Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Free Motion Quilting Finale

Look! I'm making binding, which means I must have finished quilting something. Yay me! Ombre Triangles is done. (I think I need a better name for this project.)


This poor quilt had so much start and stop quilting that I kept forgetting how I wanted to quilt it between sessions, so it lost its cohesive look. But I had fun playing around with these triangles and groups of triangles. Some were done as diamonds, others as hexagons, but all pretty different.


Most of it was ruler work, with the QP Edge (12") but I also used a QP Curve #8, and a free hand scroll-y, flower fill especially around the edges. Then I threw in a few other things just to keep it interesting.


This whole quilt was done in one fabric, V&Co Ombre, and I was able to trim up the extra backing for my binding, which left it mostly as the darker teal color.

I always struggle when it comes to stitching strips of binding together. I get distracted, sometime from others around me, other times from my ditzy brain. So I've taken to ironing one end of each strip (each strip oriented the same way) at a 45 degree angle. This helps me make the angled seam point the same way and makes sure I sew the strips together properly.


Don't you hate it when you pull the strip open and you've done it wrong? Maybe you've stitched right side to wrong side? Maybe I'm the only one whose botched it more times than I want to admit?

Then I open the crease and I've got something to follow for a good straight 45 degree seam.


Now, if I had turned my binding around so the bulk of it was lying to the right, I could have used these handy dandy markings on the needle plate (see red arrows below). Janome machines have a mess of helpful lines on the needle plate! Sometimes I forget they are there though....bad Janome dealer, shame on me!


Then I switched to a different foot 'sole' for my integrated walking foot, aka the Accufeed Flex System. Love these built in walking feet that are completely removable. This foot combination has a 1/4 inch guide on it.


Of course, by the time I got to the binding, I was beyond ready to do something else and didn't audition the binding around the quilt very well and ended up with this....


Now, if this had been an actual solid fabric, I could have easily adjusted that last binding seam that joined the ends. But that ombre was making its move to another color where I wanted to do it. In the end (ha!), I worked it out as far away as I could without having a noticeable change of color between the two strips. (Totally should have done the "No Tails Binding" by Linda Hungerford.)


I like using Roxanne's Glue Baste It for putting ends of binding together. I pressed my 45 degree angle, added a smidge of glue in what would be the seam allowance, hit it with the iron for instant drying, then opened it up and stitched along the crease. Once I stitched, I popped the seam allowance open, trimmed it to 1/4 inch, pressed it open, and stitched it the rest of the way.

Next, I'm machine stitching this guy down by stitching in the ditch. Then I'm off to one of many things on my to-do list. So many things I want to make. I want to make a little girl's dress to show off a new fabric line in the shop, there's a bag I want to make from another line, I want to make a sloth pillow.... the list goes on and on!

Plus, there's moving to do! We're coming up on our one year anniversary of owning Sew Simple and to celebrate, we're packing everything up and moving down the road almost one mile to a better, bigger location. I'm so excited!


Goodness! Look how dark my hair is. I need some highlight, stat.

One of the things I'm loving about this move is that the new location has no overhead tenants. So many videos have gotten ruined by thumping feet. I think they must be little gymnasts. Also, we will have a separate classroom space from the rest of the sales floor, which will give me a better chance to work on projects. Finally, I think we're just about ready to take another giant leap of faith and look for our first employee or two. I just can't do it all, even with my wonderful husband's help.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

How to Choose Quilting Designs


Whether you use a walking foot, free motion, free motion quilting with rulers, hand quilting, or a combination of more than one of these techniques when you quilt your quilt, there are a lot of factors that can come into play when choosing designs. This is why "How do I Quilt This?" type classes are so popular and why this question can cause even the most experienced quilter to cringe (especially if asked in an email without any photos!).

I divide quilting designs into 4 major types:

Overall Designs- These are designs that do not pay attention to the piecing. Similar to a pantograph used by a longarmer, these are great designs for utility, bed and comfort quilts.

