The Free Motion Quilting Project: Josh's Quilting Tip #5

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #5

Today's beginner tip is going to be short and sweet.

After about an hour of free motion quilting for the very first time, I realized how important being relaxed was in order to maintain stitch consistency and overall quality.

As I sat down to work on the block, I was tense, anxious, and obsessing over every little screw-up or stitch irregularity. My posture was also very stiff and I couldn't relax my shoulders.

I needed something to help take the edge off and get me into the FMQ zone.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Thanks to being relaxed and comfortable at the machine,
this stippling is some of my best FMQ stitching yet.
So make yourself a cup of hot soothing tea, like chamomile, or pour a glass of wine, or have a cold beer, or a small mixed drink like a gin and tonic (obviously, you don't want to go overboard here, unless your goal is a drunkard path, haha).

Another option would be putting on a CD of relaxing music, an audiobook, or even a white noise generator.

So that's how I've been getting into the relaxed flow of free motion quilting. While alcohol obviously is not required to free motion quilt, it did make it easier to lose my tension and anxiety and just go with the flow. This was especially true for the first two or three sessions of free motion quilting.

Here's a hot, seasonal drink recipe which is perfect to sit next to your machine.

Hot Toddy

- Calming tea like chamomile or mint
- A cheap scotch blend or Canadian whiskey

Fill a mug 3/4 way full with hot water and add your tea bag. Steep for a minute, then pour in a little cool water so the alcohol doesn't evaporate out, then add 1/2 shot of scotch (obviously not good stuff!) or whiskey.

Not only is this recipe great for relaxing, it's also a nice remedy for a sore throat.

So what are some of your favorite things to do to get in the relaxed zone for free motion quilting?


  1. Josh, I've heard that a glass on wine, music AND lots of practice is the key to great free motion quilting. Too bad I heard that after I already had my rhythm down, and, I sure don't to mess with something that works relatively well! You are doing great for a beginner and I commend you.

  2. Oh, Josh ~ remember what Leah has said in the past, ENJOY it. Don't be so critical of your work and relax. It is in your mind that you need to be perfect right out of the box; you are not in competition with anyone. I like the relaxing music portion though~

  3. I am really enjoying your quilting tips, Josh. I relax by rolling my shoulders back a few times, visualizing what pattern I am going to quilt and then I take a deep breath and start slowly. Thanks and have a happy holiday.

  4. Josh, I love your transparency and honesty! Leah, I love that about you, too! When our babies first learn to walk, they are wobbly, off balance, fall A LOT, and it isn't pretty. Actually, it's HILARIOUS, but it's also CUTE! That's how I look at my early attempts at FMQ. What if our babies refused to TRY to walk, because they KNEW they would fall? You're doing FABULOUS. Keep it up, because you are a tremendous encouragement to us all!!!

  5. Congratulations Josh, on a great job for a beginner. The tip for a newbie sounds like a good one (along with a lot of practice). I learned to free motion quilt before someone gave me advice about the wine and music! Keep up the good work. Janet G in Sun City, TX

  6. I had to "lol" at this. Remember in the movie "Raw Deal" when Arnold told his wife, "You shouldn't drink...and bake!" My Zorro would tell me I shouldn't drink and sew! Thanks for the tips. I'm a newbie too, so every bit helps.

  7. Don't forget a little chocolate. Essential quilting tool.

  8. Where were you and Leah when I started FMQ more than 15 years ago? Just kidding. The best tip I got back in the day was from an article written by Robbi Joy Ecklow. She recommended practicing quilting on felt. You can get it pre-cut for crafters in all sorts of appealing colors. There was something very liberating about not having to deal with a quilt sandwich. Once I got my eye, hand and foot coordination I moved on to practice blocks and then charity quilts.

    These days I listen to a book on tape while I FMQ.

  9. The best thing I get today was : You signed the stipeling and went over the signed line!!!! WoW! What a good idea! My problem is to find may way to let it look "something similar" to a stippling pattern!
    Think I'll give it a try!!!
    Thank you Josh!

  10. Josh---the first time i tried the wine thing oh i thought it was wonderful, the quilting was going great! then i thought i should throw it down on the floor to see how my quilting pattern was going, What! What the heck is all the bunch up, i turned it over and had a pile up you wouldn't believe---music but NO wine from now on.

  11. I quilt while listening to audio-books. I love the Audible app on my iPad. Listening to someone reading aloud to you is very soothing.

  12. Love your beginner tips Josh! The wine/hot toddy route is a perfect suggestion! Thanks!


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