Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tips for Beginners: 4 Things to Fix for Better Free Motion Quilting

Here are 4 things that keep you from better free motion quilting and some tips for fixing them.

Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures 4 Fixes

Not drawing designs: Seriously, don't say you're not a good drawer or that you just want to get to stitching. Drawing really helps! I hadn't stitched out any free motion quilting designs when I was first learning to machine quilt, despite reading that all the teachers recommended it. Then hubby got cancer and I started doodling the designs in a notebook I carried to all of his appointments and the improvement in my stitching ability was amazing. So doodle, trace, draw, whatever on whatever. Use paper, a dry erase board, even a drawing app, but draw those designs. Not only does it help with the shapes and designs, but how to move around from one place to another.

One of my earliest free motion quilting projects.
Not practicing: They say it takes 10,000 hours for mastery of any skill. Do you have enough quilt tops to provide you with 10,000 hours of quilting? Don't look at your WIP or UFO pile when you answer that question! Do you want to learn on your beautiful tops? Probably not. Make practice pieces! Make place mats, dog beds, pot holders, create a cool sampler collection of your favorite designs, whatever. Or make nothing from them, just change colors often and stitch over and over on a practice piece until you can't stand to quilt on it again. Once you're confident enough to tackle real quilts, check out my post on 8 Free Motion Tips for Confident Beginners.

Look how much my girl has grown in that short time! 
You are too tense: Relax! Are your shoulders trying to whisper in your ears? Head retreating between the shoulders like a turtle? Give your arms a shake, drop those shoulders and loosen up. Take a look at your set-up and see if it's ergonomic enough for you. Is your chair at a good height? If you are using an extension table on top of the table holding your machine, you will probably need a taller chair so your arms aren't sticking out like chicken wings. Eliminate drag where the quilt rests too and make sure you aren't pressing down too hard with your hands or trying to stretch the quilt out too much with your fingers. If you need a little music or an adult beverage to loosen up, go for it. But quilt responsibly.
My quilting skills grew too.

Take a look at your hand position: Are they on either side of the needle, not too far away and not too close? Or do your hands tend to get out in front or behind the needle because you don't like to stop and reposition your hands? Are your fingers spread wide like you're trying to stretch the top? we don't want puckers, so keep the area between your hands flat, but don't stretch it. If you are quilting tiny, dense designs try using dropping your elbows on the table and try using your finger tips only in a bent position to move the quilt. Don't try to move your hands while the machine is running! Stop to reposition your hands and do it frequently.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Sorry I don't have any recent quilting to show you, but I'm working on a secret project and it's kicking my rear. Yes, the blogger's dreaded secret project that usually means fewer blog posts for you, followed by a big announcement and shameless self-promotion. LOL! I promise not to let my sharing here slide. You guys are awesome and encouraging and I hate not having things to show you. (Yes, I'm a tease.)






Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Living the Quilting Life Vicariously

People have been doing a lot of quilt show related travel lately and I get to watch it all through the wonders of the internet.....sigh.....

Last week was Quilt Market, the trade show for the quilt industry. The movers and shakers, the teachers and designers, the sellers and the buyers were all over Minneapolis and my news feed and Instagram.

Christa shared all the fun she was having on IG, lucky (hard working) girl!

Before that was Quilt Week in Paducah. My AQ magazine arrived so now I can drool over all of the prize winning quilts.


Next year, I solemnly swear, I will go to Paducah. I really ought to swear I shall enter a quilt into the show, but maybe I don't quite want to commit to that publicly.

I learned Friday that I can't enter our local quilt show as I'm not a member of the right Quilt Guild. I had thought they had a joint show with the guild I joined, but apparently not.

I am really thankful that I was able to attend the Lancaster Quilt Show (AQS Quilt Week) and it was the biggest show I've attended so far. But I sure have a hankering to get out and see some of these other shows. I'd love to go to the big machine quilting shows too.

I think I just might be suffering from a case of cabin fever. I had a sick kid this week and I wasn't feeling to hot either. I haven't left the house since Saturday!

Do you long to travel to these shows? Or do you make a point to go to them? Quilt market is really just for those 'in the biz' and I'm not really there yet. I could go as a representative of the shop I work at or as a quilt blogger, but I don't really have a true need to go.

