Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Chats with Grandma week one Project Size for Beginner Free Motion Quilters

straight line quilting on a pillow I made 3 yrs ago

I have a confession to make.  Though I am a "quilter" and have designed, pieced and quilted several quilts, I really prefer to make small projects.  There I said it.  Cat's out of the bag!  I have always loved sharing my quilty love with others for holiday and birthday gifts, but I have a big family and making quilts every time just never was practical.  I grew a deep love of the small project- pillows, placemats, table runners, pot holders, purses, zip bags you know- all the little things.  They had tons of impact without the huge investment of time and money.  Typically I could utilize scraps and not spend a dime- and not spending much became a source of inspiration for me.  If I didn't have much to spend I could see it as a hindrance or a fun creative challenge.  Being a sunshiny optimist I preferred the latter.  This is something I really found was an asset when I started learning FMQ.  I had tons of go to projects I could first quilt and then make as usual- with some small clever adaptations that gave me lots of little things to work on instead of being stuck on one big quilt.  There is no pressure to perfectly quilt a small free project for your niece or sister- and if they love it (which my family thankfully always does) your confidence gets a nice boost.  That mentality was my basis for teaching myself free motion quilting- and it worked so well for me that I am sharing it all with you in the book.  By starting small I feel you have the chance to work out the rhythm, the design, the tension, and build confidence so when you are ready to move to something larger you are only dealing with the one new element of moving a larger piece instead of many potentially overwhelming elements at one time.  I asked Grandma to give her thoughts on project size and what she thought was good to begin quilting on.... I really loved what she had to say and I hope you all do too!

a tote bag I made for a friends birthday early in my FMQ days

Whether you start with a big project or a small one is purely a matter of personal choice. What is more important is that you choose a project that matches your skill level. If you are a beginner you probably don’t want to choose a bed-sized quilt with the Lemoyne star pattern. There is nothing wrong with challenging yourself to make a project using a new skill, but unless you have practiced that skill you may waste a lot of time and money if it doesn’t work out, not to mention causing yourself a lot of frustration. I like the idea of making a practice square of a pattern before actually starting a project. I have a stash of material called “what was I thinking”. I use it to make a practice square and this allows me to find out ahead of time what  problems I might run into with the project. Another practical way to prepare is to make a place mat or table runner using the pattern I have chosen. That is something I can always use and is another great way to practice the pattern.

Human nature being what it is, most newbies want to make a bed quilt. If that is your passion, go ahead. A few tips if you go that way. Find a quilting buddy. When you get overwhelmed or frustrated you will have someone to work through the problem with. Practice the pattern first – it could make a big difference. On the other hand, if you are a patient person wanting to work on your skill level, then find small projects with quilt patterns that help develop your skills. Honestly, if I had it to do over I would not have made that bed quilt first. I would have taken the time to learn more techniques before tackling a big project. There are so many cute small projects out there – like the ones in your book, Molly – that are skill builders and then when you start that big quilt you will be ready. Now here is the most important part of all. If you aren’t having fun, don’t do it. Quilting should be a fun, relaxing time. It should never be the dread in your life. Build your skills and enjoy.

Grandma Pat 

Had fun practicing swirls on this pinwheel pillow - some of my first ever swirls!
Please make sure and stop by my facebook page to join the conversation!  What project size did you start learning free motion quilting on?  If you haven't yet tried to learn and are planning to what project size do you think would work best to start?  Have you tried to learn free motion quilting and been overwhelmed by a large quilt and quit?  Let me know what you think and if you have any questions you would like Grandma and my thoughts on for upcoming weeks. 


  1. This is such great advice! So many people want to run before they've learned to walk, and then end up disappointed and discouraged. I'm definitely going to pass this on.

  2. Where was Gramma Pat when I started? I never finished that project because I too, attempted something way over my skill level. Thankfully, I didn't give up....

    Great post! I look forward to hearing/reading more!

  3. Grandma Pat is where it's at! I'm so glad Molly has you in her life to offer her encouragement, wisdom and love as she expands her quilting career!
    Quilters rule!

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