Practice Free Motion Quilting: Another Follow-up to Speed is Relative

So you've practiced your FMQ by drawing the designs; getting that muscle memory going and figuring how to get from one area to another by adjusting your design.

 Now it's time for a practice quilt sandwich. Nobody wants to waste too much time, fabric and batting on a project you can't really use, but you certainly don't want to have a major thread issue or ugly stitching on a good project.

This is a great time to use up some ugly fabric. We all have some. Maybe it wasn't ugly when we bought it in 1980-something, but now, well, time to put it to use. Try not to stray too far from the type of fabrics and batting you use in your quilting projects however, so you can get a good example of how your threads will work on the good stuff.

 In the pic above I'm using plain white Kona cotton and a freebie fabric that someone passed along to me. I used blue thread too, so I can see my stitching better on the white and also see how the stitching will look when it blends into a similar color fabric.
These practice sandwiches have been used to get my tensions just right with different thread combinations. I write notes to myself so I won't forget what the tension settings were or other issues. These are true practice pieces and I can stitch all over the previous stitches without regard to the final product. Once these sandwiches are filled up, I can put another layer of fabric on top and start all over again! These make great insides for pot holders too. I have some I save as a record of different thread and tension combinations.

When getting ready to quilt on a project that I want to be at its best, I make sure to have enough extra batting and backing on at least one side of the project so I can put a scrap of the top's fabric along side my quilt and practice just off to the side of my quilt. It's a great way to get the tensions just right and to warm up before quilting on the real deal.

The next post in this series on practicing FMQ will be the last part of it. Making things we actually use or look at as part of our practice.

Practice Free Motion Quilting; A Follow-up to Speed is Relative

I'm being smashed between getting over being sick and Christmas preparations, plus working on an important quilting project so I haven't been posting like I wanted.

Practice, practice, practice also known as PPP is the best way to learn to balance hand speed with machine speed when free motion machine quilting.

Free motion quilting practice on paper
My most common practice is actually done via pen and paper. Sometimes I use the kids' Magnadoodle so I don't waste paper. Sometimes I get artsy-fartsy and get out some watercolors and a gel pen.

free motion quilting practice

I prefer to use pencil when drawing on paper, but I have found that using pencil for quilting practice results in having to stop and either sharpen the pencil or advance the lead on a mechanical pencil while in middle of doing a design. A pen works much better. Try to not get too tiny unless you like stitching very densely.

Believe me: Drawing designs out really helps. I ignored this advice when I first started. I wanted to stitch, not draw! But when I took up drawing the designs while at the doctor with my husband so much, I really improved. Can't draw, you say? Doesn't matter. I can stitch much better than I can draw. Some of the above doodles are quite rough.

The important part is just learning the design, making it more automatic and figuring out where to go next with your drawn line. You learn how to get from one area into another. It can help to draw basic quilt block shapes; square, triangles, etc. so you practice putting your design into them like a pieced shape.

How about you? Do you doodle your designs before you stitch them? I think it's fun! Try it and let me know if it helped you.

Bobbin Holders

I'd love to give credit to whomever came up with this brilliant idea I found on Pinterest, but if you follow the link back, it appears to have been pinned from instead of the original source. Hopefully, I can do a little digging and find it. It is however a great idea! Edited to add: looks like the idea may have come from here, but I have yet to find the actual picture/post.

These are those toe separator thingies for pedicures! They are made of foam so you could probably use them as a pin cushion in a pinch. I think these would be great for when you are traveling with your machine.

Source: via Anna on Pinterest

Remember, if you are pinning pictures, do it from the original site, not an index page or the main page of a blog. As the content of these index and/or main pages' content changes, the link becomes useless.

Sick Quilter

I've made a few changes to the blog lately and even came out of the blogging closet to my local quilting friends and Facebook peeps. I resolved to post at least three days a week, planning for M,W,F posts.

So this pathetic post is to keep me from falling behind on my resolution. Today I am feeling like crud and am not up to posting. I did however finish the appli-piecing of the main portion of my latest quilt. It is coming together quite well. Now I need to make a decision regarding what batting to use. I had planned on using a wool bat with a Quilter's Dream poly behind it so as to give a faux trapunto effect, but now I am wondering about bearding on this very dark fabric.

