The Free Motion Quilting Project: Videocast #11 - Summer fun with Sewing Machines

Friday, May 20, 2011

Videocast #11 - Summer fun with Sewing Machines

I missed my videocast last week because I got so busy after the Janome video I didn't have time and I don't know about you, but I really missed it!

So here's Videocast #11 summing up everything from the last 2 weeks:

James is out of school now which means he will be making a lot more cameo appearances in these videos during the summer. As you can see in the video, Josh is forcing me to stick with the rule of these videocasts: one shot, one take. No matter what happens the camera doesn't stop recording!

We've had many new designs over the last two weeks. Let's catch up on them all:

free motion quilting | Leah DayRockin' is an excellent variation of Pebbling, only instead of circles, you're stacking hexagons, pentagons, and octagons.

Feather Fans is an excellent design for anyone wishing to practice the feather shape. You'll get lots of practice while swirling feathers all over your quilt!

free motion quilting | Leah DaySpeaking of feathers, we've also learned Complex Feather, a feather design filled with spirals and arching lines to create a really unique texture.

This week we've learned Rattlesnake, an easier version than Tangled Snakes that is filled with Lacy Lattice rather than circles.

free motion quilting | Leah DayFinally the last design is Calm Sea, a very simple, easy design perfect for adding a simple flowing texture across the surface of your quilt. Try this on in the sashing or borders of your next blue quilt to see what I mean!

In the videocast I also shared some more information about the Under $500 Sewing Machine Review.

Yesterday I sat down at my $500 sewing machine (the Janome HD-1000) and pieced two quilts, appliqued four quilt blocks, and today I plan to quilt a small baby quilt, all in the effort of putting this little inexpensive machine through its paces.

I've received some great feedback to the launch of this new project. Many of the comments are supportive, but there's a growing group of quilters trying to talk me out of buying a machine from Walmart, Sears, or Joann's.

These machines in particular need to be reviewed honestly because these are going to be the machines that most often get purchased by brand new, beginning quilters and sewers! I'm going to review these machines honestly, which means if it can't produce a nice stitch, or if it just can't free motion quilt on it, I'm going to tell you and show you why.

I'm not interested in slandering or libeling any sewing machine manufacturers, but if I pick up a machine that is so utterly cheap it can't stitch, I'm going to show you.

But it's also good to keep in mind that just because a machine is sold in a big box store that doesn't automatically make it a terrible machine. Just like paying $1000 or more doesn't guarantee that the machine you're buying is a great machine (though I would hope it's at least decent at that price)!

These are just biases that have no real basis in fact. Unless you yourself have personally stitched on a particular machine, you can't say how good it is!

I'm trying to remain as unbiased and objective as possible so I can review each machine with an open mind. If I go into a review thinking a machine is cheap or bad, it's going to go badly.

I think the real key with this whole review program is my attitude about it. I'm not getting emotional about these machines at all.

Usually when I buy a new machine, I WANT it to be good. I want it to be awesome. I want it to make me feel like my investment was worth it. I simply want to love my machine.

But with these Under $500 machines, I'm trying NOT to fall in love. I'm trying to remain open minded, unbiased, and unemotional. More than anything else, I want to give each machine the fairest shot that I can, no matter if I paid $50 or $499, no matter if I bought it from Ebay, Amazon, Walmart, or Sears.

This is the reason why I'm not accepting any machines for free. If I got a machine for free, if I didn't make the same investment as I have with all the others, it would mess with my emotional balance with that machine. Suddenly I would feel beholden to the person or company that sent me the machine and guilty if I didn't quickly review it positively.

I hope this all makes sense. It's a bit of a soapbox, but I hope you can understand why it's so important for me to buy machines from many different places.

Hopping off my soapbox, I'm working hard at getting the bare bones of the new Machine Review area of the site ready to launch. When it's done, you'll be able to search through reviews sent in through the Sewing Machine Survey and learn more about machines that cost under $500.

So that's it for this week! I'm heading back into the studio to start free motion quilting a baby quilt top I've had pieced for 2 years. It's time to finally finish this baby!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. I bought my Brother SE350 from Walmart and I love it for piecing, free motion, and quilting in general. =)

  2. I think it's a great idea to try out machines from Sears, Walmart, etc. because that is what most people start with and a good or bad inexpensive machine can make or break the decision to sew and quilt.

    I would really love to see if you are able to find a machine that is inexpensive, small, and lightweight for a travel machine. The Singer Featherweights seem to be pretty expensive.

  3. I'm so glad you are doing ones from walmart too.
    I have one that Im working on and trying to figure out the free motion stitching on it. Its a Brother and its very portable and lightweight.

    I havent reached the point of doing a quilt in free motion- but my trial pieces are getting better.

    This also is not the "quilters" edition either so its trial and error to figure it out.

  4. I have a brother I bought from Walmart, it does sewing as well as embroidery, and I have 2 kenmores that are heavy duty machines that I also love, I used to quilt on them,but now I have a Janome 1600 P on a frame for my quilting. The less expensive machines can be great, and it leaves more money for fabric. LOL Marianne @ wackyworldofquilting.

  5. I agree with both sides of this. Machines sold at Walmart, Costco, etc. are generally not supportable by "dealers", not to say that a quality sewing machine repair person can't get parts and service a machine from there. But what you absolutely cannot get is support/training without a dealer, but you do pay a price for that and there are lot's of people who don't have someone nearby.

  6. I am so glad you are not accepting machines for free. I feel like the reviews you are giving ARE honest and not meant to try to push a certain brand or store. Stick with it girl!

    I have expensive machines...cuz I can....but I want to know which of the inexpensive machines are good and can be recommended to the myriad of sewers who are starting out and can't afford anything expensive. This is gonna be such a great resource!

  7. I'm using a Sears machine I bought 12+ years ago for just under $600. It has a few tension issues that were mostly solved by using plastic bobbins, rather than metal ones. I have tried using it with feed dogs down and it was not pretty, but I finished a wall hanging with feed dogs up and stitch lenth of zero. Worked great. I just need to practice more. Your blog gave me the courage to start FMQ. Love it.

  8. I did participate in this survey, and I constantly recommend the Kenmore machines for beginning sewers. My philosophy is...if you buy a quality machine that is inexpensive, don't worry about dealer back-up. If the machine starts to give you trouble, then buy another. Do the math on the difference between one machine that costs $2000 and 5 that cost $250 each.

  9. So... you are buying the machines you're reviewing, then what? Are you going to sell them or have an amazing sewing machine stash? :)

    I had a Brother from Walmart that was great for lighter weight stuff but I wanted something that could sew on denim so I upgraded. I think it would be a great machine for a beginner though and there are tons of people out there who will probably never want to make jeans :).

  10. I think it is great that you will be reviewing machines from W, S & J. For many people these are the only places to buy a machine without going online. Personally I've always wondered if they really are the junky machines so many magazines and famous quilters would have you believe. Hello - mags and famous quilters make MONEY from high end makers so of course they will bad mouth the W's, S's and J's of the world. I would like to hear objectively if there is any real basis in the "they are junk" statement. Thanks!!!


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at