Friday, May 31, 2013

Cruising Placemats down the FMQ Highway

"FMQ": Free Motion Quilting

Although my posts to this blog have been infrequent since my arrival back in France mid March, needle and thread have not been completely idle. There are currently "boutis" works in progress, some new, (more on that at a later date), and the "little sister" Bernina has been out for a spin around some placemats.

Just prior to leaving Vancouver, I had assembled and pieced these 8 placemat tops so they were ready to be machine quilted.  (see my post of March 8/2013).

Tops are pieced and backing is cut to size.

The quilting design had also been completed back in March. The amount of detail that I include in the designs for free motion quilting (FMQ) varies with each project. Sometimes I prefer to draw just a few basic registration lines on the quilt and let the needle and thread inspire the quilting, other times, when the look is more formal, and balance and symmetry are important, I prefer to use a fairly detailed pattern, as I did with these placemats. In this pattern, I used elements of a design that I had made for a tablecloth several years ago. (see my posts of Aug. 25, 2011 and Sept.2, 2011.)

When quilting a border such as this one, I find that the design can become unbalanced and messy looking without fairly detailed marking. However, the interior of the fleurs des lis and the echo quilting could be done without a lot of marking. The diagonal lines were stitched using my walking foot and a piece of painters tape, attached next to the presser foot, as a guide.

Several weeks ago, I finally had the time to work on them again and to get them done.  Tracing the pattern took a while, but the final result was worth it. From past experience, I have learned that investing the time up front in prep work, makes for a more accurate and efficient process.

For most machine work, my preferred marking tool is the blue, water erasable marker, such as the one Clover sells. To wash it off, I use a clean sponge, dipped in water, and lightly wipe off the marks. No damage is done to the fabric.

Placemats drying after the marks have been erased.

The red and white toile de jouy was bought several years ago in a little village near where we live. There was exactly enough of it left from a previous project to make these 8 placemats. Now that, was a bit of good luck.

The finished placemats.
6 of the 8 completed placemats arranged one on top of the other. The top was quilted with an off-white thread.

Because I prefer a tone on tone quilting thread, the choice of an off-white fabric for the top and a terracotta fabric for the back became a challenge. When FMQ something with one light side and one dark side, thread tension is always a problem, unless the same colour of thread is used top and bottom. In this case, I did not want the contrast of different shades of thread, so I spent a lot of time fussing with the tension to prevent a terracotta thread from popping to the top or a white thread showing up on the terracotta backing . Next time, I will use similar shades of colour for the fabrics for the front and back of whatever it is that I am quilting and avoid this problem entirely.

The back of the placemats.
I used a lighter shade of terracotta for the bobbin thread then the colour of the fabric. This helped a little to camouflage the unbalanced threads that appeared on the off-white top once in a while, regardless of my efforts.

Each project that I work on is a learning experience, and the challenges that present themselves, like the thread tension did on these placemats, are opportunites to learn and improve.


  1. WOW...what a LOT OF WORK that went into that machine quilting! The result is breathtaking. You are an expert at this for sure! The placemats turned out exquisite. Hope you are enjoying more balmy nice weather in Montpelier!

    1. Thanks averyclaire. The detail in the placemats is likely a result of NOT having had much balmy weather at all yet. It's easier to work inside when the weather doesn't entice me out, but now that that the placemats are done, the balmy weather would be very welcome. Anytime! Hope that you are enjoying warmth and sunshine in your part of the world.

  2. Gosh, I cannot imagine the amount of fiddling it would have taken to keep each thread on it's own side of the placemat! I admire your persistence.

    How did you trace your pattern? Do you use a lightbox? The detail is impressive.

    And of course, the toile is gorgeous! Great job!

    1. Hi Monica. Thanks for your comments. Because I don't have a lightbox in France, when I am here, I use a "largish" plexiglass sheet, (about 3' x 2'), with a lamp underneath, set between 2 tall stools. This allows me to trace a larger area before moving the quilt to another spot. In the case of these placemats, I could trace the whole design without moving the fabric. When we get back home, I would like to set up something similar, because it is much more efficient. And, it collapses completely.