful info!

  4. I hear the voice of experience, Karin. I am about to starting the FMQ phase of a large intricately pieced quilt and you can bet I will be testing a design or two and working out a good scale before the real quilting begins.

  5. Hello Karin,
    You picked just the right quilting design for this quilt. It shows up especially well on the white sections. Well worth all the preparation!
    Love, Muv

  6. Thank you for sharing your trialling process. You're so right - the quilting process is not something to hurry through and finish. I love how your allover design is coming out. Really beautiful. It really adds its own voice to the quilt song. I had not been fully convinced that this was possible on a small machine - those beautiful, relaxed, flowing curves, but I believe it now. Inspiring.

  7. Hello! Found your blog on the hunt for others who are loving their Pfaff QE 4.2 sewing machine. I've had mine since last November but just now getting around to exploring all she can do, a wonderful machine. Have enjoyed reading your posts about your experiences with the 4.2.

    I'd like to add a method I use for previewing quilting designs. Learned it while taking a class last year. All you need is a large piece of thin clear vinyl (mostly used to cover a tablecloth so it won't be soiled ect, at my local fabric's house they have several weights on long rolls over in the home dec area), and a fine point Sharpie marker, any color that shows up well so that you can see it on the vinyl. The method is simple: lay the vinyl piece over your quilt top - then doodle designs to fit whatever area you are working on. Works great for border designs too. I use Windex window cleaner or alcohol mixed with water to clean the vinyl. I bought 2 yds and cut into several large pieces, then I don't have to keep running to clean it if what I've been doodling doesn't suit me I have a fresh piece to use right away.

    Nice to *meet* you Karin, I've saved your blog to BlogLovin' so's not to miss your reports of sewing with your Pfaff! BTW, my husband is the owner of a German restaurant (30 yrs!), his Mom was German, dad American.


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