The Free Motion Quilting Project: #1 Quilting Question

Sunday, December 18, 2011

#1 Quilting Question

Here's a crazy simple question:

What is your #1, most important, most pressing, most extreme free motion quilting question???


In essence, this question should be the core reason why you're NOT free motion quilting right NOW, and if it was answered properly, it would absolutely kick you into quilting all your quilt tops immediately.

So please share your question in the comments below!

You'll learn why later ;-)

Leah

82 comments:

  1. Why can I FM quilt just fine on a small sample but things are horrible when I try to quilt a small throw size quilt? I have my machine recessed in a table, I use the Supreme Slider, I use gloves and I've tried the bobbin genie. I'm guessing it is the weight and drag of the quilt, but nothing I do seems to help. My small samples look really good but I make a mess of a true size lap quilt.

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  2. I AM quilting now but I would say the most pressing question is 'how to quilt this'. Figuring out the quilting design is the hardest part for me.

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  3. How do you decide what filler motifs to use?

    I love practicing all the filler on little squares, but I am just baffled as to how to use them in an actual quilt. I always revert to stippling...

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  4. How to learn proper spacing of elements. I start out quilting something one size and then it just morphs into bigger or smaller. I have trouble keeping track of where I am. Help!

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  5. I am only virtual quilting right now. We are painting the walls in the house; so all sewing / quilting supplies are put away til that is done. I did set up my machine an a travel table in the corner of the bedroom but the area is so small and uncomfortable, I only sew for brief periods and I only piece there. Working on doing HSqTri for a top in the future. No room to assemble blocks. But I bet by the time I can reassemble my quilt area... I will have 100 tops ready to free motion.

    I also work a 40-80 hr/ week job outside of my home... so some times their is now sewing being done... it is a relaxation, a desire, a therapy, a choice to quilt. Grandson and my own health needs (exercise, cooking for a diabetic) comes first.

    I am to a point in my life .... I only do what I want, when I want and quilting gets done but at my own time frame.

    Nonnie,

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  6. "How should i quilt the whole top?" i am fine with fillers it's deciding on quilting design for the whole darn thing that throws me! Love your site and hope you have a lovely xmas!

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  7. My biggest problem right now is adapting designs to work on my quilt. For example, I'm not sure how to scale up your designs for a large quilt or for a differently-shaped area. This means that I almost always resort to a simple meander even though I would like to try something different.

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  8. My biggest question is how you get your needle speed and movement of fabric speed to work together for an even stitch? I just simply break into a cold sweat!

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  9. If you are afraid of it, just TRY it and keep practicing :-)
    and practice on a dry erase board if that helps

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  10. How do you manage the quilt bulk under the machine.... anything larger then a baby quilt and my arms and back need major loveing care...and I lose sight of the"pattern" or plan on a full size item.
    Love your blog and counting the days for the end of this challange

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  11. I find myself so tense when trying to feed my quilt properly that my shoulders and back hurt afterward. It's not worth the pain.

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  12. I tried to leave a comment before but my google account went gaga for a moment. So please excuse me if you get the same comment twice. I would like to know why it is that my tension is always crap on the bobbin side, every time I try to lower the feed dogs? I adjust the tension, I change the needle, and follow all the tips I can find online. And when I leave my feed dogs UP, I have a difficult time with the feed dogs 'catching' the fabric every time I try to pull the fabric toward me, so I'm not sure what to do. Is this my machine? Or is it ME??

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  13. My main issue is that I can't see! Most of the time, I want my quilting to add texture, but I prefer the thread color to blend. But unless I'm quilting on a fairly solid fabric, I can't see what I'm doing! And it doesn't help that I'm old and have to wear bifocals.

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  14. How do I deal with the bulk of the quilt under the arm of the sewing machine?