Block and piecing designs- These are designs that are based on the piecing. Designs for blocks, squares, triangles, borders and sashing.

The piecing here determined the quilting.
Fills- These smaller designs are for filling in spaces between other types of quilting, adding texture and interest along the way, sometimes they are even used as larger design elements in the quilting.

The Celtic Square design used here is both a motif and a block and piecing design and is surrounded by dense fills to make it pop.
Motif Designs- These are the ones we love to see in fancier quilts; the scrolls, feathers, floral motifs and more that are major parts of the design of a quilt in of themselves.

Don't confuse the types of designs with the type of quilting. There are designs in any of these four categories that can be done with a variety of methods of quilting. Tiny fills are usually free motion, much of what I do with rulers could be classified as block and piecing designs, and large swaths of straight line quilting all the way across a quilt could be done several different ways, but would still be considered an overall design no matter the method used.

Sometimes the design chosen decides the method of quilting. For example, a tiny, curvy, dense design is not likely a good candidate for walking foot quilting.

There are other times that the type of quilting (hand quilting, walking foot, free motion) the quilter wants to do, will help the quilter choose designs that work better for those methods.

Sometimes a design works well for several types of quilting and the quilter will determine which method to use. I could do straight line square spiral design with a walking foot, but since I love using my rulers, and especially if it's a big quilt, I'd choose to use free motion ruler work. You might choose differently.

Someone might choose big stitch quilting to add interest to a quilt and do it by hand, while another quilter, maybe with less time to spare, would set her machine up with some monofilament thread in the top of the machine and use a "hand-look quilting" stitch. Can you guess which method I'd choose? Leave your guess in the comments below.

The four types are not overly segregated and mix and mingle quite often. While overall designs are usually loners, typically, motif and fill designs work together and are pretty much mutually necessary. Block and piecing designs are good mixers in a quilt, and I think are the unsung heroes of quilting.

Overall Designs- Also called edge-to-edge designs. These are some of the easiest designs to begin with, but not all overall designs are simple. They can be large stippling, other larger meandering designs, or even feathers  as an overall design. You can get ideas for these types of designs by looking at quilts done by longarmers with pantographs. Some can even be quite complex, featuring horses, bears, flowers, stars, etc.

This design could be a filler , fit into a block, or made large as an overall design. You choose!

Block and Piecing Designs- This includes the tedious but many times necessary "Stitch in the Ditch" which can also be done with a walking foot without using FMQ. Once you have a good grasp of FMQ, doing stitch in  the ditch with the darning or free motion foot means no turning of the quilt as you stitch. Block and piecing designs can really enhance the piecing in a quilt.

Here's an easy sashing design.

Fills- Pebbles, smaller stipples, even closely spaced lines of stitching are in this category. Leah Day's site does a great job of categorizing and teaching many, many fills at the Free Motion Quilting Project. She's also produced three books of designs, one of which is From Daisy to Paisley: 50 Beginner Level Free Motion Quilting Designs. Keep in  mind that because of the scope of the project and the stitched samples, these designs are shown quite small. At the small size these are great for filling in around larger motif designs or in conjunction with block and piecing designs. It is up to you to decide at what size you want to quilt these for your quilt! Make them bigger and many can even be overall designs.

Motif Designs- Many of these designs benefit from good planning and marking. There's the classic feather wreath and all of its variations, feathered swags and borders. Some motifs are suitable for block and piecing designs too. Traditional whole cloth quilts are fabulous examples of motif designs coupled with fills. Two wonderful books by Karen McTavish (I have most of her books; they're great) The Secrets of Elemental Quilting  and Whitework Quilting: Creative Techniques for Designing Wholecloth and Adding Trapunto to Your Quilts give great examples of using motifs in quilts along with some great tips.

Some general tips for choosing designs:

Quilt Density: the denser the quilting, the stiffer the quilt. And of course, dense quilting takes longer and uses more thread. Save really dense quilting for wall quilts, fancy quilts, and yes, show quilts. No one wants to snuggle down with a stiff quilt, so for comfy quilts, choose an overall design or fairly simple block and piecing designs.

