Merry Christmas!

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whatever you believe....I pray that you are all celebrating the holidays in a pleasant and meaningful way with the people you love.

Here, we celebrate Christmas, without much of Santa, but we still do plenty gift giving. My parents flew in from Colorado and we surprised the kids!

The calm before the storm of unwrapping gifts and torn wrapping paper!

My three kids opening their presents from my parents.

My daughter's favorite present was actually a gift card and coupons to our shop. She's a crafty, creative girl just like me--- which has its share of pluses and minuses. A chip off the old block.

 I may have overdone the photo taking.

Of course, Craftsy is having a great sale, ALL Craftsy classes under $20
 so click here on my affiliate insturctor's link if you'd like to get yourself  a little something. Maybe my second class?

The Tunic Challenge Finale

It's the big reveal day for my tunic as part of "The Tunic Challenge" with quilting friend, Leah Day. We started the challenge as a mutual deadline to help each of us sew something for ourselves. This challenge definitely made me get it done. Well, mostly....

Remember my first muslin? Much adjusting was needed.
What was I thinking? An extra project in the midst of the Christmas shopping season while owning a retail shop and extra activities with the kids? Throw in a leaking water heater at the shop (the neighbor's, not even my own!) and this week was a real humdinger. Though this has been a week full of wonderful customers as well, so it's really still all good.

While it might sound like sewing nirvana to own a sewing machine shop, I don't actually get much time to sew. I do need to know all the machines I sell, so I hop around from machine to machine. I decided to give the Janome Skyline S3 some attention. It's my current favorite pic for someone who wants more room to quilt, but doesn't have a lot of money to spend. While it has a fairly roomy 8.25 inches to the right of the needle, it lacks a few features I've grown accustomed to. There were multiple times I was trying to raise the presser foot with the non-existant knee lift.

While as a plus sized gal, I had quite a few tweaks I needed to make to the pattern even though it goes up to a 2XL, another part I struggled with seems silly..... With a placket that sat on the outside of the bodice, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around which way to layer my fabric before stitching and understitching (above). I kept checking and rechecking that I really was supposed to stitch right side to wrong side instead of the usual right sides together.

The tunic didn't get the attention I had hoped to give it, but it is done!

I think I need to fine tune my pattern pieces a little, darts mostly, but after that, I will definitely make another tunic. The Tunic Bilble is full of variations for this basic pattern. Head over to Leah's Free Motion Quilting Project to see what she's stitched up. My many thanks to Leah for proposing this challenge.

It was good to stretch my sewing skills and get back to making something for myself. Plus, now I can wear a shop sample! The denim I used was from Art Gallery and I am looking forward to making another tunic with their cotton voile. It feels absolutely luscious.

Tunic Challenge Part 3

It's week 3 of the Tunic Challenge with Leah Day and myself. This week we are to choose our materials, embellishments, and cut out our tunics.

 Last week was a bit of a bugger for me as I really needed to adjust the pattern quite a bit, not only for the size but also for the so-called fullness of my bust. This really took me out of my comfort zone as garment sewing isn't something I do for myself much, and I've never tried to tweak a pattern to this extent.. I did a lot of sewing for my daughter when she was a little girl and sewed for myself when I was a much smaller and younger woman.

So I learned how to do a full-bust adjustment, or rather my poor hack of a version. You can see in the picture above how much I changed the pattern. That's not to say this was a poor pattern, but rather I was at least 2 sizes bigger than the largest size.

I got my daughter into the act when it was time to take a few measurements. She and I are starting to do more sewing together and I'm really excited about it.

For my choice of fabrics, I chose these lusciously soft, fine weight printed denim and its solid counterpart from Art Gallery. I'm still a little uncertain about the fit, so I've decided to use the print for the tunic and the solid for the placket.

It's all cut out and next week I'll be sewing it up. I'm toying with embellishing the placket with some decorative stitches and have two pretty close thread choices.

As challenging as this has been for me, I am so happy to have had this push from Leah to do this as making myself figure out the adjustments needed to customize the pattern for myself is something I really wanted to do.

Check out Leah's week 3 post and see how she's planning her garment. There are some beautiful ribbons involved! Think you'd like to try your hand at your own tunic? Take a look at The Tunic Bible. With a great pattern and so many ideas for variations, I'm certain I won't stop at just one.

Leah Day's Quilting Podcast

I love listening to podcasts, especially on my 40 minute drive to my shop (Sew Simple of Lynchburg) and while there are crafting and quilting podcasts out there, I don't typically listen to them. My usuals are business and productivity shows, something to hype myself up before work.

But Leah Day has started up a quilting podcast, with a bit of quilting business focus and so I've been listening to it lately. I'm not a guest, but since Leah and I are doing our Tunic Challenge, I get a mention in Leah's intro section for the last 3 shows. My kids were around when I listened to one of the episodes, and they thought it was really neat to hear me being mentioned!

