Jenny Lyon’s book: Free Motion Quilting

(update – comment #12 is our lucky book winner! Enjoy some serious quilting time Sue!)
Welcome blog hoppers – skipping along through various blogs and reading all about
The Quilt Skipper’s (aka the fabulous Jenny Lyon)
new book

I know Jenny’s work, and her teaching too. We’ll both be teaching at Craft NAPA next month – can’t wait to see her again! She has a beautifully spare design esthetic that really speaks to me. Some of her designs are so simple, so stark, that not only do they have a great visual impact from far away, but they leave room for some spectacular quilting to be the star of the show. By that I don’t mean that you fill in a million motifs through every square millimeter of the surface. I mean that the quilting stitches become an integral part of the design – like the piece wouldn’t be the same without them.

Jenny Lyon, Stip Gigantea, detail front and back

You might find it useful to hear why Jenny wrote this book. There are a million books out there for Free Motion Quilters after all. “My book was written for the experienced beginner and I think that is an underserved portion of the market. There are a lot of “experienced beginners” who have completed a few projects and can do a few motifs fairly well, but they are afraid to quilt their “real” quilts and they’re not having fun. It is my hope that my book will inspire and encourage them to push forward, “plactice” and enjoy quilting their own work.”

Can you see why I might be attracted to her style? PLAY = PRACTICE!!! 

I have to admit that free-motion quilting is NOT my favorite part of my process. It’s difficult for me to work out designs that complement the work and I don’t actually enjoy the doing of it….. until I’m in the flow. Then time kind of stops and it becomes very meditative. So – I always have something to learn. One fabulous idea that I think I’ll take into my own practice is to write a “mission statement”  for each quilt. That’s really a fancy way of saying – “I’m going to write down what I think this quilt is trying to accomplish so I don’t forget my end goal and veer of track design-wise.” I think it’s brilliant.

Another thing I love about Jenny’s book, besides her gorgeous quilting, is that right there at the beginning she talks about basic design elements and principles – consciously including ideas like scale and unity to create the best design possible for your quilting stitches. Hooray! She’s singing my favorite song!

Jenny sets out a structured program of 21 days of “PLACTICE” (play + practice) to help you up your free motion quilting game. I love that she includes step-by-step preparation with all the basics covered. (You DO use a new needle for every project, right!?) But she also delves into methods for coming up with your own designs and various ways to practice. If you can’t stand just making throw-away practice sandwiches (my favorite) she suggests using a panel, or making charity quilts or placemats as the perfect practice pieces. I have to admit that when I saw this quilting motif I immediately grabbed a pencil and set to work figuring it out on the nearest piece of paper.

So – you ready? I recommend you add Free Motion Quilting to your book list! Me? I’m going to dig out a quilt top I finished years and years and years ago and just play around with it… for 20 minutes a day. Because I know the only way to improve is to actually DO the thing. Jenny’s got me inspired to get off my rear and DO the thing.

If you’d like to win a copy of Jenny’s book leave a comment here answering these questions:
What is the hardest thing about free-motion quilting for you?
How can you make it easier?

I’ll pick a winner on December 11th. Make sure to leave me a way to contact you.
You can also leave comments on each of these blogs for more chances to win.

Dec 1     Jenny K. Lyon
Dec 2     Lisa Chin 
Dec 3     Catherine Redford
Dec 4     Lyric Kinard
Dec 5     Heidi Proffetty
Dec 6     Debby Ritenbaugh Brown
Dec 7     Libby Williamson
Dec 8     Barbara Black
Dec 9     Cindy Grisdela
Dec 10   Teri Lucas


A few notes about the hop:
– You can enter each day but can only win once.
– Each blogger will leave the comments open for 8 days and then will choose a winner using a random method.
– I will send winners a signed copy of my book.
– If you find a blog along the way that you find interesting, sign up to receive notices of each future posting. This is a talented group!
– International winners will receive a digital copy.

The more the merrier-feel free to pass my post on to others so that we can all play along.

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  1. Oh I love the sound of Jenny’s book. The hardest thing for me in free motion quilting is to decide the design(s) of the quilting and keep the sizing of the quilting properly spread across the quilt. I do some practice and then I get busy with other things. I love the idea of a “mission statement” for each quilt.

  2. The hardest thing for me about free motion quilting is getting the first stitch in the quilt! Once I get that first stitch or two in I’m more relaxed. I usually cheat and draw out my desired motif on water soluble stabilizer then spritz a tiny bit to stick it to the project. I am so confident in this process that I really need to break out of my comfort zone and ditch the “cheater stabilizer”.

  3. Jen Hokanson says:

    For me, the hardest part of free motion is trying to relax while quilting so my shoulders don’t tense up. It would make it easier if I had more time to practice my free motion. Thanks for the opportunity to win the book!