I think the best solution is to make another sample. This time with the same batting I plan to use.

Now to get back to wheezing and hacking....

Speed is Relative: Tools for Regulating Free Motion Quilting Speed

Speed  when quilting free motion is completely relative. As long as you can balance what your hands and the machine are doing, and your brain (which decides the design) can keep up, it matters very little whether you quilt slow or fast. If you go too slow, it can cause lines of stitching, particularly curved lines, to be more jagged, but that's it.

The two most important tools for regulating your quilting speed are something many quilters don't want to hear, so I'll save them for last.

I will not cover stitch regulators as I have no experience with them. In the domestic sewing machine market they are limited to the higher end Berninas. There are a few other stitch regulator-like gadgets and tools out there I think, but again, I have no experience with them. I think you don't need them either!

Machine Speed Control

The number one speed control tool that all quilters have is the foot pedal. Make sure it functions properly and doesn't have places it gets 'stuck'. Speaking of stuck, make sure it doesn't slide around as you stitch and is positioned at the most comfortable spot for you. I have wood flooring in my sewing space and I use a few rubbery glue dots on my pedal to keep it in place. They work even though I pack up my machine quite often to sew elsewhere and re-stick just fine. I have heard of folks using nonskid rug matting too.

The foot pedal is a pretty basic device. If you have a fairly knowledgeable sewing machine service person in your area, it may be possible to upgrade your foot pedal to something more responsive. If you do not have a variable speed setting or slider control on your machine (more on that in a minute) you may want to rig a 'stop' of sorts for your pedal that allows you to 'floor it' without having your machine at top speed. Taping a block into place that prevents the pedal from going all the way down is the primarly method. Some people find it more comfortable to be pressing their foot all the way down rather than floating it somewhere in between. I think that you lose something in the control of your speed by getting used to 'flooring it', but it works for some. Leah Day at the Free Motion Quilting Project had a few tips for creating a 'stop' on her site at one point, but now I can't find the info. I think it was in one of her earlier videos on FMQ basics. Her advice on speed control is here, but it's one of the two tools I said you won't like......

Most of your mid-range machines have a variable speed control. It's a knob or slider that regulates the maximum speed you want when you sew. It can be helpful to slow the maximum speed so that if you do press all the way down with the foot pedal, it is a speed you can still control while quilting.

As a side note: My 6 year old daughter is starting to sew and she uses my Janome 3160QDC. It's a great machine at the low end of the mid-range machines at around $500-$600. It has both a speed slider and a Start/Stop button (and the ever-handy for quilting needle-down). I put the speed slider almost to the slowest setting and she runs the machine with the Start/Stop button. This easier for her than using the foot pedal.

When I first started Free Motion Quilting, I used my speed control to help me control the maximum speed. In fact I once was looking at a larger machine that had no speed slider/control and its lack was a deal breaker for me.

It's still not a matter of flooring the pedal at a slower speed though. Different motions of machine quilting require different speeds. But it's a bit like training wheels while you get the hang of varying the machine speed and your hand speed. In fact, I rarely set my machine slider anymore, which is a good thing as the slider control is irresistible to my three year old; though I usually discover his treachery when I find my machine will hardly go! It takes time and practice. Which brings me back to one of the two most important tools for FMQ; Practice!

Before I conclude, let's not forget the other side of the speed equation: your hand speed. Hand speed is affected most by tension in your body due to the set up of the quilting space or fear that you will mess up. Make sure your set up works for you and allows good movement of the quilt. Some folks mention having a glass of wine to loosen yourself up, music can help find your quilting rhythm.  I find listening to the sewing machine's motor helps me find the right speed for much of my quilting. Make sure your hands can control the top easily, whether you use gloves, lotion, a pinch, or something else. I use my Machinger gloves. A frequent break and stretch is good. I can get pretty tense from quilting too long and from being fearful that I will mess up. On important projects I pray before and during the quilting! And like most things you do with your hands, it takes practice.

Practice, practice, practice! I know that's not what you really wanted to hear. But it's what works. My next post will be on some ideas for practicing you speed control and practicing free motion quilting in general.

