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!

Choosing Longarm Rulers for Your Sewing Machine

 Since I had so much fun with the curved crosshatching, longarm style, I thought I'd pick up a few new rulers for more fun. If you haven't read my post on using rulers on your domestic sewing machine to do unmarked lines like the longarmers, check it out here.

Three Tips for Choosing Rulers for Free Motion Quilting:

  1. Choose a smaller size. The ruler needs to be small enough you can get your hand over it easily for most control. It should also be small enough to use to the right of the needle without hitting the machine body for the most versatility and less need to rotate your quilt.
  2. It should have very clear guide lines on it for lining up with the ditch, previous lines of stitching or block elements. The rulers I chose all have etched lines and in the picture I have yet to peel off the protective paper film on the rulers from The Quilter's Rule. They are actually clear.
  3. They should have multiple shapes for the most versatility. Ok, this is my cheapskate, low-clutter preference. But you can see in my photo above that I've got a wide variety of shapes from just 3 rulers. These things are ridiculously expensive so you should get the most bang for your buck.
Below is a little practice piece with my new rulers. I like them a lot. I found the slightly rude one (Can you figure out which one I am talking about?) to be a bit on the long side for using to the right of my needle in a horizontal orientation, but I wanted to get the longest straight line possible and still have good control. For crosshatching, I didn't want to have to keep sliding the ruler every 2 inches.

The jury is still out on the pink one. (Edited to add: No doubt about it, I do not like the pink ruler!) I'm not too crazy about following it's curvy lines, though it is an excellent design for modern quilts. But I do like the curves on either end. They are marked for the center line and are great for continuous curves. Though you can certainly practice and do CC free hand. I just might take this one somewhere and have it cut in half if I find I'm not using the wavy lines.

The third ruler has some great shapes but not much in the way of useful markings. I think I'll check out Quilter's Rule and see if they have more info on using this ruler.

I hope you are enjoying these posts as much as I am writing them. I'd love to hear from you or have you follow or link to my adventures. Next post will be about tips for using these rulers. It's so much fun!