In 2013, I bought two jelly rolls of 20 strips each in assorted solid colours. I intended to use these to make my second jelly roll race quilt for our bed on the boat. These assorted colours were perfect for our boat named Rainbow. I quickly sewed up the quilt top and I knew I wanted to do FMQ on it rather than stitching in the ditch, as I did my first jelly roll race quilt. [See Chantal’s Birthday Quilt.] Those of you who do not know what a jelly roll race quilt is, here is a link to a video by Jenny Doan at Missouri Star Quilting. The following February at the Boat Show, I purchased from Atlantic Fabrics in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, a delightful piece of fabric for the backing. It was nautical and not too over bearing and a bit different.
It would soon be my second FMQ project on my new machine. I measured both the batting and the backing. I wanted the quilt to be a bit longer, so added extra backing fabric to each end of the quilt top. I like to cut the batting a bit larger than the top and the backing even larger. I had a piece of batting already cut which was almost the size I needed, so I used that. Once I was happy with how it looked, I removed the quilt top layer and put it aside and then started spraying the fabric adhesive to the batting, lifting it halfway and then spraying and laying it down smoothly on the backing. Once one-half of the bottom and batting was sprayed in place, I did the other half in the same fashion, pulling back the batting to the halfway point, spraying the backing and laying the batting back down while smoothing it out. I then laid the top back in place and started pinning with safety pins throughout the quilt to sandwich all the layers together. I don’t like to spray adhesive on the quilt top to the batting as I tried it once and had a lot of uneven layering due to the movement of the quilt in the sewing machine. The pinning seems to work the best and the adhesive acts as a safety net.
Once pinned I took it to the machine, put on my FMQ/darning foot, dropped the feed dog and set the stitch setting at 1. Some machines have a 0 setting. For some reason my heart starts to beat quicker. I still find this part of the process so exciting. I mentally divide the quilt into quarters and start at the middle and continue the stippling pattern leaving enough room to run along the bottom edge back up to the top corner to do the next quarter.
From all the videos I watched, I learned several things that work well. Why re-invent the wheel or try to do something by trial and error, or fix something that’s not broken!
- Start each FMQ project with a new needle (12/80) with 50 gauge 100% cotton thread. I use Gutermann thread.
- Have several pre-loaded bobbins on hand.
- Use the largest size spool of thread your machine can handle.
- Bring each loose end to the top of the quilt to later finish by knotting and hand sewing it into the batting.
- Set sewing machine at the medium speed so that the project doesn’t get away from you.
- Work at an even pace and keep track of how far the pattern is spaced. Use finger size as a gauge, if needed.
- Make the FMQ pattern appear non planned and vary the movement throughout the quilt.
- While quilting, pull the quilt away from you as much as possible which avoids breaking needles.
- Use as many extra tables around the machine, as you need to handle the weight of the quilt. I use two folding tables. The machine is on the smaller lower one so the larger table at the back is level with the machine and quilt. It appears I really didn’t need an extension table after all.
- Keep checking and smooth out the quilt to ensure the bottom layer continues to stay flat while quilting.
- Remove safety pins as you quilt. Do not sew over them.
- Bunch up the excess quilt in the machine’s throat, rather than rolling it, as most quilters recommend. Rolling it makes it stiffer to move, bunching it up enables spreading the quilt behind the machine somewhat flat to distribute the weight and the throat can handle more of the quilt bunched rather than rolled.
- NEVER remove any of your quilting stitches. Even if you made a mistake according to your plan, no one will know it wasn’t part of your plan! Removing stitches makes a mess, slows you down and adds extra time and frustration to your project. I made a mistake in one quilt and matched the other side with a similar mistake, but on purpose. Make your mistakes work for you and built them into your pattern. Who actually cares if you have a loop in your stippling. It adds more interest!
Once the machine quilting is complete, I trimmed the batting and folded the backing to the front as if it was a binding and pinned in place. I then selected my favourite decorative stitch for this purpose and sewed around the “binding” close to the folded edge, securing the corners. I added my signature “Three Hearts” and finished securing by hand in the batting the loose ends.