Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Do you FMQ? The Process...

It's been many, many weeks since I've had my hand at moving fabric around under a needle - I needed the practice, I needed the down time, I just needed to do it!  

This is a sweet little Piggy Growth Chart by The Wonderful World of Susybee and it's a fun way to get those FMQ juices flowing again.   I dove into my stash of beautiful #Aurifil Mako Cotton 50Wt threads and had some fun!!
Here are the steps that worked for me:

1.  Give your machine a good cleaning inside and out.  The Janome Horizon doesn't need to be oiled, so a good dusting did the trick.  I removed the face plate, swept all around, and discarded those dust bunnies!  It's extremely important to start with a clean machine.

2.  Outfit the machine with a Little Genie Magic Bobbin washer -- (see it below in the bobbin area ?)  These little guys are the best.  They take up that little extra space in your bobbin area and help your bobbin thread glide smoothly - especially during Free Motion Quilting zigs and zags.  One washer lasts years so they are well worth the investment (12 per package).  I've never done without one and purchased them originally on recommendation from Leah Day.   Give them a try!  Share with your friends!

3. Start with a full-up bobbin loaded with Aurifil Mako Cotton 50Wt thread.  YOU KNOW I love this thread! The 50Wt thread is thin and goes a long way to make your bobbin last and last...  I use the same thread in the top and bobbin and it works out wonderfully.  
4.  Thread, thread, thread -- was fun to open and use a brand new, full spool of Aurifil thread on the machine.  This is Mako Cotton 50 Wt in Color #2423.  Just right for the piggy and the border...
5. Feed Dogs -- to Drop or Not to Drop:
Oh NO!  Now all my secrets are out... this is a sweet little workaround to avoid dropping the feed dogs and setting the thread length to zero.

On the Horizon I find that the machine makes more consistent stitches when I leave the feed dogs UP and the thread length at 2.5.    (Yet another tip from the wonderfully skilled Leah Day).

I tape this little helper down so that my feed dogs don't damage the underside of the Supreme Slider...  PS - I do NOT engage my single hole throat plate on the Horizon as I have a small burr on the underside and it snags and breaks my thread -- I really should have that checked out ;)

NOTE:  I've replace my cardboard feed dog cover with one made from template plastic.  The template plastic holds up better to the feed dog movement and puts less "dust" into the casing area.
6. Insert a new needle --  This time I was running with a  Microtex 80/12 needle.  The Microtex Sharps are fantastic too! Aurifil recommends you use Microtex 80/12 with 50Wt thread - (I didn't realize that).  You can see their recommendations for Mako Cotton 50Wt by clicking here.

Note: My Janome Horizon 7700 REALLY likes it when I use Janome brand needles.  Superior Brand Sewing Needles are awesome too!.  If you're skipping stitches chances are your needle need to be changed and/or "right sized" or your foot needs to rest closer to the fabric.

7. Supreme Slider & Gloves:  I washed the linty back-side of my Queen Supreme Slider (so it will stick well) and gathered my Machiners X-small gloves.  The slider is a Teflon like sheet that allows your quilt to move smoothly over the machine bed.  There are other less expensive models available as well but I've not yet tried them.   The Gloves are prefect to Grip your quilt layers while manipulating for quilting.  The Machingers gloves run large -- so the X-small was well large enough for my hands.

8. Quilting Foot:  Choose and attach your favorite FMQ foot. I normally work with my open foot --if I could only find it (Where did it go ??)

Note: When I quilt around applique I almost always use a CLOSED foot.  The Open Toe Feet may catch on wool or needle turn applique pieces, especially if you're using a higher loft batting. Personally I also prefer to use a foot that is ROUND.  Some feet are square or oblong and personally I find this distracting, especially when I am echo quilting.

9. Needle down position:  Before you start stitching -- engage the "needle down" option if your machine has it.  This way, whenever you stop sewing your needle will stop in the "Down" position.   This allows you to reposition your hands without the quilt top moving.
10.  Top thread tension:   Last but not least, up the top thread tension -- this is a MUST DO for me on the Janome with Cotton fabric, Aurifil Thread, and one or two layers of batting (cotton/wool).  Works like a charm every time.  

Note: Each machine and quilting style will vary.
Woohoo!  We're ready to stitch !!

Note:  This quilt was prepared with one layer of warm and natural batting.  An additional layer of Wool or Silk batting would give much more texture to the quilting.

