Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #34.2

Happy Thursday, Friends!  I had scheduled something else for today’s post.  Due to the questions I received via SewCalGal regarding my Jester’s Hat motif featured on FMQ Challenge August 2012, I decided to move back the originally intended post a little.  Again, the following is a quick pictorial recap for Jester’s Hat in case you are wondering what we are talking about here:

SewCalGal sent me pictures of Jester’s Hat done by quilters Diane and Mary:

[Images used with permission from SewCalGal]

Mary expressed, “Here’s my August “Jester Hats”. It wasn’t a natural pattern for me, but eventually I got a rhythm going. My main problem at this point is how to avoid stitching myself into those blind alleys in order to fill the good sized empty spaces. I get stuck at the end and can’t get out without it looking right. Any suggestions on how to get out gracefully…or to keep from having the blind alleys to begin with?

Diane wrote, “Here is my August challenge piece. It took me a while to get the pattern motion, but I really struggled with getting “lost,” or stuck in a corner. I would like a little more instruction on that aspect, but I just have to keep practicing.”


I think those are definitely valid observations.  Following are my 2-cents on what to do when you quilt yourself into a corner:

1.  I try to always divide a quilting area in to smaller areas, and make sure those are filled before I move on.  That seems to help reduce the number of times I quilt myself into a corner and can’t get out.  

Some think that free-motion allover quilting is random.  I don’t quite think that way.  Perhaps it’s my engineering background, I see allover free-motion quilting as a motif being evenly repeated and distributed over a given space.  It is only random as much as the actual quilting of the motif isn’t (entirely) planned out for a particular spot until I reach that spot. But when I reach that spot, I still have to decide how best to execute the quilting to best distribute the motif in the area at hand. 

So to tie in with what I said in the beginning…. if I am quilting an area of 8″ x 8″, I would mentally divide my area into 4 – 4″ x 4″ areas, and decide how best to quilt, repeat and distribute my motifs within the areas. I try to fill the first 4″ x 4″ area before moving to the next 4″ x 4″. If that still seems daunting, I try sub-divide a 4″ x 4″ area into 4 – 2″ x 2″ areas, and go from there.

2.  If, for some reason, I stitch myself into a corner and can’t get out – that’s not the end of the world.  I think it’s a natural occurrence (and something bound to happen) because of the limited visibility when quilting with a domestic machine.   It is okay when and if that happens.  In situations as such, I just pick a spot in the un-quilted area to start and repeat the motif again until the area looks quilted evenly and blended in with the rest of the already quilted area.  This principles doesn’t only apply to the Jester’s Hat, but all types of filler motifs.

3.  The other point I thought I would bring up (even though it might really obvious to many) is that free-motion quilting doesn’t mean you have to just keep going and going and going while you quilt.  I often stop to consider where I should head next with my quilting path.
I received a most kind email from a Jacque of Spain, and she wrote: “Thanks for the great tutorial of this August, I really enjoyed it while I was doing it from the pictures in the paper to the sewing machine. Thanks to this project of SewCalGal my quilts this year are improving…”

[Image Source:]

I couldn’t agree more with Jacque regarding my gratitude to SewCalGal for organizing the Free-motion Challenge!   And I am most thrilled to hear from quilters like Jacque that her skills are improving!  Well Done and Happy Quilting to all the Free-motion Challenge quilters!

Now one more thing for those who are trying out Jester’s Hat — from the pictures I have seen, many have done their “jesting” on the small-scale.  Try enlarging the scale, and you will see that Jester’s Hat transform itself to a rather different look. 

In this picture below, each “hat” is ~1″ or slightly smaller —  giving it a more “compact look”:

But for this quilt, I quilted each hat about 2.5-3″ in size — a more airy and open feel starts to come through:

With that, I bid you a lovely day!!


25 thoughts on “Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #34.2

  1. I tried the jester’s hat quilting and even though I made lots of mistakes, I think it is a fun pattern and looks more complicated than regular meandering. Thanks!

  2. I wish I could move on from stippling lol. I will try this , I think my problem is not enough practice, I seem to be ok on small pieces but on larger ones I am no so good at all. You always make it sound so easy.

  3. Thanks for your additional insights regarding this fun design, and for providing our FMQ tutorial this month! I’m looking forward to using Jesters Hats on two little boys’ quilts destined for Christmas gifts this year, and will try to remember your divide-and-conquer method for filling the space evenly. Figure I should have this design down after covering two twin-size quilts!

