Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013



Thinking of all our heroes today. God bless the fallen and comfort their families.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Virtual Quilter

Actually, I'm a sick and distracted quilter who has been spending too much time on the internet! But look what I did! I'm learning an Illustrator-like program called Inkscape. I'm feeling very aware of how much there is to learn when it comes to computers, computer graphics, design and writing. Somehow that's dangerously close to feeling stupid! But I'm learning all kinds of new stuff so I've got to be doing something right, somehow.

If my brain can figure out how to do this, why can't it remember to buy toilet paper?

There's just not enough quilty goodness going on this week. I've got a cold and there's a ton of yard work to be done. I'm itching to stitch!!!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My "Gone Quilting" Badge: Scissors on my Shirt!

One of my favorite tools for quilting and sewing is a pair of small curved bladed scissors along with a 'zinger' or retractable holder. I use the scissors for cutting threads and the zinger keeps me from losing them. Or at least if I am actually wearing it. With different classes, stitch nights and such, I can't find them but I recently found a replacement at a bargain!


thread scissors and holder

I found these scissors and 'retractable badge holder' at Walmart! The zinger was in the jewelry section and the scissors were in the sewing department. The zinger was a mere $2.88!

curved tipped scissors

 The scissors say nothing on the package about having curved tips, but they caught my eye anyway. I made a fair spectacle of myself trying to look inside the packaging to see if they were in fact curved, damaged, or judge if the view was distorted by the packaging. They aren't curved as much as I would like, but for $3.97 (I think), they will do nicely! Much more budget friendly than the $20 or so I paid for my lost pair. The curved tips help cut the threads close to the top, but with less risk of cutting the fabric.

'gone quilting' badge

And the zinger is pretty! I actually had to look amongst many styles to find one that didn't have, in my opinion, too much bling. There it is keeping the other butterflies company! (I didn't even realize I had a butterfly thing going on until I loaded this photo.)

One of the best things about this combination though is that the kids have learned to see the combo on my shirt as a badge that says "Mom's working". Or at least that's the theory. It works better with the older two than with this cutie below!


What's he hiding under that container? It's not his beautiful golden curls....sob. He got a short summer cut and I'm still missing those curls a bit. He is still too stinkin' cute though!

Monday, May 20, 2013

How to Free Motion Quilt: The Basic Motion and Tension



You're all set up and ready to go, right? If you have questions about setting up, see the first post: How to Free Motion Quilt: The Set Up.

Quilt Sandwich

First you need something to practice on. Do yourself a favor and don't start quilting on a project that needs quilting. Use a practice piece. I keep several practice pieces to warm up on before doing good quilts. Don't skimp on this step, use material and batting similar to what you normally use for quilted projects. A  top piece, backing and batting. This is a good time to use colors or prints that you are no longer crazy about. If the print is very wild, use the wrong side out so you can see your stitches better.

Batting

A word about batting; if you use a very thin batting, you will have more tension issues than if you use a slightly thicker batt with more room for the interlocking part of the stitch to stay inside the sandwich. I like an 80% cotton/20% polyester batting because it shows the quilting texture better without being too thick and puffy. For those who want to use 100% cotton, battings can be found in thicker lofts. Don't go too thick! The thicker and bigger the quilt sandwich, the harder to move it. For a practice piece though, you really only need somewhere between 12 to 24 inches square.

Thread Thoughts

Use a middle weight thread, or even regular sewing thread to start out with. My favorite is Glide by Filtec, a trilobal polyester embroidery thread. It's available in a ton of colors, strong and truly lint free. It's a shiny thread, which I love for my fmq and decorative stitching. If you are a cotton purist, make sure you have a high quality thread like Aurifil or Filtec's Cairo Quilt for the best strength and less lint.  Cotton breaks easier than poly, so you might want to start with poly. Pick a color that you can see clearly on your fabric but remember that when quilting for real, you most likely would use a matching thread so those bobbles that stand out so much in contrasting thread will be a lot harder to see. 

Before You Start

Basic motion before tension: Since jerky movements can contribute to tension problems (and thread breaks), we're going to start with basic motion before perfecting the tension. If you have never done any (or very little) free motion quilting, do everything below except take the thread out of the machine!

