February 15, 2017

5 More Things I Learned While Flow Quilting

Okay, technically my first post in this series was titled "5 Things I Learned While Grafitti Quilting," but then Yvonne (Quilting Jetgirl) had a discussion on her blog about what to call this style of quilting and in the course of that discussion a few of us started calling it flow quilting. It's the same style of quilting, but flow quilting describes it better, we feel.

Over the course of 2 weeks, I spent about 30 hours flow quilting the negative space in this magazine project. I can't show you the whole thing yet, but the texture of the quilting is amazing!

Here are the things I learned in those 30 hours of flow quilting.
5 Things I Learned while Flow Quilting | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

1. Once you learn to quilt a design at a certain size, it's hard to quilt it bigger.

Boy did I struggle with this one! Because I started doing free motion quilting without an extension table, I only had a small space in which to work. That meant I did all my designs very small and I have a hard time making them bigger. I started this quilt knowing there was a lot of negative space to fill in, so I kept telling myself 'large scale, large scale,' but I don't know that I actually succeeded 😊
Flow quilting | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

In my defense, here's the scale I usually quilt, so I did manage to quilt somewhat bigger. I could certainly have gone bigger, though.
This is detail from my X Marks the Spot quilt

2. Relax and figure out how to do fmq without tensing every muscle in your body.

Spending two or more hours quilting every singe day meant that every bit of tension in my body became more and more noticeable as the days went on. When reading the comments on one of Christa Watson's posts recently, I saw that she said "I’ve noticed that it’s difficult to get an ergonomic setup for short people (like me) so the next best thing is to take lots of sewing breaks and stretch when needed" and I so agree! If you could see my setup, you would laugh. I have a box on the floor with books on it, trying to stop myself from twisting to keep my left (non-driving) foot on the floor, plus I sit on a book on my chair to raise me up high enough to be comfortable with the height of my sewing machine and extension table on the kitchen table. It's crazy! It kind of works, though, and I'm able to relax more than when I'm straining to reach. I still have to remind myself to relax as I seem to have a tendency to tense up, but I'm working on that.

3. Take breaks to walk around (see #2)

Even with the best setup, and even if you remember not to tense up as you quilt, quilting is still a lot of strain on your muscles. It's a good idea to get up and walk around now and then to really relax and stretch. If you take breaks, you'll be able to quilt comfortably longer, which is definitely a good thing!

4. If you lose track of where you're going and quilt right through the middle of a pebble, no one will ever know.

I know that I quilted right through the middle of at least one pebble, but no one will ever be able to find it...even me! There are probably thousands of pebbles in this throw quilt, so finding one that has a mistake would be impossible. Try your best to make each motif perfectly, but don't stress about little imperfections, especially when there are so many motifs in the whole quilt.
Flow quilting | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

5. If you're flow quilting a large quilt, make sure you have lots of time and lots of thread.

30+ hours in a two week period (while also working full-time) meant I had to quilt every single night and even more on the weekends. Since I had a deadline, I worried a little about whether or not I'd have enough time to finish. If I'd had more time, or if I'd been able to quilt at a larger scale, I wouldn't have had to worry.

As for the thread, I ordered two spools of Aurifil 2610 for the quilting and I'm so glad I did. Flow quilting really eats up the thread! I used about half of the second spool, which means I used roughly 2000m, or 2 km, of thread 😊 I'm always amazed when I think about the distance the thread I've used could cover!

So that's what I've learned with my most recent flow quilting. Do you have any lessons you've learned while quilting? Add them in the comments below if you do 😊


  1. First of all, your flow quilting is looking really nice. I love the name. I call mine scribbling.
    When I first learned how to machine quilt, my instructor recommended stacking one chair on top of another. We were sitting on stacking chairs. so I came home and bought a student chair from Staples. I raised it to its highest height and it worked nicely. I like to lean into my machine not reach up. before I could only stitch for 20 minutes before the back pain started. Later I bought one of those craft tables from Joann's. You can order them on line but they are heavy so expensive to ship. My machine sits in this and is at the same level as my folding tables. I use 2 tables in an L shape to hold the weight of the quilt. It is also important that the tables be smooth so the fabric glides over not drag.
    I have a whole room for my quilting and am really spoied.

  2. Your quilting looks beautiful! Thanks for the tips!

  3. These are fantastic tips to share. Getting a good ergonomic setup can be such a challenge. Pillows and books and foot props can be amazing in the reduction of stress on the body, and thanks for the many reminders to get up and stretch! I have gotten part way through flow quilting and had to put in an "emergency" order of more thread because I forget just how much is needed. 2km is a lot of thread!

  4. Your quilting is beautiful. I would add to doodle the size you want to quilt. If I doodle small, I find myself quilting smaller and smaller. If I doodle bigger, I can quilt a little bigger. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  5. I'm always impressed with your flow quilting. I can't wait till we can see all of this quilt. I find quilting on a larger scale difficult too. I will start out okay, but will get smaller and smaller as I go, if I'm not careful.

  6. It looks fantastic. I am hoping to be brave enough to take the step and try this.
    What type of sewing machine do you use?

  7. Thanks for sharing! That is an amazing amount of thread. I, like you tend to quilt smaller scale, and I find that it's hard to go bigger with a motif. But I think that's more comfortable for me. Larger scale seems to take more muscle power than the small, more contained movements. For me, anyway. I quilt on a domestic machine and my biggest tip in that regard is to make sure the quilt--every inch of it--is supported to the left of and behind the machine. It really reduces the drag and stress of quilting.

  8. Thanks for the great tips. Looking forward to seeing your project and all the amazing quilting.


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