Abbie is happy I didn't quilt her quilt to death.
One of the big differences between what we can quilt with our domestic sewing machines versus those of the longarm machines has to do with our range of motion. We can only quilt in the space between our hands before we have to reposition our hands and quilt. Those using longarm machines, have a range of motion for stitching that is pretty much the range of their upper body motion. This means the designs we choose either have smaller shapes, well-planned changes of direction, or we have to be really good with our stops and starts when repositioning our hands. Usually, it's a mix of all three factors.

Many quilts benefit from "Stitch in the Ditch", stitching along piecing lines to stabilize the seams, keep things square and subdivide the quilt to keep shifting of batting and backing to a minimum. For the most part this type of quilting is done first and many choose to use a walking foot with the feed dogs up. But, again, once you become proficient at FMQ, doing it in free motion can be a lot faster with little or no rotation of the quilt needed.

Applique quilts can also benefit from stitching around the applique shapes. Ann Fahl's book, Dancing With Thread: Your Guide to Free-Motion Quilting, describes this type of quilting and regular stitch in the ditch quilting as stabilizing the quilt and recommends using clear monofilament for this type of stitching in case the stitches wiggle from one side of the seam or applique to the other.

This applique was carefully SID'd to make it pop.

Large motif designs with inadequate fills around them lose their impact. When properly surrounded with fills, motifs can really pop, making a faux trapunto effect. Couple motifs and small fills with a lofty batting and you've got some great dimension and texture. Larger areas of "white space" are prime real estate for motifs.

Much of this article came from a post I did years ago on "How to Free Motion Quilt: the Designs." You may want to see the line drawings there I did to show examples of various types of designs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Reflecting on Six Years of my Quilting Adventures

Facebook wanted to let me know that today has been 6 years since my husband started his last round of chemo. That's a milestone that makes a person sit dawn and take a look at the journey since then. This won't be much of a quilting post and yet, it has everything to do with quilting.

I could have never thought that the combination of cancer and quilting had the power to transform my life so much. I am so very thankful that it didn't change in the most radical of ways with death or permanent disability of my husband. We had to let go of some things that were pretty important to us, and life radically changed. When I look back, I can see the hand of God working through it all and while I still sometimes grieve some of those changes, we find ourselves on an amazing journey.

Hubby and I in our shop with one of the quilts I made as part of my processing of that time, Poured Out 2.


Just six years ago, I was a beginning free motion quilter, stitching with my machine whenever I could, like my life was being held together with fabric and thread. In all honesty, I didn't handle that time well. My kids were very little, I didn't take care of myself, and my faith wasn't as strong as it is now. I was so scared. I knew God was in control, but I also know that He doesn't necessarily work things out like we want.

That's the time when I really started this blog, sharing my quilting projects with anyone who wanted to take a look. Fast forward past a whole lot of life challenges and changes and still my life is held together with the help of fabric and thread!

A watercolor of the quilting I did in the Poured Out 2 quilt. This was given to my quilting BFF, who I met in person for the first time while working on this quilt.

If you are going through a rough time in life or even quilting, I just want to say it will get better. Sometimes not like we think, but life is one heck of a journey and even though the road is bumpy, let go of the fear and look forward.

I am so glad you've followed along on my Quilting Adventures! Thank you.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ombre Triangles Continues

I nearly titled this post "Ombre Triangles Drags On..." but that would sound pretty awful, wouldn't it? Well, it feels pretty awful! The quilt isn't to blame and I'm not going to blame myself, but sometimes you just aren't feeling a project and you can either give up or slog through. I want to make like Elsa and "Let it go...."

Third times the charm. Finished this block up after stopping two other times about 3 inches away from being done.

But it still is fun to sit and come up with a new design with rulers to use on these triangles. I just haven't gotten enough time to get the flow of quilting going when I do get to stitch. Because when you get into the flow, it is wonderful.



I've been doing some painting in the shop and trying to improve my studio area of the shop so it works better for me.