First I wanted to outline all the pigs, then follow their inside features as well, eyes, noses, etc.

On this sweet little growth chart my customer sister told me not to fuss... so I took a few shortcuts.

To start, bring the bobbin thread to the top, take a couple stitches in place and trim threads (do not do this on a show or juried quilt).
Proceed around the piggy , highlighting the piggy features as best you can. 
This top piggy was fun to stitch -- the rounded features of his face and belly screamed spiral!!  I was a little wonky starting out but he's still sweet!!
After outlining the piggies and filling in their features, decide on a background filler (and color).

Use the filler to travel from background component to background component.

I chose to use a quick "loop de loop" and it worked out great.

The Aurifil Mako Cotton 50Wt in Color 2600 gave the background a bit of sparkle...  Sweet!
While traveling with the background loop de loop I would find myself inching up on a background component (butterfly, bee, etc).

When close enough stitch in the ditch around the item -- then make a few echo stitches to complete the shape.  I love the way stitching the pebbles gives the butterfly movement...
The flower component was fun to quilt!  Start on the perimeter and work your way to the middle with a swirl -- then split the width of the quilting on your way back out.  Be sure to outline the inside and outside of the petals - and echo stitching always makes things look more defined.
The green background spoke of leaves and grass to me -- so I decided to incorporate an Angela Walters design -- I love the way it turned out.
Oh, and that Aurifil Mako Cotton 50 Wt in Color #1231 matched the greenery perfectly!!

I had a tough time deciding what to stitch in the outer border -- so again I let the fabric talk to me and did an outline stitch around the flowers and swirls and pebbles... I think it came out just fine.  Do you like it ?
Here is the status as I head to bed -- I think I need to do something with the green border but my customer sister is telling me not to fuss.  
We'll see what tomorrow brings ;)

You can see other Susybee Growth charts I've quilted here, here and here.

There are more Free Tutorials and Patterns on my blog - just click here -- or visit the My Tutorials tab at the top of this page (or, on a mobile device drop down the line options).

I also share Free Motion Quilting on a Domestic machine on my YouTube Channel -- Click here!

I would love to hear your feedback - Thanks for stopping by!


For a more in depth Free Motion Quilting tutorial -- please visit the "Free Motion Quilting Fun" post where I share insight to different weight threads and quilting motif.  This main tutorial is hosted by the Bear Creek Quilting Company but you can click here for my introductory post. 


Linking up to a few of my favorite parties -- check them out on the sidebar and click on over to view the eye candy.



  1. such an informative blog, not heard of the supreme slider so checked it out but rather pricey, also the bobbin washers are new. I had no idea FMQ could be done with dog feed up, presumably this only works if you have the slider? Love the quilting on have done on the fun piece

  2. Cute, cute, love the growth chart! Yes you can quilt with the feed dogs up. Many quilters find they have more control, or a sense of it. I have never tried the slider thingie, but know of some who love it, I guess you have to try these things out. Very cute quilting, lots of interest & it's fun!

  3. That looks great...I think you are right about the green border...maybe just some loops?. Interesting post...I use Microtex Sharp 70/10 for Aurifil 50/2...not sure whether this is dependent on what machine you use. I have used 80/12, as they suggest but I find the stitches neater with the smaller needle.

  4. Interesting post Karen... Thank you so much for sharing!
    I love your sweet little Piggy with your wonderful quilting...
    Hugs from Italy, Deborah

  5. Oh, how delightful! I'm getting a new Janome Horizon in a couple of weeks and am so excited. Looks like I have a lot to learn!! Maybe someday I will be able to produce something as beautiful as this!

  6. I can see that a panel like this is a great way to be able to fmq without all the fuss and bother of piecing - I can see the picture on it gave you so much inspiration. I sometimes fmq with my feed dogs up and sometimes down, I think it is a matter of playing around to see what suits best. And it always intrigues me how much information is on the manufacturers' websites, I need to remember to check those more often! Those pigs are so cute! (I don't have a slider but I used to tape my applique mat next to my machine to give a similar effect.) It sure does look like you had so much fun!

  7. Really nice post. I have a Janome (not good as an Horizon). I usually do my FMQ feed dogs down. And with a METAL bobbins. But as I read on the internet, I figure out I was supposed to use PLATIC bobbins. Last week, I went to a show. The Janome's rep told me to never use metal bobbins in my machine (I've be doing that for 6 years), and to NOT drop the feed dogs. I did a test with a generic plastic bobbins, and I was unable to ajust bottom tension (with metal, no problem). I bought blue Janome's bobbin, we'll see. The worst thing about FMQ is to get your machine to love it. Once it's done, the fun begin.