And that other tool I said many quilters might not want to hear? It's not really a tool per se, but it's hand-eye coordination. For some it is a natural ability or disability, but it can be improved upon. All it takes is.....practice! Get some time in on some good practice and find the balance of hand and motor speed that works for you.

Do you have any tips on speed control in quilting? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Speed is Relative when Free Motion Quilting


The speed at which you free motion quilt is all relative to how fast your machine is running and how fast or slow you move your hands.

If you've floored your foot pedal as some folks think you should, either your hands must move like a hyper squirrel or your stitches will be very small. If you run your machine at a snail's pace, you will have to slow your hands down in order to make even stitches that won't catch a toe.

You will find that certain shapes and sizes of designs you stitch in free motion quilting need to be done at different speeds than others. Longer, sweeping movements of your hands usually need to be stitched either at a faster motor speed OR you will have to slow your hands down. Tiny designs usually need to be done slowly.

It's a dance between your hands and your machine!

Join me for specific tips for finding your free motion speed sweet spot on Wednesday.

Quilt Design: Poured Out 2

Poured Out quilt pattern in process

 Refining the lines on my newest quilt project and hubby says it looks like some sort of weather map.
 Most of the design process was drawn freehand but then I need to get the lines nice and even, the curves need to be smooth. Sometimes I don't have the right curve on hand and a compass is too small. I've tried to use one of those bendable rulers but wasn't satisfied with it. I'd like to order a set of Renae's Amazing Rays, which is like a giant compass for creating circles when designing quilts, maybe I should ask for it for Christmas. So I start raiding the kitchen for just the right bowl, plate, or glass.

That looks like just the thing for some beautiful medallion quilts! I like designing my quilts, but actually putting them together is a challenge. I really am all about the free motion quilting.

quilt pattern drafting tools and pattern in process
Then piece numbers need to be assigned and registration marks put in. And before I completely lose my mind trying to get each and every line just right, I remind myself over and over again that there's no point in drawing the lines straighter than I can cut them. After drawing, erasing, and redrawing seemingly a million times, I have to cut it all apart. That's a scary step!

Amazingly, I had no cutting foul-ups! I cut this pattern (2 layers of freezer paper) out using an Exacto knife as all the curves would have driven me batty to cut with scissors. Plus it is hard to get a real smooth cut line with scissors. I could have used a rotary blade, but I feel like I have more control with the knife.
gradation of fabric colors for Poured Out quilt
 Now it is time to pull fabrics and figure out which piece needs to be in which fabric. I have a general idea of what color when I come up with the design, but a final selection waits until this point in the process. I can see in this photo above that one fabric reads lighter than I thought when I took the picture. This is the water portion of a new version of my Poured Out quilt.

I was able to cut out and align several pieces last night (Instead of baking rolls for out Thanksgiving dinner. Oops! Sometimes I get started on a project and I just don't want to stop.) I am putting this together with my own variation of machine applique also known by some as appli-piecing. I could never piece these curves!
quilt in process
I think it's starting to take shape! Now to get busy with our Thanksgiving meal....Bet I'll be working on this every spare minute I get for a while.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, we have so much to be thankful for!

Free Motion Feather---Video Post

 I made another little video today, more to test out a new camera set-up than anything else. But I thought it might be interesting to see me quilt a little feather. You can also see me pull up the bobbin thread and bury the tails.

I'm not kidding when I call it a little feather. Free motion quilting is all about smooth, relaxed movements and it's safe to say that I'm not relaxed when sitting with a camera between me and my Janome! I guess it's all part of my quilting adventures.

Design Process- Free Motion Quilting a Floral Doodle

I took a few pictures of the floral designs I stitched on my new purse as I was making it. I thought I'd share them with you.

 I have learned that the initial stitching never looks all that great when I first start. It looks so bare and wobbly. But once I start adding more design with more thread, it quickly starts to get better.

 You can see where a few of my thread tails have been cut in the picture above. I wasn't very careful with them and didn't bury the thread ends like I usually do. But I was in a hurry.

Here's one of the flowers all finished. Not too bad, I think! I love how the colors worked with one another so well in this piece. Drawing or doodling with free motion quilting is so much fun! Granted, this isn't the type of quilting you'd want to use in a quilt made for cuddling under, but for a purse or wall hanging it's great!