Much like a quilter who uses the family dining room table for their sewing and quilting, the one the family actually uses, I am in total flux for my sewing area. At home my studio has reverted back to the family room and the remainder of my home studio is tucked into a small back room. At the shop....well, it's the shop.

I'm not complaining, mind you. It's been pretty incredibly wonderful! We've owned Sew Simple for over 9 months now, so maybe it's fitting that I feel like I've finished gestating the business and am nurturing this baby along.

Until next time.....quilt on!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Quilted Bag

As my good friend Robin pointed out, true to form, I made a last minute project the day before leaving for QuiltCon.

I met some wonderful people and saw some gorgeous quilts and quilting while I was there. I also thought very hard about the changes that are happening in the quilting world. Really these are changes happening in every industry, the effects of social media (without it, the Modern Quilt Guild would not have grown so fast!), online shopping, and the enthusiasm these MQG members had for their endeavors. How do I reach these people? How do I continue to serve you, my readers, students, and others with my teaching, tips, and quilting adventures? (Not to sound too grim, but I just heard of the third quilt shop in my state of Virginia closing in the last 8 months or so.)

Fabulous people like Natalia Bonner, a big source of inspiration for ruler work.

I've got some great pictures to share, but first, I give you my last minute project.

I loved making this little cross-body bag! I did a strip of pieced triangles near the bottom, but the rest was done in Moda Crossweave, which I am pretty much in love with even though it's harder then all get-out to see your stitching on this grey version. Even with contrasting thread and some camera editing magic, it's even hard to see in some of these pictures.


 Some ruler work in the triangles of the front and a letter A in the turquoise square. Good thing I don't use red much....


Some freehand free motion quilting on the back. I thought I was just tired when I was having trouble seeing my stitches. Nope. So glad I didn't use matching thread.


It gave me a little spot to do some ruler work and was just big enough to hold just the essentials. I knew I didn't want to be toting around a bunch of stuff at the venue.


Of course I did end up carrying some stuff that wouldn't fit, like my new favorite mug. I envision telling my husband or kids that I need to do some quilting while subtly waving this mug around.


Quilting is good therapy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Murphy's Law of Quilting

It just seems that Murphy comes visiting just when things are getting just a smidge hectic. You do know Murphy's Law don't you? "What can go wrong, will go wrong." When it comes to quilting, Murphy likes to show up here in the evening.


Like right after I posted the above photo to Instagram one night, Murphy pointed out that I had neglected to finish out my design by making a final pass to the outside instead of stopping in the center.


Murphy followed up a few nights later when I decided to fix my mistake. It seems I had just enough thread in the bobbin to bring up the bobbin thread but not enough to actually form the first stitch.

But while I take his late night visits as a sign to call it a night, I am determined not to let Murphy's Law get me down.

I head out for QuiltCon Thursday and will stay until Sunday morning. Will I see any of my readers there? I decided to go at the last-ish minute and I'm afraid I may have set myself up for Murphy to visit during my trip. I've rented a car as the mom-car isn't quite up to the trip, reserved a room (though sadly not at the convention hotels as I waited too long), and am trying to get things at the shop and home shipshape before my departure.

I'll just be wandering the show and trying to meet up with a lot of people, most of which I've never met in person. You can follow my QuiltCon adventures on my Instagram feed and that may be a good way to connect if you're there.

Now, I think I will succumb to my internal last minute pressure to make something to take with me!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ombre Triangle Quilt: A Few Tips

Happy weekend! Here are some more pictures from my ombre triangles project. Check out last weeks post on it for more info on the ruler work I did, but now I wanted to show a few tricks I've learned over the years.

The first is a bit of a cheat when you're going from one area to another where you'd usually break your thread tails. I lift the foot and needle at point #1, then move to an area where I've already quilted #2 and drop the needle down and back up, making sure to lower the foot first when using the ruler foot, and then move on to where I want to stitch #3.

I make sure that my traveling thread isn't going to be in the way of my quilting at any point and that the overall length of the thread is long enough for me to cut it at that single stitch and still have thread tails long enough to knot and bury later.