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  15. Leah, how do I learn to regulate my stitch length once I drop my feed dogs and put my stitch length to 0. I have such a hard time getting my hands to coordinate with my foot!! Sometimes I get tiny stitches and sometimes they are w-a-y too long. I have done some pretty things with your technique but not consistently. I have a Bernina Activa 240 (with a Janome Horizon on my Wish List : )

    Thanks for asking.
    Karen

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  16. I have started to quilt little samples in 6 inch blocks of a quilt sandwich. I am so nervous about quilting a bigger piece. How heavy is it to push around? How long will I be able to free motion before my shoulders sieze up? How do I get my quilt to fit under the machine? I have a 99.00 Brother machine and I don't have an acryllic extension table or a table that sinks in my machine. Will that hump make it too hard for me to work? Basically, I am a chicken and I am hoping that Santa will bring me a Janome Horizon 7700...with that much money spent on a machine, that will jolt me into action!

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  17. I put time and effort into making a nice quilt top, I fear my many attempts at machine quilting are not good enough to let me make the "leap" to a real quilt even with a good bit of practice. So far I have a nice collection of tops though!

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  18. My problem is basting. What is the best method for basting?

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  19. Why does my thread keep breaking?

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  20. how do I get my quilt to move smoothly?!? it's nothing but push, pull and jerk it around!

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  21. When will my machine come back from being repaired? Probably not the question you were looking for by it is why I am not quilting now.

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  22. I can never decide what need to be quilted on my quilts and end up doing loop s and stars or something all-over design with Pantos on my Quilting Table.

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  23. Actually, I'm machine quilting all my quilts now, with the exception of the quilt "careers" that I know I'll be hand quilting "forever." - Your instructions have been fantastic. I have both your books. Am just kicking myself that I didn't discover this technique 10 years ago. Many thanks and keep up the good work.

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  24. My problelm is knowing the best design for the pattern of the quilt. What design will enhance, and how dense the quilting should be. I have learned so much from your designs, but not always sure where to use them on a bed quilt. (which I do most of)

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  25. How do I make my stitches smooth and consistant in length?

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  26. I love piecing the quilt tops. However, I get stuck with the question of how to quilt the project, and as you can imagine I have WIPS that I would love to finish. so How do I, Where do I go, what can I do, to Go for it and free motion my projects and actually complete them. Sometimes I feel like I am affraid I will ruin the project with the quilting. Thank you for asking....

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  27. I think my biggest obstacle is that frequently I have no idea of what pattern/design I should do. That means that I normally do an all-over meander, but I'd like to bump it up a notch. Some quilts have obvious solutions, but some do not.

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  28. I struggle to get a smoothly flowing design with even stitches, even with the BSR. I don't practice nearly enough.

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  29. OK. (Remember, you asked...LOL) I will go first (unless someone types faster than I do...) I don't really know what the question would be. Maybe "What am I doing wrong?" Why are the stiches not consistent/even/unified? I am SURE it is user error, but it still happens...LOL. Wanna come sit and watch me then tell me what I am doing wrong? If I had to ask a general question it would be...What thread do you use and why?

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  30. I have trouble getting the top and bottom tensions just right. Any suggestions?
    Also, please tell me that you are going to leave your project online as I have just caught the last part of the year and want to experiment with more of your freemotion designs.
    thanks,
    Carol Sawchyn

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  31. I have trouble getting both the top and bottom tensions right. Any suggestions?
    Also, I hope that you are going to leave your freemotion project online. I have just been accessing it in the last part of the year and would like to try many more of the freemotion designs.

    Carol

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  32. When looking at the unquilted top, it's sort of like staring at a blank page with color blocks. Where do I start and what patterns to pick?

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  33. Money lol. I do FMQ my quilts thanks to your encouragement! If I had the money - I'd just make more!! Seriously, some patterns still are difficult to do in a fluid motion, but that doesn't stop me from trying. For example - my son hates it when we go to a restaurant that has paper on the tables and crayons - I doodle the whole thing up with quilting patterns :) He says I'm embarrassing him. Oh, please. If I wanted to embarrass him, I'd pull out bigger ammo than quilting!!

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  34. I'm not quilting at this very moment because I frequently have difficulty figuring out which quilting pattern I want to use for a specific quilt. I leave the quilt laying out where I look at it regularly, hoping some inspiration will hit me but that doesn't always happen. Right now, my quilt has me totally stumped!

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  35. My question is usually...What Now? How do I decide what designs to use? Sometimes The quilts talk to me, but sometimes nothing.

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  36. I don't know if it's a question or not, but the most pressing reason I have at least 17 tops to quilt is that I don't know what to quilt on them, what will look good, what will enhance them rather than just stick the layers together.