  8. What a helpful and interesting post. All your FMQ looks lovely! I use a Supreme Slider, and have sewed through it several times when it bunched up under a heavy quilt. At that price, grrr! Now I fasten it down with masking tape.

  9. I actually like the green border not quilted it makes it pop. Thank you so much for the tutorial I have been trying to FMQ and have struggled with anything other than meandering so I am going to try your methods.

  10. What a fun piece to quilt! I'm a big fan of Auriful too - spent yesterday quilting with something else which just cemented my love of it!

  11. Thanx for all the helpful info. I am a 'feet down, single holed plate' gal myself. I will definitely try upping my tension though.
    Great looking quilt!
    D.G. L

  12. Well, first off I LOVE the growth chart...soo darling. And second, I am soo new to the world of quilting, and I have soo much to learn that I love this post especially as there was soo much information here. I have practiced quilting myself a few times, but I am NOT good at it at all. I need better instruction I think. I am going to look up this slider thing you are talking about, and maybe give it a try. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this!

  13. Thanks for all the tips. Just getting started in FMQ and you make it look so lovely!

  14. You can probably remove the burr on your throat plate with a piece of emery paper. My Viking dealer gave me some. It took a little time, but the rough spot is now gone and nothing is damaged.

  15. Ms. Piggy is soooo cute. Thanks for all the tips.

  16. I love the way you featured the butterflies by echoing, you have taught me that I don't have to stick with one design in a given area.

  17. Very interesting post, Karen. I'm going to read it, read it, and read it until I have it memorized. I have tension problems all the time, but I think they are due to operator error or thread mismatch.

  18. I do my FMQ on an old White brand sewing machine, and the feed dogs don't drop, so I just do it with the feed dogs up. I actually have an easier time doing the quilting with the feed dogs up, not covered, than on my newer machine with the feed dogs down.

  19. Hi Karen! The piggy quilt is adorable! That must have been a pleasure to work on it.I love the bright colors and how you quilted the background, most of all the bubbles you made alongside the butterflies. I find that working with bright and girly colors always lift the spirits... It's been raining a lot here lately and seeing your quilt certainly was a joy.
    P.S.: Thank you for reminding me to clean my sewing machine. I tend to forget that.
    Have a great weekend!

  20. Hi Karen, I'm playing catch up on Bloglovin and see you are a fellow New Yorker-I live in the Hudson Valley, about 1/2 hour north of West Point USMA. Thanks for all your sharing. :)

  21. great tips. love how you quilted the little pig's cheek. Great job!

  22. Hello Karen,
    A growth chart - how hilarious!
    I found your post very interesting, because we do so many things differently (for instance, it's Gutermann's Sulky Cotton 30 for me, every time) but once we start sewing it's the same process.
    I have started a new link up on my blog, Free Motion Mavericks. It would be lovely if you linked up some time soon.
    Love, Muv

  23. Holy smokes, this is completely ADORABLE. :) I just love the contouring you did in the pigs - I could never come up with such cute elements as the cheek spiral and the chest swooshes. I'm a fan now. ;D

  24. Such fantastic tips! Can I feature you this week on the I Quilt linky? It would be great to share your advice with everyone who links up this week :) please let me know if you're happy for me to use a couple of your images :) thanks! Prettybobbins at gmail dot com :)

  25. I love this! It is so cute, your quilting is just perfect for the project. thank you for all the great tips!

  26. Thank you for the machine quilting tips. I am stopping by from I Quilt Thursday.

  27. Karen, I just found this! You did an amazing job, we LOVE seeing our fabrics used in such creative ways.
    Glynis Dohn VP World of Susybee

  28. Karen, I just found this! You did an amazing job, we LOVE seeing our fabrics used in such creative ways.
    Glynis Dohn VP World of Susybee

  29. Would you kindly tell me what model of Janome Horizon you use/recommend? I am in the market to buy one, but hadn't realized there were so many Horizon models. Thanks in advance for your time!

  30. This morning I tried tip #5 on a random block I dug out of the closet and I am so amazed. Thank you for sharing Leah's profound wisdom! Now, back to more practice! XO