Sunday, August 6, 2017

Practice Makes Better

I recently took a Free-Motion Quilting (FMQ) class at my local quilt shop, Patches & Stitches. The teacher was a local woman I've known for about 20 years, a guild member and a dedicated quilter, Elaine Poplin, AKA @messygoat on Instagram. While her quilts are more "modern" than mine, her FMQ designs can easily be adapted to any kind of quilt.

For the last almost 2 years all my FMQ has been done on the Bernina Q20 Sit Down Longarm machine:

Since it weighs 350 lbs and is not portable, I had to take my other Bernina to class, the B765, a special edition of the 770QE:

It is a great machine for quilting, with a 10" throat space and the BSR, the Bernina Stitch Regulator. The Q20 has two BSRs and my stitches are perfect with it, leaving me to concentrate on making good designs: smooth curves, sharp points, etc. With the domestic machine I had to be a bit more careful with my speed of hands movement and speed of foot pedal action, but still achieved good stitches.

What I was most surprised to realize: all that practice on the Q20 has paid off--my FMQ has really improved over the last two years! Amazing--practice really does help! Here is what I did in the morning session:

The first thing Elaine had us stitch was our name.  Then I tried "Stella". Then it was just play with various designs from her handout.  She brought several quilts which she used to explain how she chooses thread color/weight, how she decides what to quilt, where. She was very encouraging to everyone, beginners and the more experienced. Mostly, it's about practice, practice, practice. Nothing worth learning comes overnight, usually.

Here is what I did in the afternoon session:

Just more playing, some of Elaine's designs from her quilts, some favorites I have saved on Pinterest over  the years. I ended by stitching my name again, just to see if it was better at the end of the day than the beginning--about the same, I'd say.

Here is Elaine's demo piece that I was lucky enough to bring home:

Something to strive for. As she taught herself FMQ on a sit down machine for 8 years and has had a longarm for the past year, she is really good--practice makes perfect for some! When I described my FMQ style as "Primitive Free Motion", Elaine said that sounded too negative--well, yeah, that was kind of the point. She suggested "Organic--it sounds trendy and hipster". That's funny,  now I'm "trendy" and a "hipster. It's all in how you look at it.

I enjoyed the class and left feeling like I was really getting the hang of this FMQ thing. That's good because I have an ever-growing stack of basted quilt tops ready for some FMQ love.While I enjoy Ruler Work, it is not super-fast so adding more FMQ will speed up quilt completion

Here is just a bit of Long Time Gone in progress--I have some new design ideas to try on this now:

Thanks, Elaine, for a terrific class. If you are on Instagram, I encourage you to take a look at Elaine's feed: @messygoat.  And I'm sure I'll have a quilt or two of hers to show you from our guild show in October--she is entering one of my favorites of hers: Linus--go look for it.

Let's Quilt!



  1. It really is all about the practice, isn't it?
    Looks like you received some good instruction, and put in some great practice. My first FMQ teacher told us to take classes every chance we got, from different instructors, because you will learn different things from each one. I took her advice, taking classes from two local teachers, and three national teachers, and then turning to online opportunities in Craftsy, blogs, and even YouTube. It all helps, and I have really enjoyed it.
    Your Long Time Gone quilt provides you a wonderful palette for trying out your new designs.

  2. More beautiful quilting. The class sounds like it was really educational. I love your machines.

  3. Congratulations! Yes, practice does help improve FM quilting. How terrific you enjoyed your class so much and have some ideas to implement into FM quilting on your "Long Time Gone" quilt!!