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    This first blog is just about the ‘kit’ you’ll need to get started and more blogs will follow with tips I’ve picked up, any issues I encounter etc.  There are a lot of very helpful and informative blogs available already from people with years and years of experience of free motion quilting and so my blog will differ inasmuch as I am pretty much a beginner at this type of quilting myself.

    Free Motion Quilting (‘FMQ’) on domestic machines using templates and rulers is already popular in America and I can see why – from the very little work I've done with templates, it really is fun and there’s every reason to think that the trend will catch on in Britain too. 

    Perversely, I’m doing things back to front starting with FMQ using templates and rulers, rather than getting used to FMQ first then adding the templates and rulers. 

    Some time before I ever thought of opening an online shop I was visiting a friend who had been to a FMQ workshop a few days beforehand and I saw some of the samples she had made during the workshop.   As I had never given Free Motion Quilting any real thought, other than to admire other people’s handiwork, I had no idea what was entailed.  At that stage I didn’t even know that you needed to have the feed dogs down.  That’s how little I knew!

    Inspired by my friend’s samples, I asked if I could try.   I was unfamiliar with her machine but that's no excuse for what I produced!  I tried visualisation at first thinking I was moving the fabric rhythmically in gentle swooping motions.  That isn’t what actually happened though.  The moment I sat at the machine, for some inexplicable reason, I tensed up with shoulders hunched and whenever I started sewing I seemed to have spasms and my hands would jerk this way and that.   After my disappointing start with FMQ I decided that I needed to set aside some time to relax and practice.  In the meantime I started to watch a lot of tutorials on You Tube and it was from these that I picked up tips, which helped me understand why my earlier attempts were not particularly successful.   In fact, before I started using the templates and rulers, I had not used FMQ on any of my patchworks.  I had stuck to straight line stitching using a walking foot attachment and, when I say ‘straight line’ stitching, on close inspection, one might see a wobble or two.

    More recently I attended the Spring Quilt Festival at Exeter in Devon and saw someone demonstrating FMQ using rulers and templates and I recognised the enormous potential of using them to create fabulous patterns on patchworks.  When I got home I carried out some research to find out what was needed and realised that to use templates and rulers effectively there are some accessories that are essential and some that are preferable to have but are not absolutely necessary.    At the bottom is a list of the accessories I have bought which may help as a guideline.

    The accessories you will need will depend on your machine.  My machine is a Janome Atelier 5, which has a high shank.  It’s important to know whether you have a low or high shank machine as this will determine the ¼” ruler foot attachment suitable for your machine.  Care needs to be taken to make sure you buy the right attachment so that you don’t damage your machine.  So whatever attachment you decide to get make sure that it’s the right one. 

    As my Janome machine came with a ‘Quilting Kit’ including, amongst other accessories, a Convertible Free Motion Quilting Foot Set (a Foot Holder and three interchangeable feet) I decided to buy the Janome attachment.   It is the foot holder from the set that’s needed for the FMQ with templates and rulers and you will also need the ¼” Ruler Foot to attach to the Foot Holder, which I had to buy separately.  The Janome ¼” ruler foot for my machine is called a Free Motion Frame Quilting Feet Set and includes two feet (a ¼” ruler foot and an open toe frame quilting foot).  Below is an image of what the Janome ¼” ruler foot attachment looks like for my machine:

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    And this is what it looks like when it is attached to the Foot Holder:

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    The ¼” ruler foot has a ½” diameter and a high heel at the back and is designed to accommodate the use of ¼” rulers and templates.

    If you decide to buy a ¼" ruler foot from Westalee for example, you won't need the foot holder attachment.

    My Janome Quilt Kit also included an Extra Wide Table.  If you don’t have an extension table I would recommend getting one. Having the extra space allows you to handle large quilts more easily and the bigger the table the better.  It is now possible to get large extension tables for the vast majority of domestic machines.  

    Although I prefer not to wear quilting gloves, I found that I had much better control when wearing them.   Obviously getting a pair of gloves that fit well is an advantage.  I need to get a smaller pair as my current gloves are a tiny bit too big and I managed to sew the tip of the glove to my quilt!  Thankfully, I managed to extricate my glove with some deft snipping without damaging the quilt or machine and with no obvious damage to the gloves.  It was rather comical.

    I also discovered that a sew slip mat is a ‘must’ as you need to avoid having any ridges or ruts where the machine throat meets with the extension table.  You are aiming to have a smooth surface so that the ruler or templates don’t get caught on any uneven surface.

    The next purchase is a template or template set.  For the Folklore Windswept quilt pictured below I used one of the Westalee Circles on Quilts templates (this kit comes with four templates in different sizes plus adhesive strips which you add to your template to provide extra stability).  There are a lot of templates on the market, particularly abroad.  Having looked at a number of different makes I decided to go with the Westalee templates, an Australian brand.  There are a lot of You Tube tutorials by Leonie West of Westalee and I would highly recommend these. They are easy to follow and the methods are explained very clearly.   I understand there are over 200 Westalee templates suitable for use on domestic machines.   The options for creating superb designs are endless. The range of Westalee templates available in England is currently limited but I understand Cotton Patch will be stocking the entire range in just a matter of weeks.

    There are other brands of rulers and templates on the market but I haven’t tried any of these.

    Below is an image of one of the Westalee circles template I used and an image of the Folklore Windswept baby quilt I made using the template.  In my next blog I will describe my experience of using the Circles on Quilts templates.