Video: Quilting with Ruler on Sewing Machine

Here's my first video of me quilting! And it's showing me quilting with a long arm ruler on my Rainy Days and Mondays quilt.

I apologize for the sound of my breathing as I quilted. As you can imagine I was quite nervous and the camera mic is pretty sensitive.

I hope to start doing a few more of these videos. I hope you have found them useful or at least entertaining.

Using Long Arm Rulers on a Sewing Machine

I have been remiss in not posting more about using long arm rulers on a domestic sewing machine for quilting. Time to share what I have learned.

Unless the ruler you have chosen already has grippy spots or something else to help prevent slipping, the first thing you need to do is to help the ruler grip your fabric. My preferred method is salt and clear nail polish, which I blogged about here. Some rulers benefit from having this done to BOTH sides, like asymmetrical shapes. These rulers can be flipped for mirror image shapes or just ease of use, especially if they have multiple shapes on one ruler.

The ruler toe (unnattached) and free motion foot (with open toe attached) is below the ruler. Regular darning/FMQ feet are above; don't use these feet for ruler work.
Even though I use the wonderfully designed Ruler Toe for the convertible machine quilting foot made by Janome, I still find that the ruler works best when held to the left or in front of the foot. (Post showing this foot) To the right gets a little tight with the body of the machine and bulk of quilt. Behind gets hung up a bit on the accufeed.

I prefer to work with the ruler to the front of the foot. On my latest quilt with ruler work above, if I had the ruler to the left or right side, I would be stitching backwards (pulling fabric towards myself) for every other line, which is something my machine doesn't like.

The surface under the quilt must be quite slick, whether it is an extension table or counter top. I always use a Supreme Slider for free motion machine quilting and it really helps. You move the ruler and quilt all at the same time against the foot. It takes a light hand on the ruler or it will be hard to move the quilt. That is why having grippy spots on the ruler and a smooth surface under the quilt is so important.

I will be posting a video soon to show how to do this. [Edited to add: I did do a video showing some ruler work, it's one of my first videos, so I really should do another.]

Note: I do NOT recommend that you try using either a rotary cutting ruler or a regular free motion quilting foot for this technique! You will most likely break a needle with the ruler!

If you found this helpful or have questions, put it in a comment and I'll do my best to get back to you. (Make sure your not a "no-reply" commenter if you want a response!)

Free Motion Quilting as Surface Design

Most people think of  quilting the quilt as the utilitarian step that holds the quilt sandwich together. Many folks certainly use attractive designs to do this and enhance the overall appearance of their quilts. But me? I love the quilting itself! I've been getting a lot of inspiration from henna tattoo designs, Zentangles, doodles and illustrations on Pinterest.

I used some free motion quilting as decoration for a new purse. I just find of doodled the design on the fabric, batting, and interfacing sandwich before I cut the pieces out. First the black thread to define the main shapes, then the blue followed by the white thread. This is all Superior's 30/3 Sew Fine poly thread, also once sold as Brytes and New Brytes.

 I think it turned out quite well. At least the quilting did. I made up the purse design without a lot of planning and I'm not too happy with the handle and worse: I ran out of fabric!
 I had planned to bind the edges with bias binding cut from the same brown fabric. But as I ran out of fabric and time, I had to improvise. So I zigzagged the edges in the black and blue thread. Looks kinda cool from a distance, but not so great close up. Think I'll redo that finish either with a different fabric, or take it all apart and make it so the seam finishes inside the bag and bind it.

I made this purse to take to a quilt guild meeting (a first for me) and I admit it, I wanted to show off my FMQ skills. Nobody commented on it. That'll teach me!

I do like the size of the bag; perfect for my notebook computer, plenty of pockets and yet not too big. For years I have been lugging around a huge bag so I could be somewhat prepared for mishaps with my kiddos. Now that they can care for themselves better and tote some of their own stuff, it's time to lighten the load!
I'm thinking I'll bind it in black and add a black strip at the top and put straps at the top. The current handle is too flimsy and if I don't have my computer or book in it, the strap's attachment point causes the bag to fold inward.

I could blog more and get more quilting done, but I'd have to give up a lot of time with these three cuties. Especially that little guy there----see those blue eyes and curly hair? There's dimples too! One way or another, they take a lot of my time. It's worth it though in the long run!

