I am giving FMQ a second chance!

FMQ being free motion quilting, which is a quilting technique in which you use your hands to guide the fabric through your machine instead of letting the feed dogs do it for you. This gives you a lot more options for different quilting designs because you can stitch in every direction. It also requires a lot more practice than a walking foot because it’s not so easy to get a (somewhat) consistent stitch length as you are manoeuvring all over your quilt.

I tried FMQ when I was still quite new to quilting back in 2012 or 2013. I mostly remember being frustrated by the whole process which is why I gave up pretty soon and never tried again.


This is one of my first practice sandwiches.

So, why am I trying it now? Over the past two years I have been making a lot more quilts so I am also doing a lot more quilting. It would be nice to occasionally use something different than straight lines for the quilting of my quilts. During the gettogether of the DMQG last weekend we also had a show and tell and I loved some of the FMQ designs that others had used, it made me a bit envious and willing to give it another go.

So, over the past couple of days I’ve been playing a bit with FMQ and, much to my surprise, I actually find it a quite pleasant activity. Even after only a couple of days I already feel that I am getting more control over where I am stitching and I don’t think the stitching looks all that bad for something I’m only just trying out.


Today’s practice piece with (not so straight) lines.

I can think of several reasons why I now find the process a lot less frustrating. My expectations were pretty low this time, so perhaps I am more easily pleased by what I am creating? I think the back of my stitching looks a lot better now than it did all those years ago, perhaps the Aurifil 50 wt thread that I have used for these practice pieces works better with my machine than what I used before? I also have less physical issues right now than I did 5 years ago, possibly allowing me to move the sandwich through the machine a lot smoother and giving me a more pleasant looking result.


The back of today’s practice piece.

Anyway, the only way I will eventually dare to use this technique on an actual quilt is to practice a lot more. So, my goal for the coming month is to attempt some FMQ every day. Today I have made several small quilt sandwiches to use in the coming week so I only need to grab one and start stitching. This way 10-15 minutes a day should be totally doable.


Stack ready for some quilting fun this week! The squares on the sandwich were also free motion quilted to get some extra practice.

June 9, 2018

Emmely Treffers

About Emmely

I am a sewing enthusiast from the Netherlands. I live in the Leiden area with my husband and two daughters and I am currently working as a senior researcher in molecular virology. With my quilting patterns and sewing blog I want to infect as many people as possible with my love for sewing.

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  1. tierneycreates

    Very smart to practice – I need to make some practice quilt sandwiches and do the same. Wishing you much success on your progress with this skill!

    • Emmely

      Thank you! I am sure it will be fun. The trickiest part may turn out to be to find a moment to sit down and just quilt each day. Having the sandwiches already prepped to go hopefully helps.

  2. Kathy

    Good idea to use free motion while putting together the sandwiches! Leah Day (no affiliation) on youtube gives some excellent hints on different FMQ motifs. When I do circles or curvy I notice that I’m also moving my head around. 🙂

    • Emmely

      I know Leah Day’s website and videos and I am definitely going to look there for some inspiration!
      At least nobody’s looking when we’re quilting so no one sees the crazy things we do. Now I am going to pay attention to how I move my body while sewing too…

  3. katechiconi

    The preparation is definitely a good idea! I would only say, prepare yourself also to perfect a technique on the small squares, only to find the experience of doing the same thing a larger quilt pretty different due to the weight and pull of the extra fabric. Leah’s amazing ‘quilt suspension’ device is her way of dealing with this problem.

    • Emmely

      I know a real quilt will be different and I’ll slowly move to larger sandwiches to increase the difficulty level. It’ll be awhile before I tackle anything quilt sized. Pillowcases first!

      • katechiconi

        That sounds like an excellent plan!

  4. knitnkwilt

    I agree with Kate about small Vs large. I also find I can’t always do the same design in the middle of a quilt (where one side is bunched to the max under the machine) as at the edges. I do my practice on charity quilts, so long as the stitches are small enough to hold them together. Gets to the larger sizes and feels more useful. Once laundered, lots of small ‘goofs’ go away.

    • Emmely

      I will move on to larger sizes eventually but right now I’m still figuring out things like in which direction it feels most natural to stitch. The smaller pieces also make it feel a bit more achievable to do something every day, although I suppose I could make a larger sandwich, divide it i to smaller squares and fill one of those each day. Large quilts still scare me somewhat…

  5. dezertsuz

    Emmely, I think that’s a fabulous idea. Practice is bound to improve things, and make it easier for you. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your practice piece! Starting small is a good plan. You can expand later, but get a small area under control first.

    • Emmely

      I am really enjoying it so far. Trying something different each day.

  6. Joy

    Yay good luck! I try drawing it out on paper too. So I get into a rhythm. It’s not exactly the same but it might help you play with a design before you use up a fancy practice piece!

    • Emmely

      Yes, I am trying drawing the designs as well! It does help with figuring out where to move next.


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