I absolutely love hand-quilting and 39 of the 43 quilts I have made have been lovingly and painstakingly hand-stitched. I prefer to sew with a thicker thread (perle cotton or Gutermann topstitch) in a contrasting colour and use fairly big stitches, because let’s be honest – if I’m going to bother doing it I want people to see it!
I have dabbled in traditional quilting thread and teeny tiny stitches once when I was finishing an antique quilt top that I bought on eBay. The quilting lines had been marked out in pencil by the original maker and I wanted to make sure that my hand-stitching was in-keeping with the style and age of the quilt. It took f*****g ages and althought it looks absolutely stunning, I am not in a rush to quilt in this style again!
4 of my projects were quilted on a long-arm machine by the lovely Mary at Thimbles Quilting. 3 of those quilts were gifts with deadlines and as time was tight and I was working full-time, it made sense to pay to have them machine quilted. The 4th was my Christmas quilt, which I made in 2018. I decided to have that custom quilted because I was making it as an heirloom for us to keep and quite frankly, it was so big, I couldn’t face doing it by hand!
There is of course another option for finishing quilts and that is to machine quilt them yourself. When I upgraded my sewing machine in 2016 I made sure I bought a model that came with everything I would need to do this – an extension table, darning foot and the function to lower the feed dogs. I kept meaning to do a FMQ workshop at Hometown, but never managed to and all of a sudden I had owned my machine for nearly 5 years and still hadn’t tried it!
At the beginning of January I spotted a post on Instagram about an online course run by The Crafty Nomad called ‘Confident and Joyful Free Motion Quilting’. It cost around the same as a one-day workshop, but would run for 30 days and include pre-recorded video lessons, live sessions and tasks to complete each week. As the UK had just been plunged into yet another lockdown and I had been partially furloughed, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try FMQ and keep myself occupied, so I signed up straight away!
I have just finished the course and it has been absolutely fantastic! I have learnt so much, from the tools and materials required and how to prepare my machine, to different all-over and filler designs and how to use them in a project. In the final week we had the option to make a sewing machine cover, table runner or small quilt using a pattern included in the course. This was the perfect project to try out our new skills and it has been lovely to see what the other students have been making in our Facebook group.
The tutor, Jo, has done a fantastic job of pivoting from in-person to online teaching due to the pandemic and I am so impressed by the very professional portal she has set up and the high quality of the videos and printed materials she has produced. Jo is obviously a brilliant teacher because I have gone from zero experience to feeling confident enough to machine quilt a wall hanging in just 30 days, which is amazing!
I still think I will hand-stitch the majority of the quilts I make, but it’s nice to know that I can quilt them at home on my domestic machine if I decide to. I might treat myself to a book of FMQ designs so I can continue to develop my skills and I’ll be looking out for Jo’s next course release in the spring!