This week's guest was Patsy Thompson, and you can check it out here: Hello My Quilting Friends, Episode #4  We all owe a big debt to Patsy as she recommended me to Craftsy to teach quilting with rulers. She also gave me some big pep talks as I was preparing to teach with Craftsy and do my thing.

Want to hear more of Leah? Check out this listing of all Hello My Quilting Friends episodes.

If you like to listen to podcsts, this is probably a good place to mention, especially as I have a lot of new blog readers over the last several months, that I was on Pat Sloan's American Patchwork and Quilting Radio Show in April. We chat all about ruler work and quilting with rulers on a sewing machine.

She's a great interviewer and set me at ease. Pat's show is live, so you are really on the spot. I think there are some special measures that can be taken if you really foul up, but I am so glad we didn't have to go that route.

How about you? Do you like listening to podcasts? In the car or while quilting? What are your favorites?

Join me in wishing Leah much success with her new podcast!

Tunic Challenge: Week 2

It's crunch time with the tunic challenge between Leah Day and myself. This is week 2 and it's probably the most crucial....fitting the muslin. AKA tweaking the pattern and really wishing that I was eating less and exercising more. Leah's got her tunic muslin all set and is looking fabulous. Take a look at Leah's blog and see.

The first attempt.


I shot another video for this week's deadline and honestly? It's not going on the YouTube channel. I'm all about being honest and real online, but a girl has her limits of just how far she needs to show herself!

The audio quality isn't all that great, so you may need to turn the volume up. 

Practicing my runway walk....

I can't believe I put all this up here. Must be I'm getting to that age where I don't give a flip what others think about me. Or it's just another late night and I'm getting slap happy.

I haven't truly met our challenge deadline as I still need to work on the sleeves, placket, and give it a few more tweaks. What will next week bring?

Happy Day After Thanksgiving

Happy day after Thanksgiving! Also known as Black Friday in the states and as I like to think of it, the day people lose their minds and manners shopping at the big box stores. I can't stand it! Though I know plenty people love it. Then again, if there are 3 people in the grocery store aisle, I feel like it's crowded! 

Even though I now have a retail shop as a Janome dealer, we are closed until Saturday when we will be having a sale on all floor model machines and a few other specials. If I wasn't having an event in the shop on Saturday, I wouldn't even leave the house. If you are in the central Virginia area and looking for a new machine, come visit. You'll be happy you did. 

Isn't this fella the cutest ever? 

My favorite straight ruler was recently re-cut by the manufacturer and they left off the markings that made the ruler my favorite. It doesn't look as if they are going to change anything until this new batch is all gone from their stock, so I am now selling the QP Edge in the 12" size in the shop. Of course I had to play with it before I listed it, because I don't sell things I don't use myself.

Check out the video to hear all about it.

You can get this ruler and more at at a great price during our Cyber Monday Sale which starts Saturday.

Get 15% off all purchases over $50.00 from 11/26-11/28 with the code BlackFriday2016  

You must use the code to get the discount! Sale ends at midnight on 11/28.

This is made by long arm quilter, Linda Hrcka and just like her QP Curves, it is a beautifully crafted ruler. It isn't the pretty greenish color of the curves which makes them look like gems in my ruler toolbox, but it's so smooth on the edges, the markings are crystal clear, and it's easy to hold. I especially like how the 1/4 inch markings go all the way across the width of the ruler. If I want to make a 2 inch spacing I don't run out of lines.

I've been teaching some lovely girls to sew. My daughter is there on the left. It helped her to be in a classroom setting so she would better follow her mother's instructions. I'm sure some of you moms know what I'm talking about. The other two girls had never touched a machine before and they left with a completed tissue pouch.

Speaking of teaching, learning, and Black Friday....Craftsy is at it again with the year's lowest prices on all classes.

There's a fairly new class out there by long arm quilter Natalia Bonner and it's a great one to take if you are quilting with rulers on any machine. It's a design class for the most part and she shows all kinds of designs on a long arm including a lot of ruler work. She shows handy tips for marking as she shows a wide variety of designs.

You can watch the trailer below:

I highly recommend her class!

You can see all the great holiday specials by clicking through my affiliate link. Enter Natalia's name into the Craftsy search bar once you are there to get to her class. One of the great things about the new Craftsy site is that it is much easier to search and find what you are looking for within the site.

Now I've got to get back to folding fat quarters. I'm giving one away with each purchase over $50 at Sew Simple of Lynchburg.

Sew Thankful!

If you are in the states, you're likely gearing up for Thanksgiving. I hope you are having a good one, hopefully with family, friends, or both. We'll be having a low-key day with our family all having moved away. But I'm looking forward to spending it with my hubby and kids.

