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!