But I do manage to quilt a bit. Gotta love quiet time! We all get a break of 2-3 hours nearly every day from each other. If we didn't, I'd go bonkers for sure, cute, sweet kids or not.

Quilting Studio

Thought I'd share this studio tour here. I like that it's not staged or styled for the video and that she makes good use of a mix of cabinets and tables.

This weekend, I had a wonderful friend come over and stitch in my studio space while I worked on finishing the pattern for my new quilt. Gave me a good reason to tidy things up!


I'm watching a video on procrastination right now as I write. So that I don't feel like I'm procrastinating while I learn about overcoming procrastination, I thought I'd post the video here.

One line that made me laugh out loud was that beating one's self up or self-chastising over procrastinating is just another form of procrastination!

In my quilting world, I am queen of procrastination! Now, with 3 kids at home all day, I have plenty of interruptions and other responsibilities to tend to. But last night I started stitching up a new apron because I have been invited to a Pampered Chef party to which we are to wear our cutest apron.

Still haven't finished the drawing for my new Poured Out quilt. Sigh.... Oh look! This series on procrastination has 3 more parts. Think I'll go procrastinate some more!

White On White Quilting

There's the grid marked on my quilt. With the lines on it, it doesn't look so great. I tried to reign in my perfectionist tendencies as this is just supposed to serve as a photo background and there are quite a few bobbles.

 But a dunking in the bathtub removed the markings and really, you can't see the bobbles.
So, what do you think? The bigger question is really: Why in the heck did I do such dense quilting on this?

Now I'm moving to the next fill. What will it be? I have no idea. Check back soon to see!

Real Life Quilting Studio

I thought I'd try something new, a video post! I did this very spontaneously just to see if it could be done. A few minutes of footage of what my wreck of a quilting space looks like right now. I think it came out fairly well, considering. Though I had to upload it through Youtube instead of Blogger.

I keep getting sucked into the computer instead of stitching or even blogging, and certainly instead of cleaning. Just keeping it real, no photo styling here!

I think I've written about using a timer before. I use one on my cheapo Trac phone. It actually has quite a few useful tools on it. Good thing since I won't be getting a Smartphone or anything similar anytime soon. It works for me. Too bad it has a snooze alarm! I have got to get more diligent in how I get my work done or else, well, no work gets done!

I hope you enjoy the video. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it. I think my voice sounded good. Not the audio quality, but just the sound of it. Because if I sounded weird, it would have ended my video production.

Free Motion Quilting Play: White on White

 I saw a picture on Pinterest a few weeks ago and what caught my eye was not really the purse that was being offered for sale, but the backdrop behind the purse. It was an all over quilting pattern done in white thread on white fabric.

I love doing a real free, free-motion piece like that. It's great practice and I needed a background for a few small items I want to photograph. I went to our LQS for a Sit-n-Sew time and took my sandwich with me to work on. Drew a large oval on it and commenced to feathering around it with noting else marked.

After I finished the feathers, I did whatever fill I wanted to until I got bored with it and then switched to a new fill. Fun!
 Then I decided to work on some geometric fills so I got out my grid stencil and trusty blue pen. I'd have rather used a pounce pad to mark, but I only have white pounce powder. If I am diligent and can stay focused --SQUIRREL!-- I will have a shot of the finished geometrics for you in a few days.

Here's another shot of it so far. I've already used it for a backdrop once and it worked great. I find this kind of practice to be so fun! You should give it a whirl!

Rainy Days Quilt

Took my latest quilt outside to take a few pictures. Common sense should have told me that if I wanted to use the kids' playhouse to hang the quilt, I'd have more 'help' than necessary. They are awfully cute though!


This quilt measures 74x74 inches and I had no trouble maneuvering it under my 6600P Janome. It wasn't a walk in the park, especially since I used a 70/30 cotton/poly Quilter's Dream batting. It is a very dense batt, though not too puffy. QD poly battings are different from other poly batts I've tried before. They're almost like a blanket.
A shot of the back. I must remember how much it bugs me to use directional prints. I hate that the umbrellas are not all in the same orientation. Can you see the umbrellas I quilted in the larger blocks? I think it turned out pretty cute and it's a great quilt to snuggle under.

