Thursday, October 30, 2014

From the Archives: Free Motion Quilting the swirls

    I had to dig through the older--much older posts---to find this one to answer questions this week.   This is still my "go to design" for free motion quilting.   It takes practice to get a pleasing shape, but it is worth the effort.   So, from December 2011, here is FMQ Swirls.

  More comments and questions on the swirls.  From an email this week....... Nicki wrote.... "I just wanted to show you a pic of my first attempt at free motion swirls. WOW, it looked a lot better on paper than it does on the fabric... :)  I still have stippling in my head when I'm doing this so this is going to take practice, practice, practice. The back side had TONS of those little "eyelashes" all over it. I'm not sure what to do to correct those......."
   She prompted me to really give some details on this FMQ of swirls.  First, eye-lashing is usually from moving the fabric too fast.  The bobbin thread is pulled too tight and thus pulls the top thread to the back and  the curves have "eyelashes".   How to correct this:  Slow down.  Slow down your machine speed and slow down the movement of the hands and the fabric.  You don't have to creep or crawl along, but just going wide open, pedal to the metal is not working here.  An explanation from Leah Day at 365 Days of Quilting ---she controls her speed of the machine by using a light touch and "feathering" her pedal.  At some points she speeds up and at others she goes slower. 
   A slower and steady movement of the fabric equals better control.  Practice is the only way to achieve pain, no gain....practice.  I use music when I FMQ to keep a steady rhythm.
   Start on paper.  Try to copy this design to practice. This is a design from Wendy at Ivory Spring.....she's a amazing fmq expert!  Pay attention to your hand movements, and note where you naturally pause and when you move faster.  That's the hint for how to stitch the pattern.  Like driving----slow in the curves, and more speed on the straight way!
   I'm not the total guru, but I think I've figured this pattern out.   You will still find that my stitches are not always perfect, but I try to be consistent.  Sometimes I don't get a perfect curl, just keep going because it's a big quilt.  And the quilt police or detectives are shot  poked with a long needle   escorted out the door  on sight!

  Here's my Step by step guide:
  1. Begin with a curl that is at least a 3/4 circle  that almost closes.
  2.  Pause to create a good point before you circle back.
  3.  Gradually increase your width and spacing as you curl back around to create the first swirl.  Note that your return curve should bring you back in line or close to the tip or point of the curl---like the large swirl at the bottom of the page.   
  4.  Then create a curl in the opposite direction.
 The deeper  tighter center in the curls really look the best.

That will give you a  fleur-di-lis effect that is the basis of this open FMQ  design.  I enlarged my photo to really show this part of the pattern. (And you can see the curls are not perfect!)  The spacing on here looks huge, but really the area between stitching is 3/4" to an inch at the widest section of the swirl. 
    Add swirls--single and in pairs--in different directions.  Throw in an "s-curl"  for interest and to change direction.  I use  the curved line that looks like a scallop  to move to a new area.  I had worked myself into a corner and needed a way out----so a curved line moved me out into the open.   




  1. It is a fun design that works for so many things. And it amazes me how quickly I lose the feel for it if I don't use it for a long time.
    Good info here, Debbie!

  2. Oh my. Such great information. One day I plan to get serious about FMQ -- right now all my quilting is done using my walking foot!


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