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  37. I keep practicing FMQ but when it comes to what design to use on which quilt, I come up blank. So, I go back to the old quilt in the ditch.
    Are there some guiding principles for what quilting patterns to use when?

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  38. I want to know all about all those things that get left out and glossed over... how to start/stop, how to bury threads, how long to leave the threads, what good is the thread cutter on my machine, how do you square up a 120" wide quilt?

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  39. Okay, I'll kick it off. My question is "Why am I so afraid that I'll mess everything up with my inadequate FMQ?" This fear paralyzes me. Thanks!

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  40. Is it normal in free motion quilting to have many stitches in some areas and less in others? What I mean is in hand quilting everything is even and if I am to have the thread on the back work right I have some stitches very close together. I suppose it gets better with practice but I am kind of a rule follower for sane quilting.
    signed: crazy quilter trying to be sane.

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  41. I've tried one or two of your patterns, but I am just not confident enough to work on an actual quilt that I might ruin. I have a midarm quilter and I always use a pantograph. Have I been ruined for quilting on my domestic machine?

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  42. I've followed your project almost from the start, and love it. Your quilts are wonderful canvases for your free-motion designs. Mine are not. I spend months appliqueing detailed images without one thought about how I will quilt it until I put the final applique stitch on my piece--then I panic. My thought is always, "try to quilt it without ruining it," so I tend to fall back on stippling or David Taylor-style (though not nearly so wonderful) close together filler quilting. My question is do you make the quilting part of the design process from the start, or does the plan for quilting evolve as you work??

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  43. The biggest brick wall for me is is deciding how to quilt a project ... that is, WHICH type of design(s) to do on it and where (if doing more than one type). This always hangs me up.

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  44. Hi Leah
    My name is Rawyah.
    I keep having problems with the tension after I tried fmq. I did not lower the feed dog when stippling, I just changed my stitch length to 0.
    Since then, the bottom thread ( bobbin thread) keeps showing on top. I changed needles and tried different threads (all cotton), but the bottom thread still appear on top even if i am sewing in a straight line. I tried adjusting the tension but nothing changed.
    I am worried that my machine is not suitable for fmq.
    It is a Janome DC 3050.

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  45. My #1 question is how to pin baste a quilt on the FLOOR.

    A back story: We just moved to a house with all flooring, no carpet. Previously I would just layout quilts on the carpet and pin.

    Now I'm struggling not only with the slipperiness of the floor, but other stuff like using fleece backing and being pregnant. Fleece doesn't want to stay still. I tried buying some knee pads, but that doesn't really help. It's hard, awkward - both the floor and the belly. :)

    I don't have room for big tables, the whole house is 700 square feet. I just don't know how I'm going to finish bigger quilts any more (twin and larger).

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  46. How do you keep your stitches even?

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  47. I find for me that getting the right tension is always the hassle. Because I change thread depending on the project and the colors, getting the tension to work right is a big roadblock at times. And of course deciding on the just 'right' quilt design is right up there.

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  48. For me, it nearly always comes down to a question of: "What if I mess up my quilt with crappy quilting???" Initially, that question was about execution as much as anything. But, now that I'm finally starting to feel really confident in the act of quilting itself, these days that question is mostly to do with choosing the right designs for the quilt and having the confidence to know that it will be an effective design. I don't want to screw up my pretty tops! :)

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  49. Hello Leah,

    first - your blog is wonderfull and I venerate your free motion skill.
    I made only one big Quilt in past, quilting only the straight lines between the blocks. This was alreday difficult for me to handle the big roll right site of the needle and I don't know how to handle this big roll when I want to do free motion. My sewing machine is a big one and I know it is a quilting machine with a lot of space for experienced quilters but for me it is unthinkable to make a free motion quilting on a big quilt because i don't now how to move such a big bulk of fabrics. I hope my english is enough to explain.
    Greetings from Germany
    Manu

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  50. How do I get my brain to plan out where my stitches should go? I just cannot see patterns in my mind, and all that unquilted surface with no design makes me too nervous to just start stitching.

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  51. I like watching your free motion quilting project. I do not free quilt my quilts because after heaving quilting quilt turn into heavy and hard. I prefer hand quilting. I use thick flees and quit is puffy and downy.