At point #3 above, I'm getting ready to do another 1/2 inch echo with my straight ruler before doing more of my floral filler.

You can see in the picture below that the point where these 6 pieces meet, there's quite a hump. I know from past experiences that stitching through it to flatten it won't go well. My machine can go through it fine, but my stitches will likely be wobbly.


Instead I will avoid the center by circling around it for the most part. This flower fill I'm using works well for this.


So now I've got another chunk of this quilt done. I can't wait to see what I'll quilt next! LOL.


In fact that's what I'm going to do now! Thanks for following along on my quilting adventures.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Leah Day Tackles Templates

Last week, I received some news that made me feel pretty cruddy. Nothing too major now, especially after giving it some thought and prayer. The next morning, I arrived at the shop still feeling a little out of sorts. My hubby, with a big cheesy grin, met me with phone in hand and said, "Oh Amy...Leah Day, line one!"

Leah and I had a great little chat. She's a very encouraging and down to earth kind of gal. If you read her blog you already know that, and you probably know about her new line of templates.

But, if you don't know, Leah's got a great learning program called the Machine Quilting Block Party. One of the blocks is a Dresden plate block and she's developed her own line of templates to help her students cut out these shapes quickly and accurately.

She's also designed them to work well as quilting rulers (used with a ruler foot of course!) with etched 1/4 inch markings along the edges. At 3mm thick, they're great for low shank machines and could be used with care with high shank sewing machines as well (keep the foot down low), though you know I like my rulers as thick as possible for safety and ease of gripping. These are not suitable for hopping long arm machines and probably not the #72 Bernina foot.

I love a good, multipurpose tool! The ends of the curved blades and especially the circles can be really useful. There are several stretches of straight edges as well. For the price and the versatility, I think it's a great deal.

They've been so popular that she's currently sold out of the Dresden Plate Template Set, but will have them in stock really soon!

She doesn't sell ruler feet, so she's been kind enough to send folks my way via Amy's Quilting Adventures for those. That's why she was calling. Sweet, huh?

Over on her blog, The Free Motion Quilting Project, Wednesday's post, Ruler Foot Quilting for Beginners, shows her templates and how she's used them for quilting her project. I love seeing how people use the rulers they have in creative ways to make a variety of designs. You should check it out.

She does a great job of showing how to make a clamshell type design with a single shape (actually she does this twice, with a different template) which is my preferred way of doing clamshells.

Speaking of using the rulers you already have for a variety of designs, that's what my second class with Craftsy is all about. While it's great to have some specialty templates if you want them, we all want to use our templates in as many ways as possible.

Creative Quilting with Rulers can be yours at half off right now with this coupon code link. (Coupon link disclaimer: Get 50% off the full retail price of select Craftsy classes taught by Amy Johnson. Cannot be combined with any other coupons. Expires March 19, 2017.)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Quilting with Rulers: Tweak your Set-Up

In my previous quilting with rulers post on my current project, I mentioned some issues I was having with my machine set up.

Having a good machine set up will, well....set you up for free motion success.

First I needed to level the insert with the cabinet top. The machine was at the right height, but the insert needed to be up just a smidge to eliminate the little lip around the opening. I used the tiny inner circles from the adhesive silicone gripper dots I use on my rulers to prevent slipping.  Just 6 of these small True Grips got it nice and level.

Then it was time to replace my slider. I shared in my previous post that the slider I was using wasn't big enough. It was a custom sized slider made for the 8200 and 8900 machines to be used on the extension table that comes with these machines. It was really too narrow for this cabinet insert. If I wasn't using rulers, it would be fine.


So I got out a Sew Slip mat and put it down. Alas, it's not quite big enough. I could have ordered a queen sized Supreme Slider at this point, but if you've read this blog for long, you know I think outside the box quite often and like to find solutions without buying something special if I don't need to.


