FMQ with Leah Day!

Last weekend, I headed up to Manchester, New Hampshire with two other members of my local modern quilt guild. We checked out the annual MQX Quilt Festival. MQX celebrates all things machine quilting—from those who quilt on a small domestic machine (like my traditional sewing machine) to huge long arm machines with fancy computers that you need a dedicated enormous room.

We checked out the quilt show, which consisted of mostly traditional and art quilts. There were some modern quilts mixed in. All of the quilts had one thing in common—attention to detail and amazing craftsmanship! Even if they weren’t my style, I could appreciate all of them for the work and care that went into them.

The main event for me was taking a workshop with Leah Day. Leah is one of the most well known free motion quilters and is self-taught (girl after my own heart). She’s probably best know for her 365 Free Motion Quilt Project and the regular videos/tutorials that she posts on her blog. Check her out here.

Leah demonstrating a pattern before we dig in on the sewing machines
Leah demonstrating a pattern before we dig in on the sewing machines

I would consider myself a very confident straight line quilter but a very beginner when it comes to free motion quilting (FMQ). I’ve done some FMQing in the past and some of the designs I’ve worked on have been more successful than others.

Some of the major takeaways and reminders from the workshop for me:

  • It’s all about practice. You can have a machine with all of the bells and whistles or a long arm machine and it doesn’t mean your going to be a good quilter. Leah is completely self-taught. She got good by practicing and experimenting—A LOT.
  • Rules? Use them as guidelines, but not as the end all be all. Do what feels and works best for you. I’ve read everywhere that you HAVE to drop your feed dogs while free motion quilting. Not the case—Leah had them set to up in on the Janomes we were using in class and has them up while FMQ on her Juki.
  • Insanity is sticking with the same thread if you’re having issues with it. Thread keeps breaking? Stop using it and try something else. Leah uses Isocord (100% polyester). While I’m not ready to stop using my 100% cotton, I will keep an open mind to switch to poly if I have issues.
  • Keep doodling! Most of FMQ is about knowing where to go next—practicing by doodling will help! Leah suggested if you sit down to eat breakfast, doodle every morning. Make doodling a habit.
Practice will make perfect. These are far from perfect, but were only my first practice squares. Lots of fun to practice!
Practice will make perfect. These are far from perfect, but were only my first practice squares. Lots of fun to make!
Leah and me in front of her 365 quilt—yup, 365 squares each with a different quilting pattern!
Leah and me in front of her 365 quilt—yup, 365 squares each with a different quilting pattern!

Leah is an awesome teacher. If you ever have a chance to work with her in person, do so! At the very least, check out her videos on her website and consider purchasing her books!

It’s been six days since the workshop, and I haven’t practiced yet (takeaway #1 broken), but will when I get into the FMQ mood. Too many other projects are on my cutting table, design wall and machine right now. No time for FMQ right now… but I am looking forward to getting into it in the future!

Do you FMQ? Any tips, tricks or resources?
Ever wanted to FMQ but are nervous to jump in? What’s holding you back?
Please reply below and leave a comment!

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