Now.....on to the next project! Ummm.....exactly which of the 20 or so unfinished projects is supposed to be next?

Blasted Bobbin!

Or maybe I should title this post, "May your bobbin always be full". I think there's a blog of that name somewhere....

Maybe I should have gotten a fancier machine with a 'low bobbin indicator' as much as I find out I've stitched a long seam without bobbin thread. I will look on the brighter side and remind myself that it's easier to re-sew than it is to rip and then resew. Not that I do much of that......bwahaha! Seems like the more I sew, the more I rip.


Looky there! Another project. This is for a demo for my quilt group tonight. Karin Hellaby's method of making pinwheels.
Ta dah!

Fun! Not sure what I'll do with it yet. I'd make it into a pillow for my daughter, but she hasn't quite learned how to take care of the sewn stuff I give her. Most of it ends up on the floor where it gets trampled upon. Sigh....

Here a Project, There a Project...

Totally distracted; that's me!

I finished my sample quilting and ordered the thread I want to use. Now I need to finish the drawing to size and make a pattern. The female figure in the quilt has been really hard. I am not much of a drawer and drawing hands is really hard! If drawn her 5 times so far and I've just about got it.

Now I have wandered to another project. It's a mini quilt to use as a background for a graphic I'm putting together.

I did finish my rainy days quilt and bound it using my machine technique with poly monofilament thread. I figure using it on the couch with my three kids will definitely give it a good test of how it holds up.

Today is a rainy miserable day and I am a bit under the weather, so maybe I can get some pictures taken tomorrow and posted soon.

Got to quilt!

Free Motion Quilting a Sample for a New Project

I have started preliminary work on my new version of my Poured Out quilt. The main background is black sateen upon which I will quilt a bunch of negative words and choking, evil, thorny branches. Yep, this is not a 'pretty' design.

But what I really wanted to share with you is how I made a test sample before working on the real quilt. Test samples help not only with tension issues, but also with thread selection, and in this case, design elements too.

I was really surprised at how well the camera showed the threads on the black fabric! I needed to decide what colors were going to work best of this quilt for the dense machine quilting. I also wanted to see how well the words and thorny vines would show up with the machine faux trapunto. See the basting pin on the right side? Tiny, dense quilting. I try to work a little bigger, but that's what my hands like to do.

I used the same black sateen that I will use for the quilt and 2 battings; Quilters' Dream 100% poly and their Dream Wool also. Talk about serious puff! I think I'll expand on the vines and words to take advantage of the trapunto effect.

It was pretty easy to decide that black Isacord thread on the sateen was too boring and didn't show the design enough, even with the sheen of the sateen and the fabulous texture. Same with some dark blue threads. One variegated thread showed promise, but I wanted to try some others since thread colors look so different stitched out on fabric than they do on the spool. Plus I would have to order more of it, since I only had one spool. Three of the variegated threads were seen too bright on the black, though they were lovely. One was too purple to play nicely with the bottom blue water portion of the quilt.

That left two to decide between. Of course it had to be the one that will have me placing an order with Superior Threads today for a large cone of the Rainbows poly, Midnight Shadows. I think the name is fitting for this quilt too. I might use one of the dark blues a bit too, to help rest the eye from all the variegated thread. It's interesting how if you step back to about 8 feet away from this sample, how it all looks nearly black but there are hints of color that beckon you to look closer.

I am so glad I tested my threads! I think a lot of quilting issues get resolved by testing your thread on the same fabric and batting as you will be using on your actual quilt. Usually I just use the edge of the batting with a scrap of top fabric alongside my quilts.

I hope you have been playing with your threads and quilting too during my absence here. I have gotten obsessed with a secret project and have neglected my blog, my quilting, and some other life stuff. I wish I could say it's a book deal or something really promising, but alas....

Quilting with Isacord Thread

There's the baby Isacord and Big Mama Isacord!