But I also knew I wanted to cut a hole for my bobbin cover plate, like the other mat had. There's a little loss in slide when I do this, primarily if a basting pin catches the edge, but easy access to the bobbin is soooo worth it.


I positioned the mat to cover as much of the edges that I wanted covered and dropped my needle. The original hole was part of the area cut out for the bobbin case and I cut a new hole for the needle.


The custom cut one was much nicer, but this will do. Now it covers the edges and grooves nicely. It's not so much about the slipperiness as much as it is about smoothing out the joins between machine, insert, and cabinet.



Now I can get down to some stitching. This post is getting long, so I'll just show some preliminary quilting for now. I'm breaking this little quilt into different sized chunks so I'm doing some quick marking to keep all the right designs in the right areas.


The outer line above delineates the triangle, but isn't accurately marked, just sketched. But the inner triangle was marked accurately so it would be stitched properly.


So this will feature a 1/2 inch echo around the outer triangle and an inner triangle and echo, plus a freehand fill between echos. I want to minimize stops and starts as much as possible, so I echo around.....


Then work a bit of the fill until I reach the inner triangle. Then I stitch the inner triangle.


 Then I show you the rest of the fill tomorrow!

 Here's a special, cheerful spot in my shop (Sew Simple of Lynchburg) that is making me very happy. Front and center when you walk in the door is Lil Red and Bonnie and Camille Basics in yardage and precuts.



 I hope you have a spot in your life that is making you smile during these dreary days of winter. Great time to quilt!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Quilting with Rulers: Ombre Triangles Continue

My quilting is slowly getting done on my Ombre Triangles quilt. Slower than my favorite purple pen evaporates. Good thing I took pictures of the overall design.


The marks are mostly to point out which shapes I had planned to put where, not really something to stitch over. I did mark a line to indicate the apex and base line of the smaller inner triangles. I try to do as little marking as possible, using the markings on the rulers and the seam lines to guide me. But sometimes, there's not much to go by, so I definitely do mark.


I'm continuing to break it down into different geometric shapes. Last week I did a hexagon and this week it's time for a large triangle. This triangle is actually one of two overlapping triangles, so there's a part of it I'm not quilting.


I'm really loving using my straight 12 inch ruler for these half inch echoes I'm using to delineate the geometric shapes and then going back and filling in with this little flower fill.

I now mostly quilt in our store, Sew Simple of Lynchburg, and I've realized that I need to do some tweaking of my set up to allow me to quilt better. Most of the machines are set up for shop demos. I keep one set up for free motion quilting most of the time, but hadn't really set it up for my own use. (I'm really hoping we can move the shop in the coming year so I don't have to share studio work space with the sales floor.) I had some issues moving my ruler with my project.


The first issue was quickly identified. Once upon a time Janome had some Supreme Sliders cut to to be used with the extension table that comes with the Janome 8900. I had an extra one in the shop and was using it on the 8200QPCSE set into a Horn cabinet. It's long, but narrow. The slider really needs to be big enough to cover the joins between the insert and the cabinet surface.

It caused my ruler to get stuck or jerk when going over these areas.

Silly me....I preach to y'all about the need to have a good smooth surface to quilt on.

The next issue was found shortly after. It seems the machine had slid to the right a little.....


The arrow above points to where the insert was no longer supported by its own support built into the machine. The lower insert was causing my ruler to rock as I quilted with the ruler to the right of the needle.

Here's my story and I'm sticking to it..... I think that as we gain skill in free motion quilting (and likely other things in life), we can become a little blind to the basics that we paid so much attention to when we first started out.

I know I've got some awfully talented quilters here...have you let things slide in your quilting set up? Or not slide as in this particular case? Especially if you've traveled to a class, retreat, or workshop.

If you are new to free motion quilting, I cannot stress enough how much a good set up with a large smooth, flush to the machine bed, surface is to your quilting.

Going forward I will be putting one of my Sew Slip mats around the foot of this machine and make sure that it's in the proper position. (I will also be praying that the right space opens up for our shop. We need classroom space! But that's not exactly a actionable tip for you!)

Happy quilting!