  4. I fell in love with the jester’s hat the first time I saw it, but tried it on my white board and it was a disaster! When I got my great-grandson’s quilt on my frame, I had no idea what I wanted to do and for some reason my hands started moving and low and behold it was the jester’s hat! It moved along very quickly and I was pleased for a first-time attempt! My “hat” tips are a bit more curly than yours but I’m okay with that……I’ll try to slow down next time! Thanks so much for your inspiration!

  5. This is a great post, Wendy. I have plans for some explorative free-motioning (like explorative surgery?!) this weekend, and this helped get my mind in gear for it!

  6. Thankyou so much. I always enjoy reading your posts and am learning wonderful things from you. Jester’s hat is coming along on paper so far. I have yet to transition it to a quilt. This divide and conquer idea makes sense.

  7. Thank you so much for answering my questions, as well as the tutorial for this month! When I started the 2012 FMQ Challenge I could not FMQ, and I’m thrilled at how much that I can do now, though I have a lot of growing left to do. I appreciate the generosity of you and the other experts who share tutorials with us, as well as to follow up to answer questions and help us with any issues we may have run into.

    Your suggestion about not only dividing into the smaller portions to sort of map out so that we are not trying to “bite off something bigger than our head”, but to increase the scale, makes sense. One of the things that I noticed as I went through and looked at everyone’s photos was that the samples that were on a larger scale looked far more gracefully shaped and any gaps between them would not be as noticeable.

    Thanks again! I think I’ve got just the project to use this pattern on after practicing your suggestions awhile.

  8. Thanks for the added info. The design is a good one, and I had fun trying it. I do have plans to use it, too. Thanks again, and Thanks, Darlene, for organizing the challenge.

  9. I,too, find the smaller scale easier to execute on a DSM (thoroughly enjoyed Leah Day’s “micro stippling” challenge and have done lots since then) but to push through to a scale that might be done on a long arm is a true challenge to complete evenly. I stop and spread the quilt out to give me the ‘big picture’ so I can continue. There are those times when the only way to continue is to end off the edge and continue after a break, finding a natural ‘entry’ spot. These types of issues serve to motivate me to “push through” to a better grasp of FMQ on my machine (Juki TL2010Q). This textile art form is so awesome!-D

  10. Thank you Wendy. Really enjoyed this lesson. Your tutorial was very clear and the additional information is very helpful. I too am very glad SewCal Gal started this challenge. I would never get the tops quilted that I have to do if I had to do them by hand. So learning FMQ was not and option–it is required. lol

  11. Thanks for all your help with the lessons Wendy. I wanted to know do you use machine quilting gloves and something on your sewing machine bed to help reduce drag.

  12. Hi Wendy! Thank you for sharing your expertise with us all at the FMQ Challenge. I had actually tried your “Jester Hat” motif when you first posted it and I really liked the effect. I admit that I did get caught in a corner, but I managed to make it out and don’t think you can see (unless you have your nose right up close lol). That piece is actually entered into our fall fair… see what happens! Have a good long weekend!!

  13. Hi Wendy, I have popped over here to leave a personal message of thanks to you for the great tutorial, I have done one on SewCalGal’s thread for you, but wish to express my thanks to you for the great fun tutorial you gave us on the FMQ Challenege for August. The second part you set us, oh my, I have taken my photo’s and am leaving them alone for a bit, I WILL do it though, it looks great fun. As I said many many thanks for the fun tutorial. Good luck in all you do..Jan McE

  14. I had way too much trouble with this design…or not enough time to devote to practice…and it will take more time than I could devote to it this month. Thank you for the tutorial. I will be coming back here to read more comments and advice when I do have the time to practice…after the Boise Quilt Show at the end of Sept….I don’t think I have a life until then. LOL!

  15. Thank you for last month’s tutorial, Wendy. I enjoyed doing this one, and will definitely keep practising it and will use it on a quilt. Your extra tips on this post are a great help – sounds like a lot of us boxed ourselves in !

  16. I wanted to stop by and tell you thank you for sharing your time and talent with us at FMQ challenge. Took me a while to get the hang of the design but I think I’m getting it. The additional information you provided on this post is going to help as well. Thanks, thanks, thanks! You do a beautiful job.

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