  4. Dixie Morris says:

    The hardest thing for me is to get relaxed about the process and a glass of wine helps. I need to practice between each of my quilts. I know that would help. I do love doing free motion quilting.

  5. I can usually keep my quilting scale uniform when quilting smaller motifs, but when I try to quilt the same motif on a larger scale on larger quilts, I run into difficulty. I usually draw a sample, to scale, to refer to, but I still end up stitching closer and closer together. By the time I get to the end, my stitching design isn’t the same size as when I started. More plactise needed, I think.

  6. Marsha Cochrane says:

    The hardest thing about free motion quilting is scale because when I practice on small samples my designs are smaller to fit the scale of the practice piece. When I attempt a larger quilt it takes forever to fill in the spaces with my small designs. I think what would help is practice on larger samples, maybe some baby quilts that I could donate.

  7. The hardest part for me is getting started…once I get going but I tend to procrastinate a lot!lol the thing that helps is a glass of wine!

  8. Jennafer Disbro says:

    The hardest part for me is deciding what motif or fill to use. I’m trying to look at each part of the quilt and work on smaller areas instead of being overwhelmed with the whole.

  9. The hardest part of fmq for me is figuring out how motifs will enhance my quilt. I have a few designs that I feel comfortable using but I need more in my repertoire so I can figure out what fits my style of work. Every time I do free motion work, it adds to my experience of what works and what doesn’t.

  10. Thank you for the opportunity to win Jenny’s book. I’m in awe of her quilts. I really struggle with moving my quilt, and moving it smoothly. I use the Slider and wear a variety of quilting gloves and still struggle. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I look forward to reading Jenny’s books.

  11. Pat Naveau says:

    One of the most difficult things about free-motion quilting is developing a design plan. If the quilt has an obvious motif or design to follow and echo, it’s easy. Working with a blank canvas of a quilt, is intimidating and can create “quilter’s block”.

  12. Sue MacLeod says:

    Don’t know what the hardest part is, other than getting started. That’s my goal for 2019.

  13. Michele W says:

    The hardest part of free-motion is not being tense and relaxing. I tend to tense-up and that makes me uncomfortable with the process hence I don’t feel confident in doing FMQ. I would love to have this book and the idea of getting to practice work would help me relax and hopefully grow more confident.

  14. The hardest part for me is also what to quilt to compliment the design. I suppose Plactice is what would help. I’m always afraid of ruining the work I’ve already put into a piece.

  15. I think the hardest part of FMQ for me is being in a rut and doing the same few designs in every single quilt. Another really frustrating thing is my spatial dyslexia, which makes doing those fabulous free-flowing overall designs nearly impossible for me no matter how long I doodle or practice. I’ve always admired Jenny’s gorgeous quilting and would dearly love to win a copy of her book for any help it can provide, not to mention just enjoying her quilting.

  16. Dawn Gilbert says:

    Doing curves, get a lot of skips. I think playtice would improve that tremendously for me

  17. Paula Dean says:

    Hi Lyric, Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of Jenny’s book. The hardest part for me is planning ahead and keeping the motif consistent. I am more of an intuitive artist and usually let the plan flow out of me instead of thinking about it ahead of time. Sometimes that works out and sometime not. I know that Plactice would help me out a lot.

  18. The hardest part for me is achieving a steady pace. It helps if I can keep myself focused on right where I am and not look ahead and get anxious about what’s coming up.

  19. I’m still in the early stages of learning FMQ so I do get very tense. Perhaps I should remember to stop and breath. That might help

  20. I can practice fine on a small block but trying to maneuver the big quilt under the needle is quite difficult. I’m not sure how I can make it better. Thanks for the chance to win the book.

  21. Brenda Perry says:

    I agonize over what to quilt in each part of the quilt, so that is the hardest part for me. What I’ve been doing to make this easier is browse my books and the web for ideas – sometimes this is counterproductive since you can’t just do it when you are browsing!! I would love to win Jenny’s book – I love her style!!

  22. Mary Alice Catron Reed says:

    I so agree. I love how the quilting is very much a part of and truly makes the quilted items stand out. Absolutely lovely!

  23. Thanks Lyric for participating in this hop! Im a fan of your work. I find the hardest part of free motion quilting is that my hands cramp. I have to work hard to relax and flow…. sounds odd I know, but there you go!

  24. Yes, I agree–the hardest thing about free motion quilting is just deciding what to quilt. The second hardest thing is actually starting 🙂

  25. Margaret Morton says:

    Hardest thing? Deciding what to quilt and how to do it on a dam.