You read that right. Set up your sandwich, foot, gloves, machine settings, etc. like you were going to quilt, but don't use any thread (bottom or top) and start quilting. Just get used to the motion of your hands in a circular motion, back and forth, smoothly. Listen to the sound of the machine and vary the speed. Using a topstitch 90/14 needle should let you see the holes a little bit and takes away some of the fear of tension settings, snarls, and mess ups.


Once you're comfortable moving about without thread, it's time to thread the machine.

Make sure your FMQ or darning foot is lowered! Since the foot 'floats' above the surface when the needle is up, it is easy to forget to lower the foot before stitching. That will create a snarl of thread for certain. (Guess how I know this?)

Pull up the bobbin thread: Hold onto the top thread and lower the needle down and back up. Give the tail of the top thread a tug to pull a loop of the bobbin thread up and pull the loop to bring the tail of bobbin thread to the top. You may need to raise the presser foot in order to grab the thread; this is when a knee lift system is wonderful. Hold both tails as you begin to quilt so they don't get sucked back under the quilt and make a snarl.

If you have a needle down feature on your machine, go ahead and set it to be down.

Motion

With your tension settings on automatic (if you have an automatic tension) or pretty much where they'd be if piecing, place your hands on either side of the needle, with your thumbs and index fingers making a circular or triangular shape about 5 inches wide. Begin making circular motions with your hands while pressing slowly on the foot pedal. I do not recommend the 'pedal to the metal' fast quilting. It makes me panicky. Vary the speed of your hands and machine until your stitches are fairly even. Pay attention to the sound of your machine when in this 'sweet spot'. If you have a speed slider, you can slow the top speed down so that if you 'floor it', the machine won't go too fast for your hands. Make some swirls and loops.


Repositioning your hands: You will need to reposition your hands when the motion brings either hand close to the needle. Stop with the needle down before you move your hands. This will keep the piece from moving as much when you move your hands. Don't walk your hands to reposition while the machine is still running.

Tension

By now it's time to think about thread tension. Have you already had a snarl? Hopefully not. Pull the piece out of the machine and take a look at the top and bottom side. (You'll need to raise the needle and lift the presser foot.) Pick a spot near the stitching and using a marker, write the tension setting number down right on the fabric. Make sure the presser foot is up before adjusting the tension! Remember, when using similar weights of thread in the top and bobbin, and you're not using a specialty thread, you should only need to adjust the TOP tension.

Here's a video of my tension adjusting process:




You can also see in this photo some needle holes from stitching without thread.

Top thread is being pulled to the underside (Which is the most common tension issue.), tighten the top tension to a higher number.



Does your free-motion quilting pull in the curves? In the picture above, those little eyelashes on the loops are a perfect example of changes in speed or uneven movement of hands throwing off the tension. Especially in curves, the hands tend to go faster, causing just enough abrupt change in the tension on the thread to cause slight eye-lashing. Slow your hands down just a bit in curves. Don't whip them out.


 Pretty close to perfect tension above and below.



Adjust the tension a little at a time and check frequently. I use my practice piece to record the tension adjustments, usually going from very loose (3 on my machine) to a setting that's too tight (a 6.5 or 7 for me) and then pick the best tensioned area and set my machine on that setting. See the video How To Free Motion Quilt; Tension Adjustments to see how I check my tension.

Vary your speed to see if it affects the tension. Iffy tension will show itself the most in curves. Some motions need more speed than others. I do not go very fast, but more speed is needed when doing curves to keep them smooth, because the hands tend to speed up. I find that if I am pulling my quilt directly towards myself, the needle can pierce the thread in mid-stitch formation causing it to shred or break. So I try to make sure I don't do that. Just a tiny angle to either side solves the issue.




Your tension may need adjusting with every different thread combination. Tension that works on regular quilting cottons might need to be adjusted when stitching on batiks.

Some newer, higher end machines have auto tension. I can't speak to other brands, but I find that the Janome auto tension adjusts pretty well. Some times it needs to be put to manual or adjusted in the settings if you are using a different thread in the top and bottom or if you still have abrupt changes in your hand motion.

Janome sells a special bobbin case for free motion quilting, sometimes refered to as the blue dot bobbin case. This has a lower tension to help avoid eyelashes on the back. Some people swear by it. I prefer to adjust my tension myself when needed instead of changing the bobbin case.

It takes time and practice to get your hands and foot control working together and learning how your machine responds. Every machine responds differently and of course, every single stitcher is as unique as the stars in the sky! You have to find what works for YOU!