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  52. Hmmmm.... no comments or questions! Perhaps everyone IS free motion quilting. Hooray!

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  53. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  54. Not quite as you ask, but I do have a question..... Free Motion Couching, that is couching a thread down with STRAIGHT stitch. There are machine feet for this which seem to feed the couching thread directly under the needle, no not ordinary couching feet or cording feet (but alas not for my machine). I have tried making my own via glueing bits to feet and taping bendy straws to the machine, for the couching thread, but I can't make it work. I want to be able to, as its promoted, free motion couch, with straight stitch, and at speed. Pointless if it is lay the thread stitch, stop, lay the thread. I can do that already I know how to free motion using straight stitch and the thick thread in the bobbin, been doing that for years, but that limits in thread length/thickness and you can't see where you are working.
    Bernina Foot 43, and Pfaff have one, YouTube videos of the process. As someone who is so good at adapting and making bits work for you, any ideas?

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  55. Time, time , time! I never take the time to practise and the fear of ruining my quilt leads me to procrastinate even further! My real question would be how best to arrange myself in a small, non-permanent space? I only have the kitchen table to use and have to tidy up at the end of each night so end up forgetting my settings and all the spaces that need quilting seem too big to do in just a couple of hours...

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  56. I have learned so much from your wonderful blog and books. Once upon a time, I really wanted a mid-sized quilting machine and frame. I determined that I didn't have room for this and that free motion quilting allowed me to be more creative and get it done faster. The biggest issue I have is going beyond stippling and finding the right pattern done at the correct size and being consistent on a large quilt.

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  57. Leah, I've been following your blog for some time now and I've even gotten your books and I keep saying I'm going to start practicing but I keep putting it off. My most pressing question is not really something that somebody else can answer. How can I put away my fear of messing up something and just try it?

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  58. I stare at the top, like a blank canvas. I love dense quilting, but not all quilts want that. They refuse tot ell me what they DO want, so I fold them up and put them in a pile waiting or inspiration to strike....

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  59. the biggest thing keeping me from starting is a really simple question: How do you start? ie what do you do with the thread, how do you lock the stitches, what is this burying the thread thing? See - all to do with starting and stopping. And how do you pick a design? And. . . That's why I'm going the FMQ challenge in 2012. I'm going to learn this and I'm going to start and then I can try some of these wonderful designs you've posted.

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  60. My biggest question on free motion quilting is how do I get the tension balanced when I'm using a very thin thread in the bobbin??

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  61. Where do I start!?! That's usually my big question when I look at one of the many big quilt tops waiting to be quilted.

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  62. The number one reason why I'm not free motion quilting right now is "Why is the timing off in my machine? And why did the darn thing have to break right as I was ready to do the quilting? And right before Christmas after I spent money I might have had to fix it on presents?" Um I guess that is three questions...

    Seriously, I think my biggest problem is managing all the bulk of the quilt in the small space that is my sewing area. Oh, and actually trying to decide what sort of design to quilt on the blanket.

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  63. I have a really hard time with the tension adjustment on my machine. If it's too low, I get the loose threads on the bottom, but when I increase it to eliminate that, my thread tends to break very often because of the high tension. Tips on how to even that out would be greatly appreciated!

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  64. Getting the basting done...... in such a way as not to labor over whether or not the back is getting tucks as I quilt the front.....???

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  65. Thanks to you and a few other wonderful teachers, I AM doing my own quilting! Your site is wonderful!! As an "intermediate" quilter, my latest challenge has been what color thread to use! Thread skipping and breaking has been my biggest challenge. Again, you have some great resources there too. Thanks! Here's a link to my method of pin basting in a small house (no floor space) with lots of kids and pets: http://becky-beckysblabber.blogspot.com/2010/11/spare-your-knees-alternative-way-to.html FWIW, I think time is a huge issue for most people. I'd love to see some designs that are fast and big, and easy to do on a typical home machine.