I believe that they have plans for me. My boys want me to play their new game with them and my daughter wants me to sew with her. With no school or work, the hubby and I plan on trying to sleep in. The kids and our new energetic cat may have other plans.

It's unclear how much cooking I will be doing. My husband has been doing all the grocery shopping and much of the cooking lately. I think he plans on cooking. I will make sure to bake the pies and rolls. I'm really going to miss my neighbor this year and the joy she had when I would take a plate over to her. She loved getting visitors, but didn't care much for coming over.

We're really thankful for being the new owners of Sew Simple of Lynchburg, and all the changes that it has brought. Change is hard, but good and we are so thankful for it. I redid my drawing in our cloudy window at the shop and yes, I shot a video.

The window will change quickly as we switch over to decorating for Christmas. That might be one of the hardest things to get used to in a retail business (besides accounting and administration work), the staying so far ahead of the holidays and now with the addition of fabric, the buying fabric for those holidays at the right time. It's a lot like buying a bathing suit; if you want a good selection, you better buy it when it's freezing out. I don't usually even decorate my house until 2 weeks before Christmas!

Thank you, thank you for reading my blog and supporting my quilting adventures! I give thanks for each and every one of you.

Tunic Challenge Part 1

It's been a busy week so I decided to do a video post for the first week deadline of the Tunic Challenge between Leah Day and myself, using the fabulous Tunic Bible.

Did you like this video post? I do need to figure out where to look when recording a video with me on screen. It was fun to do, but I know garment sewing isn't something you're used to seeing from me. Everyone needs to try something new now and then.

Upcoming Tunic Challenge post schedule:

Week 2 - Cut and sew a test muslin and adjust the fit as needed.

Week 3 - Select fabrics and any special features or trims and cut out the pieces

Week 4 - Sew the tunic and show it off!

Check out what Leah's doing with her tunic and don't forget, we're both posting bits of this project via Instagram.

Never fear, I've got quilting content coming up soon!

Leah Day and the Big Challenge

Quilter extraordinaire, Leah Day, has thrown down the gauntlet and issued a challenge to me!

Is it a quilting competition? A quilt-off? Hardly....

She saw on Instagram that I had bought the same book recently and with both of us being busy quilters and business owners, thought we could help each other complete a project that was likely to be shoved to the sidelines otherwise.

So with the help of The Tunic Bible, we are meeting weekly deadlines to complete our own tunics! We'll be posting on Instagram as we go, so if you haven't found me there, I'm amys_fmq_adventures and you can find Leah through my recent posts, and at her site.

Stay tuned and see how we've done this Saturday with our first step: cut out our tunics.

Since I've likely got quite a bit of alterations to do, I better get busy! First is to trace the pattern included in the book. Then to do a muslin before actually cutting the pattern out of my choice of fabrics. Since I've got some gorgeous fabrics from Art Gallery in my shop, I'm looking forward to that part.

How to Tell the Shank Type of a Sewing Machine

When it comes to doing ruler work, there are two hard rules that I teach (besides have fun!):

  • Make sure you use a ruler foot on your machine to safely keep the ruler from popping over or under the foot. 
  • Make sure the foot is down before lowering the needle (conversely, raise the needle before raising the foot).
Today I want to talk about how to tell what type of shank is on your sewing machine. I get a lot of questions about what ruler foot is needed for various machines. (Shank type really doesn't apply to sit down long arms.  Most of the time, the machine owner just doesn't know which shank type they have. Once you know the shank type, then you can match up whatever brand of ruler foot you want to use.

So how do you know whether you have a low shank or high shank machine or some other shank type?

Easy peasy! First, remove the shank or foot from your machine. We're going to measure from the center of the screw hole where the shank or foot attaches.

Some machines have feet that attach at this hole, while other machines have a snap-on shank and the feet are easily interchangeable. Removing whatever is attached at the screw hole makes it easier to see the measuring point.

Now lower the presser foot lever. We need the machine to be positioned like you're ready to sew even though the foot isn't attached.

Again, make sure the presser foot lever is down.

Now measure from the bed of the machine to the screw hole.

If the distance is 1/2 inch, you've got a low shank machine.

If the distance is 1 inch, it's a high shank machine.

Above machines; low shank on left and high shank (with my beloved Janome ruler foot combination on it) on the right.

Those are the easy machines. But there are some machines that don't fit into these two main categories.

First there are some machines that are high shank machines, but the needle position is different than regular machines. These are the straight stitch only machines like the Janome 1600P and its clones: Brother 1500, Husqvarna Mega Quilter, Juki 2010, etc. These are considered a high special by Westalee.

There are some machines that fall somewhere in between high and low. Westalee categories these as medium shank machines. These are usually Pfaffs, but not all Pfaffs are medium shanks. Before declaring your machine a medium shank, make sure the presser foot lever is in the down position. Pfaffs that use a special half-way position for free motion are considered medium shanks.

