Monthly Archives: February 2015

Free Motion Quilting Free Form Feathers

So What did I learn this week? Free motion quilting  free form feathers !  I  decided to give the free form feathers another try as there is no backtracking . I drew the curve that I would follow as my spine to aide me in my free motion quilting feather placement. Larger, open, sweeping curves work best.  If the curved angle is too tight  it is more difficult to fit your feathers into the inside curve.

picutre of free motion quilting free form feather meander
free motion quilting feather meander with “implied” spine marked

I worked the feathers right feather , left feather, making an implied spine. This worked  well as I didn’t have to backtrack down the spine or echo quilt back to the beginning and work the free motion feathers one side at a time. Remember these are free form feathers so it kind of gives us permission for them to vary in size and shape too.

diagram of stitching order for free motion quilting  free form feathers
stitching order for free motion free form feather with implied spine. Saying “heart” as you stitched each of the feathers helped keep that half heart shape going

The design mistake that I did make and learned from was to echo quilt the feathers before doing the background fill pattern.

Pictue of Free motion quilted feather with echo quilting around outside edges
Free motion free form quilted feather with echo quilting around outside edges
close up picture of echo quilting around free motion quilting free form feathers
If you look closely you can see the how the echo quilting helps define the feather better

I put pebbling up against the feathers as a practice free motion quilting pattern (don’t look too closely some look like kidney beans, I prefer to think of them as river rocks 🙂 ). In the first photo you can see the pebbling coming up to the free form feathers. The spacing in between the feathers leaves an odd unquilted feeling to the area when the different stitch patterns runs together. When I realized this and echo quilted the remaining free motion feather, it closed and defined the feather better making the background fill feel more organized in those spaces. This practice stitch out has given me the courage to use these free motion quilting free form feathers as an allover edge to edge feather fill on another table topper or old quilt top lying around just dying to be quilted !

Picture of a sample stitch out of free motion quilting free form feathers with a pebbled background fill after markings are washed out
Sample stitch out of the free form feather after markings washed out. Lots of nice texture!

Hope you give these a try. Let me know how you like free form feathers,  I love hearing from everyone!

a picture of a quilting feather design doodled on paper
Remember to doodle !

Happy Quilting !

Free Motion Quilting using Invisible Thread

This Week I decided to focus on free motion quilting using invisible thread. With a few pointers you will love using clear thread in your free motion quilting too!  I have used monofilament before on wall hangings on my domestic sewing machine, but I have to confess, I have been a little reluctant to tackle using it on the APQS George. Longarms in general need a little more effort put into balancing the tension and a sit down longarm is no exception. I think I felt like I had adjusted to tweaking the tension on George and didn’t want to rock the boat. But really, no matter what machine you FMQ on the process is the same.

picture of free motion stippling

There are pros and cons historically to using nylon verses polyester monofilament.  Both types of thread have improved drastically over the monofilament thread of years ago.

  • Nylon is more heat resistant , but can get brittle and yellow with age. Some people feel it has a softer feel.
  • Polyester is less heat resistant, does not yellow or become brittle with age.

Having said that, I have used YLI  Nylon monofilament with good results . I have quilts that are more than 10 years old and so far so good- no yellowing or breakage due to becoming brittle and I iron those quilts before hanging without the thread melting. I know 10 years is not that long , but unfortunately time will tell. I had purchased Superior’s Monopoly thread (polyester) and decided to give it a try.

Both the YLI and the Superior Monopoly are .004 in diameter , so really fine.  Both have a reduced sheen so that they blend into the quilt nicely. As far as my critique of the Monopoly, I really liked it too.  I did iron my demo piece on a medium heat and it  tolerated it beautifully ( no melting). I felt that it fed through the machine wonderfully after making the adjustments to your tension that you would do for any monofilament. I would recommend this thread in a heartbeat as well.

As far as adjustments to your machine :

  • When winding your bobbin with monofilament thread, if you have a tension control for your bobbin winder, decrease your tension on the thread. If not slow your speed down for your bobbin winder. Monofilament thread has more stretch , so more tension on the bobbin will result in a very tightly wound bobbin (in this case not a good thing).
    picture of the bobbin tension spring on my bobbin winder
    loosen the bobbin tension spring on your bobbin winder and slow your speed down



  • Only wind your bobbing half full. If you wind a full bobbin, the elastic nature of the monofilament may make it difficult to remove from the bobbin from the bobbin winder without unwinding and wasting thread (ask me how I know that one).
  • Use a Thread net to control any thread from “spooling off” the spool.
  • picture of monofilament thread witha thread net applied to facilitate better thread feed
  • Drop your top tension way down and do multiple test stitch-outs to check your tension. Swirls and direction changes on practice stitch outs give you a good look at how your tension settings are going to perform when you free motion. I also bypassed one of my top tension loops on the George and used to do the same on my old Viking DSM.
  • sample stitch out for tension/ stitch quality
  • Make sure you have the correct needle size on your machine. When I first started my stitch outs I kept breaking the thread once I really picked up speed. I noticed that Superior recommends a 90/14 for longarms and a 70/10 topstitch needle for domestic sewing machines. I had an 80/12 on my longarm. Once I changed the needle I did the following practice stitch out without a single thread break.

    picture of a doodle sample free motion quilt stitch out
    free motion doodle sample stitch out
  • picture of Superior Threads packaging showing needle size info for this thread
    note the needle info included on thread packaging
  • Lastly I also test drove the Superior Monopoly on top with a Fil-Tec Magna-glide bobbin classic 60 wt on the bottom. It stitched out beautifully and those bobbins last a long time. If your backing fabric was in a color that you could use the magna-glide bobbins with, I would recommend giving them a try. My bobbin tension just loves that magnetic even feed. I also see that Superior sells pre-wound Monopoly bobbins in both clear and smoke. I have not personally tried these yet so I can’t give you an honest review, but hopefully will soon.

I loved the way my backtracking and any wobbles just melted in with the other stitches as I free motioned along. Monofilament is very forgiving to the novice free motion quilter once you set your machine up properly.

I hope you give this a try this week.  Let me know how it worked for you!

Happy Quilting!