I like using Isacord thread for a lot of my free motion quilting:

  1. It's pretty cheap inexpensive. And I can get it somewhat locally.
  2. It's shiny and I love for my stitching to shine.
  3. As a polyester thread, it has no lint.
  4. It gives me very little trouble. What trouble I do have is really my machine's fault and happens when I do a bunch of 'backwards' stitching. (Pulling the quilt towards me)
  5. There are a ton of colors and I can get it on large or jumbo big mama spools.
I usually get my Isacord thread at a shop in the bigger city nearby, about 40 minutes away, that sells Berninas and embroidery stuff. They have a huge selection of colors in the 1000M cones and they cost $5.80.

But there's a beautiful new quilt shop about 50 minutes away that has a lot of yummy fabric, nice people and while their thread selection is pretty limited, the owner also does custom machine embroidery. She uses the huge 5000M cones and if she has a color that I want that is still in the wrapper, she will sell it to me at a great price of  $13.00! Yippee! I won't need this color green for a loooong time!

Quilting Rainy Days and Mondays

I've been working on this quilt for a while, made from Riley Blake's Rainy Days and Mondays line of fabrics plus a little from the stash. It's 76x 76 with a Quilter's Dream 70/30 batting and a generous untrimmed perimeter, so more like 86x86. So it's pretty bulky and dense. Also I'm quilting it for very utilitarian use, so it's not very fun. Not complete drudgery, but I love getting wild with the free motion quilting.
 I had planned to use my ruler foot and a curved ruler to do some continuous curves, but with the bulk of the quilt, I decided that would take too long. So I'm doing these twists, based loosely on the free-hand version of "Terry's Twists" in the small squares. And in the large squares I am quilting a large umbrella.
I'm thinking these QD poly batts are just too dense for what I like to do. I normally like poly (80/20) for the puff it gives my quilting, but their poly is different than most. It is fabulous under a wool batt for faux trapunto work though!

I've been telling myself that I must finish this quilt before I can really start on my Poured Out v.2 quilt, but other projects keep skipping into the line. A dress for my daughter, some baby shoes for the neighbor and my shop, some really fun and easy Kanazashi flowers, and I wonder if I'll ever get things done. Better than having nothing to do I suppose.

I keep feeling like I need to do some stitching in the ditch, but I keep telling myself that if this quilt was getting an edge to edge panto or other e2e design on a long arm it would not be stitched in the ditch. And I want it to be cuddly. It's gonna live on the couch.

Inspiration Strikes

I shared here how I was experimenting with a new version of my "Poured Out" quilt. Since that post I have reworked the water pitcher until I was satisfied with it and then....

This is from that earlier post, the jug has been reshaped and I've ditched the gray fabrics.

The range of grey fabrics just weren't working for me and I just didn't feel ready to move forward with this quilt. I just couldn't figure out what to do with the background. This quilt is even more personal to me and the feeling I'm trying to convey is darker, hence the use of a dark background.

So I put my creative juices on simmer....

And then one just flowed. I got out the sketch book and drew. Tears flowed too.

It's pretty rough and will be tweaked several times I am sure, but I'm liking it. The background will be black cotton sateen and those ugly words will be made by stitching densely around them. I think I will vary the thread colors on the black as I go.

Now to finish my current quilt and get started!

Practicing FMQ in Color

One thing that makes the biggest improvement in free-motion quilting is to practice, practice, practice! PPP for short. Drawing out the quilting designs does something to form what is called "Muscle Memory", helping your mind and hands work together to form the shapes you want. It also gives you practice on how to work yourself into and out of tight spots as you quilt.
 Sometimes having kids with lots of art supplies can be very handy when I want to do some practice. Today I picked up some pencils I had gotten at Target. They're from the Kids Made Modern line of craft stuff and have multiple colors in each pencil.

Aren't these feathers pretty? It's like doodling with varigated thread!
I also use the kids' MagnaDoodle from time to time for practice, and being homeschoolers, I have a huge dry-erase board to fill with doodles. Actually, I usually have to doodle around the to-do lists on the board!

So if you are learning to FMQ, and aren't drawing the designs you love, give it a whirl with some nice pencils or pens and see how fast you'll improve.

Finding this pencil and doodling with it was the high point of my day. The kids and I went with a quilty friend to check out 2 quilt shops that were about an hour's drive away. Just as we got near the first shop, my little guy tossed his breakfast if you know what I mean. So of course we came home. My friend really likes my kids and she was a real trooper even though this is the second time he has vomited with her in the car. I think the poor woman may be cursed! He's only done that 3 times in his life--- twice with her!