Next in the series: Free Motion Quilting Designs. I'll show some designs that work in several different kinds of quilts. I hope you have found this series useful so far. Please leave a comment if you've got a question or a comment.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quilting Gone to the Bugs

 I've mixed my metaphors for sure, but we've got bugs, not birds here. I've taken a break from quilting and blogging to make a lady bug for my little lady below. She's got lady bugs printed on her sheets so I thought we'd make some bigger ones to decorate the walls around her bed. This first one took a while, but now I'm ready to do a swarm of them in different wing colors with varying decorative elements. It is two brown circles with a pair of half circle wings, all satin stitched to stiff Peltex fusible interfacing.

Ladybug wall decoration

Speaking of swarms, we're overrun with periodic cicadas here in Virginia. They're everywhere! By the millions! Since we're homeschoolers, we take advantage of these things as areas of study. On the ground, you can count at least two of these in a one foot square area. On the trees there are even more. The air is filled with a throbbing hummy buzz that sounds similar to the sound used in very old sci-fi movies when a UFO was flying around.

cicada @freemotionquiltingadventures

Yesterday I gave up mowing the yard because it was a murderously gross activity. (These guys are about 2.5 to 3 inches long!)

I'm still quilting on my Sherwood Forest tree, working on a few other things and meeting up with some local quilters. Last night I went to the second meeting of some art quilters in the area and tonight is my local WIP group. We work on our own projects, chat and have a wonderful time.

I love meeting up with quilting friends! Are you active in any quilting groups? Are there any in your area? Did you start your own as I did in the case of tonight's group? Share in the comments.  Should you be in the DC area, I will be at the Sacred Threads Quilt Exhibit on July 13th and I would love to meet up.

Monday, May 13, 2013

More of my Robin Hood Tree Wall hanging

 I hope all you moms had a good Mothers' Day. It seems it's always a mixed bag for me since I apparently have higher expectations than my family. It didn't help that my hubby shaved all the curls off my little guy the night before. I thought he was just doing a trim! My baby disappeared with just a few strokes of the cutters.

I admit to having a bad attitude over it that lasted the first half of Mothers' Day, but then I took a nap and life was much better. I did some gardening on what seemed to be one of the prettiest days we've had in a while, plus a bit of stitching.

I am making good progress on my tree wall hanging. I added an extra layer of trapunto batting to the trunk of the tree and cut away a small portion of the interior of the tree canopy. If you look close enough, there's an owl sitting on one of the branches.

Free motion quilting with trapunto

If the trimming of all that batting around the leaves looks tedious, it wasn't that bad. Around several portions, I was able to just gently rip the batting away. It leaves a soft edge around the tree.


I was stumped for a while about what background design would look just right on this piece and then it hit me! This is Sherwood Forest after all, so I started making more trees in the background. I am not too happy with the pine tree on the right, but I love the tree just to the left of it. The background trees need to be fairly dense or I will lose the dimensional effect of the trapunto.



I hope to have this finished up by Friday! Many thanks to all who have been checking out my free motion quilting adventures lately. I hope you have been able to quilt or do something creative this weekend.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Free Motion Quilting on the Web

I thought I'd share some of my favorite quilty places today. Maybe I'll make it a regular feature.

Fabulous free motion quilter blogs:

Cindy Needham
Diane Gaudynski
Leah Day's 365 Free Motion Project
This next one is an adventure for sure-   http://guravlik.blogspot.com   If you want to read it, you'll need to use Google Translate or an equivalent tool and have a willingness to still puzzle out some of it, as it is written in Slovanian. But the work is fabulous!
Margaret Gunn- She's a long arm gal, but her work is incredible and she's showing off some of her award winning quilts.
Geta's Quilting Studio- Shadow Trapunto Queen

The next two blogs are of very talented and creative women who have recently popped in here a time or two.
The Quilt Rat   No mere rodent, and she does amazing doodles, some of which are now Janome embroidery designs.      
Nina-Marie A very artistic quilter and fellow Sacred Threads entrant.

And in other news, this part of Virginia has been getting enough rain to make me feel better about the junked boat in my backyard. It's rained enough that my hubby got off early from work and I went AWL (absent with leave!) for a few hours and visited a semi-local quilt shop and played with their new machine for about an hour and a half. I have been sworn to secrecy for the time being and will tell you about it first thing next month!

