The Free Motion Quilting Project: Josh's Quilting Tip #3

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #3

Josh here for today's beginner tip!

Today I'll be talking about your positioning of the quilt block and the best angle for your stitching.

First thing, are you right or left handed? Leah is left-handed and I'm right-handed. Obviously, this makes a huge difference in the direction your stitching will go, but it may not necessarily be the way you initially think you should go. Leah recommended one direction for me, which after a minute or two of stitching clearly was not working, and then I tried a direction I thought would work, but this angle was not the right one either.

Only after experimenting with several fillers and directions did I find the right positioning. I also moved my hands wider apart on the block, which was critical in discovering the most comfortable angle for me.

This brings me to another point: I could not get fully comfortable stitching until I adjusted something on the machine. There was a screw about half an inch from the block surface which was perfectly placed to get in my way. My fingers are larger than Leah's, and the screw would jam down on the nail of my index finger any time I got too close.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This became so distracting I was watching the screw more than my quilt block. As I'm totally new to machine sewing, or working with anything quite like it, I had no idea what would happen if the screw hit my finger. Would it damage the foot or the machine? Would it smash up my finger like a mantis shrimp? I did not want to find out.

Ultimately we loosened the screw so the flat side was parallel with my finger (as shown above), opposed to perpendicular. This gave me just enough space to feel comfortable getting closer to the foot.

To sum up today's tip, feeling comfortable around your machine is key to learning the best way to place your hand on the block and the most natural direction to move the block as you stitch. Try out several basic filler designs and repeat them until you're confident you've found the angle that's best for you. When you find it, you will know instantly. At least that was my experience.

Now let's go quilt!



  1. Really enjoying sharing your learning experiences with starting to quilt!

  2. This is a brilliant idea to show beginning free motion from a newby's view. It will be fun to see what new designs you can add to this!

  3. Ouch! I know that feeling very well, and have cursed my FMQ foot out many a time. How silly I never thought to turn the screw so it's laying flat!

  4. I'm finally learning that it's okay to play around! I was struggling with breaking thread for ages. It's so very frustrating to be working along and then SNAP, thread breaks. After rethreading the machine and the needle, to start again, but have the thread break just moments later.
    I took Leah's advice and tried some polyester thread. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. I could finish the quilt without a further thread break. The quilting went from being frustrating to being fun. I can't wait to try more.
    All I can say is Thank You for suggesting we try out new things, for that simple change may be enough to make the process work for you.

  5. Josh and Leah, these tips are great, and trying to learn FMQ on a domestic (I am a longarmer) is a challenge to me. I used Josh's tip about marking my path, and what a huge huge help. Thanks!

  6. If you get hooked on quilting will you get your own machine? Sometimes it's hard to share when creativity strikes.

  7. That screw is the one that holds the needle in (or at least it looks like it is). I have had that thumb screw loosen enough so that the needle fell out while sewing, luckily nothing was damaged. You might look into trying to find a regular screw to replace it. You will need a screwdriver to replace the needle but it will be safer.

  8. As regards to paper piecing have always loved it but beware I took some on hols to do and lost my fabric I was halfway through a double wedding ring and it has never been finished I had done four foot but lost heart when I lost the fabric so it sits on the shelf one day I will figure out what to do with it. So beware never take something important away from home.
    Many thanks for your tutorials xx

  9. I agree with Christi's comment about the screw being for the needle and would hate to see you create machine problems with a slipped/broken needle. There are cylindrical screws that are available because I have one.

    thanks for your perspective on quilting.

  10. Love watching Josh learn FMQ. Even though I have been quilting for quite awhile following along on Josh's journey has helped me be easer on my self. Also thanks Leah love your easy attitude.

  11. I have felt that screw come down on my finger a few times - you're right it can be very distracting. I'm still open for other options since the head of my screw is completely round. Fortunately, it only happens occasionally. I suppose I will find a position with more practice that avoids that problem.

  12. Josh, you are very very good at expressing your hints. I love being taught by Leah but you are bringing hits, that she might have forgotten. Cool beans both of you. Thanks and I am converted to FMQ and just have to be patient with myself. Michele

  13. I have been really enjoying these posts. It is interesting to see how your tips differ from others that I have read. I think it is because you talk about your failures and your successes. Most people just talk about their successes.


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