Remembering Why I Hate FMQ

I never remember the things that annoy me about free motion quilting until I sit down at the machine. And then it all comes flooding back to me. FMQ on a domestic machine is a pain in the ass. I don’t know how people quilt full size quilts on a domestic machine. They are much stronger people than I am and I have great admiration for them.

I sat down after our walk this evening to continue doing the quilting on my sea glass wall hanging. It all went so smoothly in the two previous sessions. And tonight, with the darker blue thread, I had nothing but troubles.

The thread kept breaking. I kept having skipped stitches. And the upper thread would fray and eventually break. After changing my needle, switching to my single stitch plate, and re-threading my machine, I realized what the issue was. I was going clockwise around the pebbles, rather than counter clockwise. In both previous sessions I had gone counter clockwise.

The issues I mentioned above always happen when I’m traveling in a northeast direction. When I go counter clockwise I never have to travel in that NE direction and it all works beautifully. I know I’ve figured this out in the past, but I had forgotten.

Needless to say, my quilting session involved much more profanity than should have been necessary. But after the nightmare of the first six darker blue pebbles, the remaining ten or so were a dream.

It’s so fun to see the texture of the quilting as I finish more and more of this piece.

The back is a bit of a mess, but I’m going to have to live with it.

All I have left to quilt are the aqua pieces at the bottom. I should be able to finish this tomorrow night — now that I have “counter clockwise” embedded in my brain!

I have a virtual conference going on this week so am spending a good deal of time on zoom presentations. So today I was looking for some hand work that would keep my hands busy while my brain paid attention. So I pulled out a big pile of Australian Aboriginal fabric 2.5 inch WOF strips that a friend gave me about a year ago.

I’ve been thinking about making either a trip quilt or a 16 patch from these strips, and today I paired these up in sets of two with the plan to make them into a sixteen patch.

I tried to pair these sets up with a good variation in either value or color. And then I ended up with a small stack of about a dozen strips that were all dark mostly brown or black. So I pulled some brighter and lighter fabrics from my stash that I will cut some additional strips from to pair up to make the remaining needed blocks.

I won’t use all of these but I will use some of them. And I still haven’t committed to a 16 patch. I may make these strips into a scrappy trip quilt. I still have time to decide. It will probably just come down to which one sounds more fun to make. And as I type this, I’m thinking it will be a trip quilt! I’m sure I’ll change my mind six or seven times before I start sewing strip sets.

Another thing I did today was make a list of new color combos for upcoming Frankenbags. I’ve been noodling on these ideas for a while now and I figured it was a good idea to write them down.

I received photos of some more Frankenbags made by blog readers. This first bag is from Annette LeBlanc from the province of New Brunswick, Canada.

I love how she incorporated that paper pieced flamingo, combined with that dark and rich pineapple block. And those strong graphic diagonal lines on the back are wonderful! This is Annette’s first Frankenbag.

These next bags are from Ingrid Cruz. She didn’t do any improv or crumb piecing on her bags, but I love how she kept these big, bold and graphic prints whole. What a great thing to incorporate into this basic bag body.

She even made a zipper placket on that last one.

Thanks to Annette and Ingrid for sending photos.

16 Replies to “Remembering Why I Hate FMQ”

  1. Counter-clockwise is the secret?! Gosh, I wish I had known that when I was quilting my granddaughter’s quilt. Ugh, it was a bear wrestling with it and dealing with thread issues. I’ll have to remember your trick with the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I’ve convinced myself that counter clockwise is definitely the answer in this particular piece, but the quilting pattern is something that is essentially a wonky circle. If I was doing something more complex, I wouldn’t be able to maintain that counter clockwise motion all the time.

      I did some research on this issue a few years ago and talked to a lot of experienced people. It’s all do do with the pressure the motion puts on the needle and thread. I used to think I could solve most of it just by slowing down (I tend to want to go really fast!), but that wasn’t helping on this piece.

      for me, It’s a all a good case for using a professional long arm quilter!



  2. I rather like the back of your beach glass quilt even though you think it’s messy. 😉 The front of course is gorgeous! I’m going to test your theory about clockwise vs. anti-clockwise next time I do some FMQ.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So So interesting about going counter clockwise. My issue was my thread, but I had the very same experience as you, at one point saying, “I think I’m going to have to throw this away”! I need to remember that there is always SOME resolution!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I rarely have a trouble free FMQ experience. I don’t mind the action of doing the quilting, but get really frustrated dealing with issues like this. I can not imagine doing a full size quilt this way. God bless the women who do!



  4. Hi Anne, I first found your work through Pinterest. And when you did a tutorial for your Frankenbag, I just had to make it. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. Thank you for sharing and I’m now following your blog and enjoy reading what you’ve been doing. When I made this bag, I was in the process of making Kim McLeans Flower Garden quilt using Kaffee Fassett fabrics. A friend came by to check on my progress and loved the flowers. So for her birthday this month, I made her a Frankenbag and incorporated a couple of the flowers squares. I did make the bag wider than yours, but the pattern was easy to adapt. I enjoyed making the bag and think I’ll be making another. I’ll probably follow your instructions and add a zipper on the next one. Thanks again for sharing your design. I look forward to seeing your next creations! Mary Glinski Douglas, MI

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get a lot of referral traffic to my blog from Pinterest. It’s fun to see how many people are seeing what I’m writing and doing.

      I’d love to see a photo of your bag. Feel free to email me photos at and I’d love to share them on my blog.

      I’m going to be making a good number of Frankenbags for holiday gifts this year. They will be great for my co-workers.



    1. Hahaha! Great way to think of it! I just wish I had more control over that creative process!!!

      At least I wasn’t dealing with tension issues. I have a little quilt sandwich that I use over and over again to test my stitching on and there are some pretty messy tension issues on that piece!



  5. OMG! I hadn’t realized it made a difference which direction you go when doing FMQ. I also consider it a pain in the ass but may give it another try. I wonder if it makes a difference what kind of machine you have re which direction it prefers.

    And your frankenbags are so inspiring. I am going to have to get going on some. Thanks for all of your good work. And I echo one of the other commenters: I like the back of your sea glass too. The texture is very fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t mind quilting smaller pieces on my domestic machine. But the biggest I’ll do is a baby quilt and that’s pushing it for me.

      I have a Bernina 450. I love that machine! A friend of mine who quilts full size quilts on her domestic has a Juki that has a much wider throat. I think that helps too. I should ask her if she has the same kind of issues. But I think she does more straight line stitching and not so much FMQ.

      I hope you do try a Frankenbag. I’m having a lot of fun making them! Still so many ideas I want to try. It’s fun to have a smaller project that can be easily finished.



  6. Hi Anne, I love your Frankenbag pattern and am totally enjoying your blog and posts on Facebook. Plus i love how you are always so supportive of what others are making and posting. Most of all, I am a big fan of your updates about your fur babies. They are precious pups. Thanks for sharing your creative ideas and upbeat attitude. Have a wonderful day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Nancy! It’s been really fun to hear from people all over the world. It’s a wonderful thing to do a little to inspire others with my quilting and sewing.

      And these dogs… they are so amazing!



  7. I think the back of the sea glass is beautiful. Love the “organic” nature. Someone once said if you make a mistake just repeat it. Then it becomes a decision/design element. I think we over think the backs too much. The front it’ss such an eye catcher who really cares about the back! You go girl!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that!

      I think the back bothers me because the fabric is white and it shows every little jig and jag in the stitching. I’m not usually concerned about stuff that doesn’t show.



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