The Free Motion Quilting Project: Question Thursday #19

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Question Thursday #19

It's time for Question Thursday and so far it doesn't seem like my Modern Block instructions were too confusing!  Yay!

Personally I find teaching piecing FAR more difficult than teaching free motion quilting, but that's probably just because I haven't done much of it.  I really hope all your blocks come together easily and super wonky so we can put them together in a fantastic quilt next week.

Now let's see what questions have cropped up in the last week.  From Pat at Color Me Quilty:

Although it probably isn't common to FMQ without a backing, how do you hide your thread tails. Do you just pull them to the back?

Ah!  This is one of the reasons I love trapunto and reverse shadow trapunto and other weird techniques that allow me to get away with bad behavior when it comes to loose threads.

Whenever you quilt without a backing, no, you don't need to hide your threads with a cheater needle.  Instead pull them to the back (batting side) of the piece and tie a knot.  Make sure it's a super secure knot, then cut your threads about 1 inch long.

Of course, when quilting with water soluble thread, you can also get away with VERY bad behavior by just clipping the ends off completely (no knot at all) because these threads aren't designed to stay in anyway.

When it comes to quilting without a backing, no, this isn't terrible for your machine so long as your batting isn't falling apart with lint and plugging up your machine.  You guys know I tend to always use poly batting and this has never been a problem to use directly over the machine.

Cotton, on the other hand, you might want to watch.  Just remember to open all those covers on your machine and clean it out every once and awhile so it doesn't totally lock up with lint.

Next let's cover a super important question from Lisa at iQuilt:

Why are the edges of my quilts wavy?

Full Question: I still need to learn what I am doing wrong or how to fix my wavy edges.  Is it a quilting issue?  Am I a bad measurer?  Do I need to square my quilts better?  Probably it's all of the above.

Photo from Lisa's iQuilt Blog right here.
This is one of those things that can drive you nuts, and it certainly caused me quite a few headaches over the years

Personally, I believe a lot of waviness is caused from pulling or tugging on the edges of the quilt at any time during the construction process.

Please keep in mind that fabric is very fluid.  It is an organic substance and very sensitive.  Unfortunately by the time we get a quilt basted, all careful handling of it goes out the window.  It's like we think by having the quilt top together, or by having pins in it, it's suddenly bulletproof.

Even when picking up a quilt, I never just grab the edges and carry it around and hold it up.  I always try to fold a quilt up, carry it to where it needs to go, and support the weight while I'm hanging it on a design wall.

The edges are the most sensitive part of the quilt, even if they have been cut on the straight grain of the fabric because they are supporting all the weight of the whole quilt.

From the look of Lisa's pretty little quilt, I believe most of the waviness might have happened while you applied the binding to the edges of the quilt.

It's SO easy to pull on the binding while applying it.  A good way to prevent yourself from doing this is to let go of the binding completely and DON'T pin it to the quilt before binding.  Instead only touch it to move it into place and keep it in line with the edge of the quilt.  The less you touch it, the less likely it will be pulled and distort the edges of a quilt.

As for sorting out waviness created in the quilting, the best possible solution is blocking. While it's time consuming, and can take up lots of space, it's really the only way to ensure a totally flat, totally perfect finish.

Blocking also makes the binding process easier because squaring up the finished quilt is much easier, and the edges have been stiffened slightly in the process.  Your chances of pulling the edges out of whack is much less.

Also keep in mind that a quilt isn't a canvas painting.  Even with blocking, careful application of binding, and extremely careful handing, you will likely see some rippling in the edges of your quilts.  This is normal, and yes, if you really want to be fastidious about it, you can block 2 times (1st before binding, and 2nd after).

Honestly if a quilt is destined for a bed or the couch or to be drug around by a toddler, I don't worry too much about wavy edges.  Give it a year or two and that quilt will be so nicely worn in and soft, those edges won't matter a bit.

Now let's answer one last question from Becky at The Thompsons:

What's the best way to maneuver in the corners with these loops? 

Photo taken from right here on Becky's Blog The Thompsons
 Yep, this can be a bit tricky, but the good news is there's absolutely no WRONG way to do this.

Yes, if you want to be absolutely perfect about it, you could mark some loops in the corners of your quilt just to make the area easier.

Or you can just wing it.  Here I've sketched two options:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
If you're stitching into the corner and are falling on an inside loop, create a little guy right on the corner of the block, then rotate the block and start stitching along the next side.  You'll leave a little open space in the corner, but it looks okay because the design is still consistent.

If you come into the corner and you're falling on an outside loop (right drawing) make a bigger loop to fill up that corner completely, then swing around to start the next side.

With a little practice this will make sense and as you come into the corner you can slow down and eyeball the area to get an idea of where to go next.

Personally I didn't even notice the corners of Becky's block at all. The little lacy design was such a nice border, it was the edges that caught my eye, not the corners because they look so cute!

Well that's it for today!  I'm heading into the studio to clean up and install a new light fixture.  No more hot halogens allowed!

Let's go quilt,



  1. You mentioned bad habits with water soluble thread. When I first started using it I was carefully pulling up my threads and cutting them when necessary to go to new areas, and then realized there was no reason I couldn't just carry the loose thread across the quilt and start sewing again. So much easier!

    I did laugh though- it came with a "not for swimsuits" warning. Really, it seems like it shouldn't be for ANY garments.

  2. I recently had the waviness issue on two table runners I made. I was so frustrated--I had already made several and not had the problem. What was different? I had used a new type of batting, but couldn't see how that would have been the problem. Then the light went on. I had used the water soluble blue marking pen to mark the quilting motifs on the centers of these runners. Though I know you are supposed to "submerge" to remove the marks, I typically spray heavily or use a very wet cloth and saturate the area. But usually the markings have been evenly dispersed over the entire piece that I am quilting. On these runners I had used no marking, or a different type of marker around the outer layers. The "wet" parts in the middle had shrunk slightly upon drying, leaving the outer edges longer and wavy. I submerged the entire piece, pinned it out straight on my carpeted floor to dry (with an old towel under it), and the waviness is gone!

  3. I ordered your 365 book from Amazon and just received it today...what a wonderful resource! I will still refer back to your posts but as a tactile person, I so will enjoy taking this to my machine! Thanks so much for sharing this all with us :)

  4. Thank you very much for the excellent suggestions!


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