I am still working on my tree quilt for a wedding gift and it's looking great! I'm afraid I will have to re-mark some lines since it's been so damp and I used the purple air-eraseable pen.

And tonight I had a fun time meeting with some other quilters in the area. So nice to get away and do something other than take care of the kiddos. I love them of course, but sometimes I've got to have that 'Me Time' or I start running on empty.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Free Motion Quilt: The Set-Up

Welcome to my series on how to free motion quilt. This first post will cover the steps to take to set up your machine and work surface for great quilting.

Get Set Up for Free Motion Quilting

The machine. It has been said that any machine that makes a good straight stitch can be used for free motion machine quilting. But I know quilters who will swear up and down that such and such machine is no good for free motion stitching. I think it comes down to knowing your machine and how much fiddling with it  you need to do to get satisfactory results. Certainly the more harp-space/length of arm/throat/ or room to the right of the needle you have to work the better! But you can quilt smaller projects on a standard small sewing machine. I learned on a basic Kenmore machine, though I quickly wanted a bigger machine.


The surface: Above, you can see my main machine (Janome 6600P which has a 9 inch throat) is set flush with the counter top. This is especially nice as it gives a large flat, smooth area for the quilt to glide over. The wall behind (and off to the left of) the counter top keeps the quilt from falling off the edge or dragging on a corner. The best way to move your larger quilt sandwich is to 'puddle' it and keeping it on top of your surface is ideal. This can also be accomplished with a table set in a corner. I also have great lighting in this arrangement.

If you don't have your machine set into a table or counter top, there are extension tables available for many machines through their manufacturer or through a third party maker of extension tables. It is even possible to rig something up out of boxes or foam insulation board. The important point is to have a smooth area to glide the quilt over and as large as possible so the quilt doesn't get hung up on something and cause jerky movements while quilting. It is possible to FMQ without this surface, like on a regular sewing machine sitting on top of a table, but your left hand will risk falling off to the left side and your quilting will have to be very small movements. It is worth trying to get something set up to the the left of the machine.


The surface needs to be smooth and slick to make moving the quilt as easy as possible. I love my Supreme Sliders (Supreme Slider (original size) for my Janome 3160 and Queen Size for the larger Janome 6600) for how smooth it makes the area where my hands are when quilting, covering gaps between the machine and the table.
The pink bottom side stays put very well on my extension table, but the counter top is more textured, so I use painter's tape to keep it in place.

Grip: You need some extra grip when quilting and there are various ways to do this, but my tried and true way is with Machingers Gloves . Gloves can be a hassle sometimes, so I'll try something different from time to time, but I always come back to the Machingers, as seen below. I have fairly pudgy hands and I still like the fit of the small/medium gloves.

 Feed dogs: Typically, the feed dogs need to be lowered for best results and the stitch length needs to be set to zero. When free motion quilting, the movement of your hands determine the stitch length, but setting the length to zero keeps the feed dogs from moving back and forth inside your machine, causing unnecessary wear. Some folks either can't lower the feed dogs or feel they get better results by leaving them up, so they set the stitch length to zero and cover the dogs with the supreme slider, index card, or special plate. The button or lever to lower the feed dogs is more easily accessible on some machines, others are very awkward to reach.

How to free motion quilt series

The foot: Next is the free motion foot which come in various styles. In the above photo are two basic common darning or FMQ feet styles above the ruler and below the ruler is my fabulous Janome convertible FMQ foot set. (Just to the right of it is the ruler toe that can be attached to it for ruler work like long armers do.) I love the convertible set and it is made in high and Low Shank versions so it will fit many other machines than just Janome. There is also a lower-priced and more basic FMQ foot  like the convertible set with the adjustible height, but with only a fixed closed toe.



A basic darning foot can work of course and that's what I have for my smaller machine, below. When quilting, you want the foot to just barely push down on the top when the needle goes into the quilt sandwich, and rise above it when the needle is out. If it is set to low, it will cause drag on the movement of the quilt. Too high and you can cause needle deflection problems, skipped stitches, and risk breaking the needle. It is adjusted by changing the presser foot pressure on your machine or by adjusting the foot itself. On the convertible foot set, the spring can be tightened or loosened with a handy screw knob. On the basic darning foot, you can wrap a rubber band around the shaft above the spring to lift it higher.



