My new year’s resolution for 2018 was to learn to free motion quilt. I started the year out trying a new design every week but soon ran out of impetus. After having a break for a couple months I decided I wanted to start practicing again. I asked Minerva Crafts to send me a Madeira Thread Set (I’m a total sucker for variegated threads!) along with some Calico Fabric.

I like to practice on a plain coloured pale background so the thread really stands out. It allows me to easily see any mistakes. So calico is ideal for that, or any pale scraps you have to hand. I cut the calico into small squares – approx. 15 inches – and put a scrap of Wadding behind. I try to do a different design on each square, sometimes I do 2 on 1 square.  

This was my first time using Madeira threads, they were very well presented in a sturdy box you can use for storage, plus they are very beautiful. Not only are they varigated but they have a sheen/shimmer to them too. The boxset would make a great gift, Minerva have a few different boxsets available to choose from.

I started off practising the standard meander, this is one I’ve done a few times before so it was more to warm up and check the thread works ok for free motion. I had no problems. I then went into swirls with hearts too for something a bit different. FYI if like me you own a Janome machine they sell a special bobbin case (blue dot) for free motion which has lower tension. I always use it when I free motion quilt, I find it makes the back as neat as the front, no lose stitches or eyelashing.

I started Angela Walter’s free motion challenge earlier in the year, so today I watched lesson 6 – wavy line quilting and serpentine quilting and had a go at both. I definitely need more practice, for some reason my serpentine lines lost their curve the higher up I went and the ones to the left were much better than the ones to right. I’ve found practice really matters for free motion quilting, and that certain designs seem to come naturally whereas others take a lot of practice to get to grips with them.

Talking about getting to grips, I find it easier to move my fabric under the needle if I wear Quilting Gloves. They help to grip the fabric, and cause less back and shoulder sprain, my pair are shown in the meander picture above. I find if you don’t use them you get backache pretty fast. No matter how much I try to relax I always tense up when free motion quilting, plus pulling and pushing fabric under the needle takes its toll.

I’ve been using a couple of books to help me learn free motion quilting. Leah Day’s 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs is great for ideas. It does just show 365 designs, not details on how to make them (see pic below). However, on her site there is a video for every one of them. 

Christina Cameli’s First Steps in Free Motion Quilting gives you the basic info you need to get started, detailed information on how to do different designs and several projects to make too. For the next design I decided to try the leaves design from Christina’s book.

I already had a bobbin wound with a similar brown to the variegated thread so to save time I thought I’d use that. Big mistake, the bobbin jammed up and it didn’t work. Looks like these threads work best with the same thread used in the bobbin. I just sliced that bit off my square and restarted the design.

The only downside with using variegated thread is that sometimes the bobbin thread ends up a different colour than the top thread. For instance, in the leaves design I ended up with brown bobbin thread over yellow top thread, which left visible bobbin stitches. That’s why some of the leaves look speckled. Not ideal. It would probably not show so much on a coloured background. Although the variegated colour changes don’t show well in the photos the threads did have a nice colour changing effect and they have a bit of a shine which would be great for decorative stitching. I look forward to using them again.