  26. The hardest thing for me is coming up with a design. I usually quilt a little at a time and figure out a design as I go. What would help is more plactice, and more examples / ideas.

  27. Kathy Howard says:

    Like a lot of people getting started is the hardest. I have had a charity quilt setting for a while waiting to be quilted. It is quilted as of today. I know I don’t practice enough before starting on a quilt. I did do a little practice on an ugly quit (half of a top I was given that even after resewing doesn’t exactly lay flat), but that is finished now, too. I wasn’t sure if I could handle free motion on this. I started with straight lines and then added curved lines to the plain blocks and the borders. I did it all on a Singer Treadle; I did have to decrease the presser foot pressure some more for the free motion work (feed dogs don’t drop on this machine).

  28. Beth-near Louisville KY! says:

    I find machine quilting affects me the same way. Can’t think of a single design…. and then once I’m in it… and feeling all Zen as I close in on a finish… I get all kinds of great ideas…. for quilting!

  29. Thanks for the information-stuffed review, Lyric. Not unexpected! A challenge I face is to choose a thread/quilt combination where I can easily see the stitches and then to slow down and be deliberate in creating them. Jenny’s book looks great.

  30. Thank you for your review of Jenny’s book. You highlighted two of my favorite things about it. The need to write a mission statement for each quilt and Plactice. Teachers set goals and teach others how to accomplish theirs. To me that is what the mission statement does for a guilt. It sets the goal, traces a path and then… the quilter begins. The hardest thing for me in FMQ is to trust that the time spent in practice will help me evolve to be a better FM quilter. The way to make it easier is to do it every day or so and let patience win over immediacy. Robin

  31. The hardest part of free motion quilting for me is actually using it on a quilt. I’m always afraid that I’m going to ruin all of my hard work of piecing with unsatisfactory free motion quilting! Logically, I know I just need to let go and go for it, but emotionally that’s not always the easiest thing to do. It sounds like 21 days of plactice might be just what I need!

  32. The hardest part for me is trying to think ahead and not sew myself into a corner. I’m so busy trying to get it right, it’s hard to think about where to go. I definitely need more practice.

  33. Sue Hilton says:

    Your work is wonderful! Glad I found you. I think the hardest part of free motion quilting is deciding what to quilt. The next hardest is making sure all my curves are curvy, not spikey. Would love to win a copy of the book. 🙂

  34. Wow, your work is exquisite! Thanks so much for sharing. The hardest part of FMQ for me is picking the “right” design for my piece. I am so afraid I’m going to mess it up. But sometimes the way to “get over it” is just to dive right in. And that’s what I do, and then hopefully learn from my mistakes!!

  35. Cathy Clark says:

    I have discovered?, not really, that practice, practice, practice is the key. It takes us so long to get over that everything we do has to be perfect or close. This year I quilted 21 charity twin size quilts. We’re they perfect? No! But I can now do flames, leaves, circles and triangles without having to think too much. I still need a practice swatch to get started and will always need that. I have not mastered not letting the tops pile up for quilting. That is my biggest challenge. Thank you for helping getting the word out for Jenny.

  36. Thank you for for taking us along on your walk/ journey to better quilting practice. It’s so much like contour drawing where visual artists will be taught to do practice drawing to warm up before doing the masterpiece. And whatever art you delve into, it is always a matter of practice, practice, practice, practice! The hardest part of progressing in quilting is clearing my mind of all the little everyday worries so I can focus on the the day’s task. And that is a big obstacle to overcome having fallen twice landing on my spine & head, now living in pain.
    To overcome the preoccupation of pain, I need to do several time consuming tasks on a con- sistant basis: a morning constitutional walk in the park, a fall back (pun not intended) in case of bad weather, loving my body as if it were the only one God gave me – self massage, hot & cold contrast showers, pacing my activities daily, balancing preparing nutritious meals at home & eating out, getting adequate sleep. Extras like reading, computer work and cleaning house take secondary priority. Unfortunately, participating in my several art vocations comes in third place.

  37. Laceflower says:

    The hardest part for me is deciding what to quilt. Solution, I started quilting charity quilts and after 13 quilts I have become faster in deciding what to quilt because I have more designs I’ve tried in my arsenal. It really is all about practice.

  38. Penni Simily says:

    Deciding the motif and practice on something I won’t use. So I am going to do a charity quilt with my practice.

  39. The hardest thing for me is that I have trouble with being “herky-jerky” in my movements. Practice would probably help. Thanks for the chance to win this book!

  40. The hardest part of free-motion quilting is just getting started! I dither and waffle, trying to make up my mind what to do, until it’s simply ridiculous. Once I actually begin, I’m usually okay. I suspect that getting out some practice work would give me the inspiration to begin, but of course I never do that! Yikes!

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