Saturday, February 13, 2016

2016 Free Motion Quilt Along - Part III Tools, Machine Setup and Practice

Greetings fellow quilters!
Welcome to Part III of the
2016 Redbird Quilt Co.
Free Motion Quilt Along

Today we'll talk tools, area & machine setup and FMQ practice.

It's important to read through the blog post AND watch the attached YouTube Video.
There is pertinent information in both parts of this lesson.

Note:  Watching the video from a computer will allow you to see the annotations and clarifications that have been added.
Be sure to try that out.
Our phones are great devices but don't always optimize the video viewing experience.
We're gearing up to free motion quilt the
Lewe's Balloons Growth Chart Panel
by Susy Bleasby for
 the World of Susybee.
Quilting fabric panels is a perfect way to practice and improve your Free Motion Quilting skills with minimal investment in time and money.

If you're just joining us be sure to checkout the previously published
Free Motion Quilt Along Posts:

Introduction => click here
Sponsors => click here
Supplies => click here
Part I Pieced Borders => click here
Part II Pin Basting ==> click here
How to Quilt That ==> click here

Also, be sure to jump over to our Sponsors Facebook pages and give them a "Like".
They're providing some fantastic products for the QAL Giveaways!
Many thanks to:
Aurifil Facebook
Quilter's Dream Batting
World of Susybee
Creekside Fabrics, Quilts and Yarns
Sew It Is Quilt Shop
Quilty Pleasures Quilt Shop
To learn more about the Sponsors click here.


Many thanks for your patience as we work through the QAL -- there is so much to learn it's hard to fit it all in!!

Today we're going to talk about area and machine setup -- along with a few of the tools and notions that I use to FMQ.  I'll also suggest a quick and easy FMQ practice session to get you "warmed" up.

Let's talk Quilting Area Setup:

I highly recommend you find a way to get your machine bed flush with the table top.  If you can't do that consider investing in an extension table for your machine.

Today I want to share with you my setup (as seen at our little cottage).

First, I take advantage of a LONG kitchen table (that comfortably feeds all of our grandkids at one time).

And years ago I invested in a portable sewing table, the Arrow Gidget II (on recommendation from Leah Day).
The Gidget II travels with me to Guilds, Shops, Home, Cottage, Retreats - - it's a perfect way to always be setup for FMQ.  It's not too heavy, has wheels, and isn't overly expensive.

If your local store or shop doesn't carry the Gidget II -- you can purchase it from Amazon -- make sure you get free shipping!

As you can see, I put the Gidget in front of the dining table
The Gidget II has an adjustable drop center that allows your machine to sit flush inside.
Once adjusted the machine fits right in and the bed is flush with the table top.
I add on the extension table that came with my Janome Horizon so that there are no holes around the machine bed.  It's really an ideal setup for FMQ.
I also add a portable table to the left to create an "L" shaped area to support the quilt top.
I can't stress enough how much the "flush" and "L-shaped" setup helps with stitch consistency and an overall improvement in the structure of your motif.  
It's desirable to have the quilt top totally supported while you FMQ.

Here's the setup in action with my latest design using BariJ's "Mille Fleur" fabric for Art Gallery Fabrics.   You can see more about this quilt on my Instagram Feed @RedbirdQuiltCo and in an upcoming blog post.
That concludes the machine AREA setup.  Was it helpful ?

Let's talk Machine and Notions

Next, in the video I discuss the machine setup and tools that work for me while I FMQ.  

Here are a few of my favorite tools:
The above tools are the ones I count on for FMQ'ing
Please review the Part III Video AND Do You FMQ - The Process post for more detailed information.

If you can't find these notions in your local quilt shop -- be sure to checkout my Amazon Store:
Here's the link:  Redbird Quilt Co. Amazon Store

Favorite Tools and Notions Summary:
Aurifil Cotton Threads
50 Wt for dense machine quilting (top and bobbin)
If your local shop doesn't carry Aurifil, be sure to checkout the stock at Bear Creek Quilting Company.  Shari carries The Subtle Sampler at an awesome price!

Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers
 for keeping that bobbin spinning smoothly

Supreme Slider by LaPierre
 for keeping that fabric moving smoothly
Purchase from Amazon by clicking the link below:

Machingers Quilting Gloves
for getting a grip on the fabric
Purchase from Amazon by clicking the link below:

FMQ Darning Foot
as seen in video, several options

Quality Needles
A good needle can make or break you.
See options in video

If you can't find these notions in your local quilt shop -- be sure to checkout my Amazon Store:
Here's the link:  Redbird Quilt Co. Amazon Store

Learn more in the video and in this blog post:
Do You FMQ - The Process
In the video I talk about covering (vs dropping) the feed dogs...
Here are some detail images of the template plastic setup I use to cover the feed dogs.
Here is the cover in action:

Be sure to Practice

Also in the video I suggest a way to practice your FMQ on a quilt sandwich so you can evaluate how the thread, needle, batting, hand and machine speed work together.

Ideally you'll want to fine tune the tension on your machine with a comparable quilt sandwich before you begin quilting the panel.

On the Janome I set my upper tension higher to get nice quilt stitches.  You may need to do the same.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

If you've had limited exposure to FMQ it's a great way to jump in and practice

Be sure to jump over and watch the  Part III Video

What's Next:

In our next session we'll get the stabilization stitching done AND begin to quilt one of the subjects.

For each motif we use I'll share a still drawing giving quilting path AND I'll try to record a video of me stitching it on the panel.

I intend to show you each step so we work through it together.

Again I appreciate your patience - we're getting there!  Next time we'll be stitching up a storm.

If you could, please let me know about your setup by leaving a comment:

What machine are you working on?
Do you have a flush setup?
Do you have a cabinet or extension table?
Are you giving the Aurifil thread a try ?

Have a fantastic week and Happy Valentine's Weekend!


  1. What machine are you working on? Brother PC420
    Do you have a flush setup? Yes
    Do you have a cabinet or extension table? Yes
    Are you giving the Aurifil thread a try ? I purchased three spools of Aurifil but I need to get more practice before I will use them. I am practicing with less expensive thread.

    Thanks for tip about covering the feed dogs with template plastic. I was not doing that and the feed dogs were chewing up my Sew Slip (which is like a Supreme Slider)

  2. My machine is a Janome 6600 and I don't have a flush, but a huge table (1,6m x 0,8m) and an extention table. I love the additional tools you showed and I always use them for quilting and for example the bobbin washers also during piecing. And I LOVE Autifil thread. beneath King Tut it is my absolute favorite thread.
    Greetings, Rike

  3. I adore my machine quilting set-up! I use the Baby Lock Symphony. I have a Horn cabinet with custom fit insert, back table fold-up extension and 3 feet to the left of the needle. I am going to search for Aurifil at Sew Expo next week! I have been machine quilting with my domestic for 15 years. I'm here because I have the hardest time determining what design to quilt! Looking forward to your advice! From Karen Too

  4. I have the exact same machine except it doesn't have the red on it. What do you set your upper tension at? I did have to change my foot pedal tension awhile back. It kept messing up and I messed with it and my stitches started looking all pretty again. Thanks!

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