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    Image 1

    When I thought I was fully kitted out I discovered that the tension on the bobbin needs to be adjusted when doing FMQ.    Now I know this, it explains why my early attempts were ‘okay’ but not brilliant.  With the alteration on the bobbin tension the difference to the quality of the stitching is really noticeable.   Adjusting the bobbin tension can be done manually.  However, I didn’t want to run the risk of not being able to reset the bobbin tension when reverting to straightforward sewing. Therefore, I decided to splash out and buy a bobbin holder specifically for FMQ (I didn't even know such a thing existed until recently).  I feel as though I’ve been ‘splashing out’ a lot lately.   The acquisition of the special bobbin holder is worth considering if you are planning to do a lot of FMQ.  On my Janome Atelier 5 the ordinary bobbin holder has a red dot and the FMQ bobbin holder has a blue dot to help you identify which is which.

    My list of accessories for FMQ with rulers and templates on a Janome Atelier 5:

    Necessary Accessories                        

    • Slip mat                                
    • ¼” Ruler Foot Attachment (high shank)
    • Extension Table
    • Rulers and Templates

    Optional Accessories

    • Convertible Free Motion Foot Holder (high shank).  This is optional as you won't need this if you opt for a ¼" ruler foot that has been designed to be attached without a foot holder.  As I already had the Janome Quilting Kit with the foot holder attachment I chose to buy the Janome ¼" foot attachment.
    • Gloves
    • Bobbin Holder for Free Motion Quilting

    Visit my website again in three to four weeks for the next instalment on FMQ using templates and rulers including the template I used on the Folklore baby quilt.

    I hope you've found this blog helpful.



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    As a fan of pre-cut fabric I like to see what I can make with just a bundle or two.  Sometimes, but not always, I have a rough idea of the look I'm after.  

    Riley Blake's Dot & Dash fabric seemed like the perfect bundle to try out something creative.  I used a pattern I came up with ages ago which I used for a wall hanging.   At the end of this blog I've included an image of the wall hanging for illustration purposes.

    After posting a photo of the Dot and Dash quilt on some quilting sites, several people asked for details about the pattern so I decided I would re-do the quilt top and try to improve it.  I haven't quilted the latest piece yet, so I've only done the top so far, as I'm currently eagerly waiting to receive a 1/4" ruler foot so I can try my hand at using some templates and ruler work to quilt the piece. 

    My original quilt measured  W36.5" x L55.5" or W92.5 cms x L140.5 cms and the latest version now measures W45" x L56" or W114 cms x L142 cms.

    If you are planning to use the Dot and Dash Rollie Pollie, bear in mind that it has only 21 strips so if you want a larger quilt use 2 or more bundles.  Alternatively you could use a Dot and Dash 10" Stacker (small layer cake) which has 21 10" squares.  This could be sliced into 2.5" strips.

    Image 3

    Cut 10" strips out of the 21 pieces - or you could cut 11" pieces at a pinch - if you're feeling brave.  You should now have 84 10" pieces.   To achieve maximum effect, try to make sure you place the pieces so that you have a dark print against a light one.  On the diagonal, you want the colours to blend or 'bleed' into each other.

    Those familiar with chain piecing can use this to speed up the process.  The method for achieving the diagonal line is exactly the same as for making a binding. Don't worry, I will explain how this is done anyway.

    Divide your 84 pieces into two piles - one dark and the other light - and, starting with the dark fabric, place it with right side facing up in a horizontal position.  Next, place a piece of the light fabric facing down vertically.  You can press a crease line, mark a line or, as I did, 'eye ball' the line and then sew a diagonal as illustrated in the image below.  If you have a binding tool, which I don't (at the moment at any rate) you can use that instead. 

    Image 2

    Repeat this until you have 21 strips with the dark fabric on the left and the light side on the right.  Now repeat the process with the remaining pieces, this time with the light fabric on the left and the dark fabric on the right.  This is precautionary for anyone using fabric that isn't interchangeable - in other words if the pattern needs to be a certain way up.  Once all 42 pairs (21 dark/light and 21 light/dark) are complete, trim off the excess fabric, so that you are left with a 1/4" seam. 

    Image 4


    Image 1Set and press the seams.

    Now lay all the pieces out and try to make sure that there's an even distribution of the patterns.  Make three columns (so, 3 pairs placed horizontally) and 14 rows in total if you are using the Dot & Dash Rollie Pollie.  If using another jelly roll, you may have to adapt the number of columns and rows.   This is a good opportunity to chain piece.   I like to sew two at a time to make four rows etc., and when these are complete, set, press and repeat the process until you end up with an equal number of rows in each column which you then sew together.

    For the original Dot & Dash quilt I made, I have to confess that it ended up smaller than I intended and I had to trim it down, to correct a mistake I'd made, so for this latest one I've made it larger.  I used Riley Blake's Sashing Stash for the border,  and, as you will see from the image below, the design of the Sashing Stash is really versatile.  You can simply use one or more sections, whatever appeals to you, and make the quilt as wide or long as you like.  You could add a splash of colour and have two borders.  I will be using the Sashing Stash for the backing on this quilt, as I did for the original.  The measurement for the side borders of the original quilt is 5" (12.5 cms) and, for the end border, 2.5" (6 cms).  For the latest version I extended the side borders to  9" on each side (23 cms).

    Image 5

    When I made the first quilt I used an egg-yolk yellow binding as I wanted the quilt to 'pop'.  I tried various options but, for me, the yellow worked best of all.  I'm undecided about what colour to use for the latest version.  I'll quilt it first and then decide.

    Below are a couple of images of the quilt top I've just made, one taken vertically and the other horizontally and a couple of images of the wall hanging I mentioned above so that you can see what it looks like when using more colour variations.

    Image 10

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    IMG_5302If you have any queries about this blog please do contact me and I'll do my best to answer any questions.

    In the meantime I hope you've found this helpful, to a degree at least!

    Happy sewing.

    I would love to see photos of quilts made using this pattern.