So, here there is, my first block of the Flower Festival QAL by Leah Day, and my first block ever being free-motion quilted. With all the imperfections that come when trying a new, completely different technique (and fortunately I already had some experience on FMQ from an introductory class, so I can’t think about what would have happened without that!).
But first things first, before I actually quilted this one there were lots of previous steps that were absolutely worth it. I can’t stress enough how helpful they are.
Firstly, I tested, on spare fabric (but already sized!) the markers I would use: the water-soluble pen and a coloured chalk (the one used by seamstresses) for the darker fabrics. Despite I followed all the instructions, it turned out that after washing the chalk wouldn’t completely go away. So I needed to look for something else to mark on the darker colours, and I came up with what looks like a ceramic pencil. It didn’t give problems, but the drawback is that is goes away with the friction produced whilst moving the quilt around.
Secondly, I created mock sandwiches to test several things. These two blocks were absolutely improvised with leftovers from the main block, and I absolutely love the results (I might make a whole quilt with this technique some day…). On them I tested:
– Basting with water soluble thread. Left without visible residue. And it does help a lot not having those safety-pins when you’re in the middle of a curve! It takes an extra time, but for me, absolutely worth it.
– Thread colour. It may seem an obvious choice to make, but my first thread choice didn’t actually work when I stitched it on the block. So a second test was required.
– Thread tension, and needles. It took some adjustment for the tension, and I discovered it’s not the same when quilting with the walking foot than when using FMQ (does it make any sense?).
– Actual FMQ with the stippling design. Good to warm up before attempting the actual block.
– Having the design already marked on the block. It is priceless.
All of this will help for all the sampler’s future blocks, so I think that it was a good investment to spend all that time working on those. For the actual block, however, I discovered the not so wonderful side of FMQ:
– Frustration happens. Specially when you are working with a 5.5″ space from needle to machine’s body, and no extension table (magazines, books and boxes make quite the trick, but not as comfortable as it should be…).
– Stitching in the ditch while FMQ is not easy. It got eventually better.
– Tension issues can happen all the time, regardless of the testing done before. I found that it was worth it to retest the tension at the beginning of every quilting session.
– As the marking on the darker fabrics didn’t stand out really well, and I don’t have freezer paper, I used interfacing, which I already had, to mark from the surface. It worked quite well, although it left fibres when it was tore out. It seems that with the final wash most of them went away, but it’s something to taken into account.
– Ugly, giant stitches happen. And there’s no point on ripping them out. Here goes my perfectionism. I really had to struggle and repeat myself that those were supposed to happen to not throw everything away a couple of times.
At the end, however, despite all the mistakes, stitches outside the ditch, wonky circles and puckers on the back (why!!??) it doesn’t look so bad for a first attempt, does it? I’m really amazed how much does the quilting show on the back!