Oh well, it's not like I needed to go shopping for more fabric.

On My Design Wall

This is a bit of a departure for me, an actual pieced quilt. The main prints are Riley Blake, Rainy Days and Mondays. Not really liking the yellowish background of that one print and several of them are directional.

I thought I'd work on a quilt that called for regular quilting based on the piecing. This was in the stash, so out it came. I'm planing on putting a nice, wide border on it too and it will find a home on my couch. I have been guilty of selling or giving away most of my quilts and quilty stuff and my own home is somewhat devoid of quilty goodness.

I've been working at running our schedule (the kids and I) so that I get more of my sewing done without neglecting the house, homeschooling, and activities with the kids. So far it's been working.

Quilting Podcasts

In my last post I mentioned listening to podcasts while I sew and I thought I'd share some of my favorites here:
There are several more that I like, but they don't post new shows very regularly. There are new podcasts that pop up occasionally and then sometimes fade away. Try searching the web for Quilt podcast.

Then there are more creative podcasts that aren't solely focused on quilting. My favorites of these are:
Does anybody have any other recommendations? I know there are a lot of pocasts out there, but these are my favorites. Podcasts are free and fun and I'm thankful for everyone of these creative people who keep me company while I do my quilty thing.

Computers, Podcasts, and Quilty Life Thoughts

Having your computer next to your sewing machine is just a bad idea. At least it is for me! I've been thinking about a bunch of different things lately; quilting, bills, preparing for a new school year (we homeschool), and how I run my life and what (or who) is important in it. Plus I've been working on a quilt that just doesn't float my boat. (Pictures tomorrow) It is just too darn easy to slide over and start "researching" or just plain surfing the web!

I have found a bit of help with my time management by using the alarm function on my cell phone. I just have a cheap prepaid phone, but it has a timer function for 10, 30, and 60 minutes. Plus an alarm setting. I have it set to go off at 10pm every night to help me get to bed at a decent hour. The 10 minute timer is great for all kinds of tasks.

One of my joys during our daily 2 hour quiet time each afternoon is to listen to podcasts while I stitch. (OK, a 2 hour quiet time is a big joy all on its own!) I listen to quilt podcasts mostly, some sermons and encouraging programs, and an occasional story. I'll post some of my favorites in the next few days. But right now, I have been listening to Craftcast.

The serendipity of the last few shows I've listened to has been incredible! I apologize for not giving you the specific show links, I've been listening to random older shows.

In one show they mentioned the Western culture tendency to view a laid back life (or season of life) as being lazy. This really resonated with me as we chose to step off the merry go round of 'normal' American life to really enjoy our children's childhood. We also haven't jumped on the over-scheduled homeschooling bandwagon in an attempt to prove that our children get enough 'socialization'. We're poor but happy! Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing "more".

In an interview with quilter and fabric designer Jane Sassaman, there was some talk of the pursuit of a creative career and sometimes we must just "do the work". Sometimes it's not fun or particularly creative, but the work is necessary.

So last night at my evening quilting group, now called the Quilting Ladies of the Night, I showed how I use monopoly and a blanket stitch to finish my binding by machine and finally got that uninspired quilt done! And now to figure out what to work on next....

Leslie at MarveLes Art Studio has been experimenting with Derwent Inktense pencils, so I thought I'd post what I did with mine.

My daughter is convinced that this is a family portrait!

A little quilty doodling, apply some textile medium and start coloring, just like a coloring book. Fun!

It is my understanding that the textile medium might not be needed, but this is what I have done and it's been through the washer already with no fading.

I can't wait to see what Leslie comes up with!

New Stitcher

I try to not go all "Mommy Blogger" here, but I do have three wonderful children who keep me on my toes. This weekend my 5 year-old daughter became a stitcher!
 I unplugged the foot pedal from my smaller Janome and turned the speed control all the way down and she used the start/stop button. She made herself a pencil case and now I have cut 4.5 inch squares for her and she's starting to piece a quilt.
I am so proud of her! Note her choice of clothing?  Leotard and tutu! Maybe one day she'll piece the tops I quilt. A mom can dream!