The Needle: For the needle in your machine, a topstitching needle is best in my opinion (See edits below) and the 90/14 size works for most quilting thread. The top stitching needle has a nice long eye and a long, deep groove in the shaft to protect the thread as it moves through the top many times as each individual stitch is formed. It excels when using larger or specialty threads. I have used a size larger for my doodle stitching with heavier thread and a smaller for finer threads. Quilting, universal, and microtex needles have a place in your machine quilting toolbox as well. There is a fabulous article in the May/June issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited on all types of machine needles.

Edited to add: I no longer favor the top stitching needle more than other needles. It all depends on the combination of thread choice and thickness/density of your project. I've come to this conclusion after talking to my machine's dealer. He solved an issue I was having by explaining that one draw back to the top stitch needle is the larger eye, which can lead to sloppy stitch formation. If you are having thread shedding issues change the type of needle and see if that helps.

One thing to emphasize is that if you are having skipped stitches, increase the size of the needle.

The stitch plate: Edited to add: I forgot to mention the stitch plate! In the photo above you can see that the wide stitch plate is on this machine. Ideally, you want to put a straight stitch only stitch plate onto your machine as this helps with control of the top and backing, keeping the sandwich from tucking down into the hole with each stitch. It doesn't always happen, but it can really help to have that small hole for the needle to go into instead of a big slot.

Make sure you remember to switch back to a wide stitch plate before using anything other than a straight stitch! I use a large Post-It note over the stitch selection buttons when the straight stitch only plate is on the machine. I forgot to tell you about this because I don't always do this with my machine. The straight stitch only plate for my machine is still a wide oval so I don't always see a big difference, but it does add extra time to switch back to the wide plate. There are some newer, more expensive Janomes available which are much easier to switch out the plates or they go from wide to single hole with a touch of a button; I don't really want to change machines, but that ability would be handy!

Machine features: There are two handy features in a machine to be used for free motion quilting. One is a speed control slider (or other control)  to adjust the top speed of your foot pedal.The other is a needle up/down function. That is the button with the two triangles on it on my machine. The needle down button makes the needle stop in the quilt sandwich when you stop stitching. This helps keep the quilt from shifting when you are moving your hands.


Bobbin case: A word about the bobbin case; Janome sells a special bobbin case for free motion quilting. I do not have it. I have found it unnecessary  to fiddle with my machine's bobbin tension for quilting unless I am using a very fine thread in the bobbin while quilting with heavier thread on the top. I do have an extra bobbin case that I use when I need to fiddle with the bobbin tension so that I don't change the original bobbin case. But again, I rarely find it necessary to change the bobbin tension when quilting. (Edited to add: Vivian sent me a note to say she recently bought the free motion bobbin case for her Janome and has found it useful, especially with differing threads in the bobbin from the top.)

Extras: I use Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers in my (drop in, top loading) bobbin case. I'm not entirely certain they're necessary, but they are easy enough to use and they are supposed to help the bobbin thread feed out more smoothly. They're cheap and seem to last forever.

The last thing for your free motion set up, and it's certainly not necessary, is a self-threading needle for burying threads (my post on it, also a video of mine), if you desire to bury them. I do. A spiral eye needle can work well too. Hopefully you can see the needle right in front of the yellow butterfly pin.



That's enough for this installment of How to Free Motion Quilt and should get you all set up. After you've gotten all set up, make some quilt sandwiches to practice on and check out these posts:

How To Free Motion Quilt; Basic Motion and Tension
How to Free Motion Quilt: The Designs

I hope you've found this extremely long post of use and let me know if I've missed anything or ask a question in the comments and I'll do my best to respond.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Making Peace with the Seam Ripper

Somehow, I always thought that when I got good at free motion quilting, I wouldn't need the seam ripper much. This doesn't seem (I didn't go with the punny spelling, aren't you glad?) to be the case though.


The above image is posted on Pinterest. It is from the Stitch Lab in Austin TX and it sums up my feelings on the dreaded frog stitch (rip it, rip it). Turns out that I use my seam ripper quite often. There are just times that I know that if I leave those wonky stitches in, it will bother me too much. So ripping stitches gives me fewer regrets about a piece. Not that my work is perfect, but there are times I just need to stitch something over.

I do try to make sure I'm not being too much of a perfectionist. Some mistakes won't ever be noticed once the stitching is farther than 12 inches from your eyes.