I guess I should actually finish a show quality quilt if I want to make a priority of going to these shows, right? Finish, Amy!



Sunday, May 17, 2015

Free Motion Quilting Video: Graffiti Quilting

I managed to get my video of my Graffiti quilting styled wall word all edited up and loaded for YouTube. The raw footage of the entire project was insanely long. I edited it down and sped it up for you. It shows a bunch of different designs, all mixed fairly randomly to make the  final piece.


The beginning and end of the video is shot at twice normal speed and the middle is at 4 times the normal speed. It's not too dizzying, and you can see how I stitch the designs out. Since I sped it up, I took most of the narration out.

I hope you enjoy! If you do, give it a 'like' will you? I get some occasional 'dislikes' on my videos and I know that's just the nature of Youtube and the internet trolls and while the ratio of likes vastly outnumbers the dislikes, it's hard to ignore them. If you dislike the video, hit me up with a comment or email and let me know if there's something I should change! I do know that these speed-quilting videos aren't everybody's cup of tea, but I know many like them too.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Free Motion Quilting Fun: Graffiti Quilting

I finished up this little encouraging free motion quilting practice piece yesterday. It feels so good to have another project finished!

Free motion quilting design graffiti style

I tried to incorporate some elements of Karlee Porter's Graffiti Quilting as I quilted. It was fun and I like the extra impact of using another color.

Graffiti free motion quilting design

This was quilted on my Janome 3160, my smaller machine. It has a low shank and I'm going to be giving it a try with more ruler work as low shank machines have clearance issues behind the foot with thicker rulers. I want to see how much this impacts my ability to use my bigger rulers on this machine. Behind the foot isn't a commonly used spot for me unless I'm using an enclosed or inside shape.

quilt stretched over canvas

I love doing these little pieces and finishing them by stretching them over an artist's canvas. A line of serging around the edge and a bunch of staples and I'm done.

I shot a video of the quilting on this piece and I'm speeding it up for another speed quilting vid before releasing it on Youtube. That will post soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Create Some Graffiti Quilting

Well, I cleaned up my creative mess (See the post here) and resumed getting to know my Janome 3160 again. I used the same project and had some fun just stitching. I decided to incorporate a little of Karlee Porter's graffiti quilting style.

graffiti quilting- a fun free form free motion quilting design


What I did wasn't a whole lot different than what I normally do on one of my quilted word art pieces, since I do a free form mix of my favorite free motion quilting designs. But I used 2 colors, and challenged myself to include some of Karlee's more angular designs. She also orients her designs in a particular direction as she travels out from the center of a piece, and I didn't manage to do that. If you're unfamiliar with her book, Graffiti Quilting: A Simple Guide to Complex Designs , you can see a lot of it on Pinterest these days and she's got an article in the latest edition of Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine. Her quilting is COOL!

adjusting the tension for free motion quilting
The front.

The first thing I had to do was address the tension issue that had me ripping out poorly formed stitches last week.  Using the same fabric, thread, and batting as the project, I started on the low side of the tension dial and stitched. I increased the tension a few times until it looked just right on the back. Since I was using purple on the front and white on the back, and the back wouldn't show, I didn't spend a ton of time trying to get all the purple dots to go away on the back.

tension adjustments for free motion quilting- back
The back.

There's still something not quite right with this machine and I'll have to check it out further. I also think it's due for a good cleaning and lubrication. The back of the piece had some occasional issues and I could hear my machine make some noises that didn't sound right.

Not a pretty back.

But over all, the piece came out ok. I still have to finish up the turquoise stitching and then I'll stretch it over an artist's canvas and it'll be ready to go on the wall, possibly into my Etsy shop.


While this style of stitching isn't what we'd probably use on a pieced bed quilt, being so tiny and dense, it was a lot of fun and good practice. At a larger scale, it would really add interest to a lot of negative space. Plus it will give me a nice encouraging decoration for my wall.

I'll be switching from the open toe FMQ foot to the ruler foot on this machine, both the Janome one and the one from Westalee and doing some ruler work on this machine this week.