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  66. Ha ha..you won't believe it..but I'm not FMQing yet coz I'm unable to get a FMQ foot here in Chennai (India). Have only been doing some straight line quilting but seem to have trouble with puckers :-(

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  67. Thanks a lot for your inspiring blog. There are many designs I would like to try.
    What design matches to the quilttop, is the main question.
    My greatest problem is to quilt an allover design on a large quilttop. Therefore sectionquilting is my favourite at the time.
    kind regards
    Claudia

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  68. Why does my thread shred and break while I'm free-motion quilting? I have a quality machine (Brother QC-1000), I drop the feed dogs, set the machine (newly cleaned of lint) on quilting, use a fresh needle and quality thread. I use gloves, and support the weight of the quilt. Some of my medium-to-large stippling is fine, but when I try anything detailed or complicated (like pebbles), the thread snaps with regularity, driving me crazy!!!!

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  69. Like so many others - my biggest hold-up is in deciding what design to use where. My quilts are to be used. I don't want the quilting to be too dense because I want my quilts to be soft and squishy.
    Thanks for your wonderful site!!

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  70. How do I find the money, space, and time?!?

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  71. Time and Terror. Time - I know practice practice practice is the key but I really only have 1/2 hour in the evening after a long day to practice and by the time I get set up and get in the flow I am running out of time. Doubt you can help with that.
    Terror - I make really nice tops but am terrified to practice on them and ruin a perfectly good top.
    So here I am stopped dead in my tracks.

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  72. Which design to put where? I am better at choosing designso for around appliqué but I get totally lost on quilting a patchwork pieced top. Can't wait to hear what you have to say to all these questions!

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  73. Choosing designs that compliment the quilt and make it an even better quilt. Also, finding the time to practice so that I can become a better quilter.

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  74. I would say that deciding what design to FM quilt is what keeps me from getting started. Once I decide on a design, I am usually moving along. I seem to have to stare at my quilt for days, weeks, sometimes months before this comes to me. I guess this is the subjective part of quilting. It's so hard to take out the stitches that it is easier not to start!

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  75. Other than working 40 hours a week and family obligations? It would be the bobbin - it keeps breaking, jamming the needle and otherwise being frustrating. I have so many ideas in my head, it is difficult not to be able to execute them because the !$#@% machine is not cooperating.

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  76. - How do I give myself the gift of time...permission to regularly quilt...and truly honor it without feeling 'I should be doing something less selfish'?

    - How do I get my butt in the chair, and just do it, without overthinking it?

    Thanks, Leah! You can see I'm in a quilting rut right now ;)

    Best,
    Jae

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  77. I'm getting comfortable with FMQing (since I have been going thru and doing the beginning patterns from your site. Where I am blocked now is how to find a way to more easily pin baste the projects so I can quilt. I was using a big table at an adult education classroom - but that class has been closed down so the table is not available to me anymore....

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  78. #1 reason would be lack of time. Since there is no lesson that can really fix that...on my test samples so far, my stitches are very uneven and jumpy looking. I also noticed some trouble on a garment I finished recently, my bobbin thread started making loops. I suspect I was going too fast or there's a tension problem (scary) or some other mystery, but I don't know how to start investigating.

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  79. My most important fmq question is why doesn't my work on larger items look as good as my little samples. I've been a hand-quilter for over 35 years and just started fmq'ing last year when I discovered Leah's blog. I was inspired and felt properly trained from the videos to tackle machine quilting as well and fine as my hand-quilting. I've been practicing drawing the designs and quilting them on samples. However, my first grandchild was born two weeks ago and my attempt at fmq'ing his baby quilt was extremely disappointing. :(

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  80. Hi Leah. Firstly I love what you are doing with the project. I think for me the stumbling block is working out how to work the designs on an actual quilt. The video you did that broke the quilt into quadrants was really good for the lollipop stitch but some of the other designs I can't quite see how to get the same flow. I guess this is also because all of your samples are stitched from one corner in a small square.

    Also I'm not really that clear on what to do with the dog feeds if you dont have a supreme slide thingie.

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  81. Hi Leah,
    I'm late in getting started with this project (haven't actually started yet) and I think it boils down to: INSPIRATION and FEAR. My #1 question is this: How do you know (or decide) what design you will use to do the quilting? What's your inspiration? I think that it's my FEAR that my quilt will be spoiled by my quilting and that the quilting will spoil the quilt because I don't know how to decide to quilt it -- I lack the INSPIRATION!

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