But I've made peace with the dreaded seam ripper and keep it close. What's that saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? In the picture below, look for the dark dot just to the left of the light.


 Do you see it?


Now you do! That's my seam ripper, right where I need it. It's a cinch to reach up and to the left when my stitching's gone astray. I used a small set of Velcro dots to attach it to the ceiling of my quilting nook. It never gets lost now. If the stitches are going to bug me, it's easy enough to rip them out. No regrets.

How to Free Motion Quilt: The Series

I've been getting a lot of new readers here who are still learning the basics of free motion quilting so I thought I'd set up a page with tips. I really haven't done a whole lot of How-To posts before since I'm mostly sharing my free motion adventures, but I'm starting a little series on the basics and then these posts will be easily available on the Tips tab at the top of the main page.
 
The first post will be up in the next day or two and will be called, "How to Free Motion Quilt: The Set-Up"

I got quite a bit of quilting done this weekend and I hope you did too. Thanks to all who leave a comment and to all who have commented recently. I love reading each comment and email!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Free Motion Quilting: Tree Wall Hanging

I finally forced myself to get a good start on a wedding gift for a young lady at our church. Her wedding shower was Disney's classic Robin Hood and the invitations had a tree with their initials on it. So I ran with that idea and am quilting a tree wall hanging with, of course their initials on it. It all starts with a drawing on paper. The hardest part was figuring out how to do the leaves.

tree sketch
Then it's time to draw some guidelines on the fabric. I rarely follow lines exactly, so I just need some general outlines and shapes to follow. I use air-soluble or disappearing marker. One those purple lines disappear, no one knows if I'm a little off.
sketch of tree on fabric
 This gives me a chance to adjust the drawing to scale on the fabric and makes it pretty fast. Below is some of the stitching in the root area of the tree. You can see how I did not follow those drawn lines. I love the "free" in free motion quilting!
Free motion quilting tree detail 1
I want the tree to have some dimensionality from the background, so I'm using a trapunto technique here. Stitching the top on one layer of batting, with no backing. Then I'll trim the batting before layering it onto the regular batting and the backing.

free motion quilting adventures, free motion quilted tree
In the above picture, you can see I've trimmed much of the batting away. I still need to add more leaves to the top, so that horizontal wrinkle is where there's still batting for the top.

free motion quilting adventures, free motion quilted tree detail

So far, so good. I think maybe I should have used a darker thread for this, and I may switch to a darker thread for the background. But overall, I'm pleased. I've only worked about 2 hours so far on this including a lot of blank staring design work.

Stay tuned and I'll show you the rest of it when I get it done. I even shot some video of it today, though with the gray thread on gray fabric, I'm not sure if you can really see much in the video. I'll have to see what Youtube magic I can find.

I'm sharing this on Leah Day's Free Motion Friday blog linky. See the Free Motion Quilting Project blog for more inspiration.

I'm also posting this over at Nina Marie's. If you haven't seen her blog, you should check it out! A very creative gal is she and she's also got a piece in the upcoming Sacred Threads exhibit.

Have you been having any free motion quilting adventures of your own this week? Please share in the comments. I love to hear from you!




Thursday, May 2, 2013

Poke-y Hand Stitching

When I hand stitch my bindings, I take care to use a small needle and take tiny stitches for the best results. Unfortunately, the eye end of the needle eventually starts poking into my middle finger. Ouch! I never have gotten used to using a thimble, so I've tried a series of solutions. Usually it involves a band aid and more pokings.

I've tried various stick on things from time to time, but never really liked them. Most  made a sticky mess on my finger which I was afraid would mar my quilt. And the needle would slide off the sticker. Now I've found something new and I think it's going to work


free motion quilting

These are called Poke-A-Dots! Cute name. There's a little design on the working surface with enough ridges to keep the needle from sliding off and enough thickness to keep the needle from poking through. The adhesive is staying put too. (Side note: It is very hard to take a picture of your own finger!)

I bought mine from Connecting Threads online, but there are a few sites offering Poke-A-Dots through Amazon too.

If a quilt isn't a super special one like my Poured Out 2 quilt, I prefer to finish the binding by machine which is much less painful.

How about you? Do you use a thimble or something else? Maybe you've got hands like I used to have when I was still farming; no needle would get through those calluses! Share with us in the comments please.