Berninas are....well, Berninas. There is an adapter shank that can be used with Berninas to use with other brands' feet. This supposedly the #77 adapter, though I'm not well versed with Bernina, and will make it like a low shank, though the series 7 and 8 machines can be manipulated to use the medium ruler foot from Westalee. This gives the ability to use thicker rulers, though now Bernina has its own ruler foot for the series 7 and 8 machines.

Once you know the shank type of your machine, you can match up the foot version you need from what ever source-- we're really partial to the Janome ruler foot combination and the new Janome ruler foot for the MC15000. BTW, this applies to any foot for the most part, not just a ruler foot. At my shop in Lynchburg, we sell a lot of Janome feet to owners of Singers, Brothers, Vikings, and other machine brands not supported by a local dealer.

I hope you find this helpful.  You can see the ruler feet I sell at my site and I can help you further there.

Power of Positivity

I mentioned it briefly in my last post and newsletter that I'm learning (relearning, actually) the power of positive thinking. I can be a negative Nellie sometimes. But this past week has been pretty awesome, though not without challenges.

As I opened this box the other day, I was struck by how awesome it is to try to earn your living doing work that is an extension of something you love. I mean, seriously? How awesome to open this box of quilting gloves, Sew Slip mats, rulers, and my favorite marking pens.

Then there's this wonderful machine in the corner of my shop for me to work my quilting magic on. I have a proclivity to rearrange my shop often to optimize the small space, so the machine is no longer in this little spot, but it's still good.

I also get to preview books that I'm thinking of getting for the shop. Of these four, I can really recommend Amanda Murphy's Free Motion Quilting Idea Book. It's full of ideas for how to quilt various blocks and shapes. I haven't gotten around to the rest yet.

I've been a little nervous about my shop and my online followers. I know it looks amazing to the long-time customers of this local business as little about it changed over some 30 years that it was operated by the original owner. But if you were new to the shop, especially if you've been to some of the gorgeous, large, colorful quilt shops that are out there, this shop is a bit of a let down. (There's me of course, but I'm not entirely sure where I rank in the scheme of things. LOL I promise I'm not getting a big ego.) I've had a few blog followers and Craftsy students come (sadly, I missed the most recent couple.) and I doubt it was really worth the trip.

But then one day, I was driving up the road to the shop, listening to my favorite Christian radio station and feeling all kinds of full with gratitude and I spied two young men wrestling this table (below) to the curb. Why do I forget the synergy that comes with feeling grateful and positive so easily? When you're in that flow of looking on the sunny side, things just fall into place. Sure, it still takes a lot of work, but it sure helps to have that positive attitude.

Here it is after I cleaned the top and before I moved it into position. I got it for free! It's huge and sturdy. I rearranged the whole shop and everything just clicked into place and it looks so much better!

The shelves on the wall then got nearly filled with fabric in the last few days. It's so exciting to finally offer customers fabric. It will sure help me plan classes too.

Above, the fabric awaits being unwrapped and shelved. The table the bolts are sitting on used to hold machines in the center of the shop. It blocked the flow of traffic and looked dingy. I'm going to make a fitted cover/tablecloth for it and use it for displays and samples.

Tada! My nearly full fabric shelves. I've got even more coming. This step in our business has turned out to require a bigger leap of faith than actually buying the shop. BTW, your support of my Craftsy classes and online shop made that first leap possible and continues to support us. Thank you so, so, sew much.

Here's another cat picture! Miss Bootsie has settled in quite nicely, though a trip to the vet and a round of worm medicine has her feeling a little puny. Poor thing. (Yes, that's a Walmart quilt. Oh the Shame. Oh the practicality! Give the kids another year or two and I'll make a nice quilt for my bed and maybe even replace our couch. Moms, I bet you understand.)

Imagine my delight as I cut fat quarters of this newly arrived fabric by Moda duo Bonnie and Camille. I'm making my happy life for sure. (With a lot of help from above!)

How about you? Life is hard. But it is harder when you let the myriad of blessings slip your notice. So keep looking on the sunny side. Keep quilting and don't give up.

Of Paisleys and Positive Thinking

In the midst of this busy shop-owning life with kids and all, I was able to get some sanity stitching done on this paisley piece.

I shot a video and loaded it to YouTube as well. I didn't notice it until after I shot the video that I had left the ruler foot on it which makes it hard for you to see the stitching as I'm making it. I have no trouble seeing it, despite the bulk of the foot, but the camera can't see exactly what I do.

I also got a long overdue newsletter sent out this weekend to those of you who have signed up to receive them (over there on the right of the blog is a sign up widget). I wrote of teaching and being a student. I'm doing quite a lot of both these days. I got some wonderful responses to it as well. Thank you so much. If you haven't seen it, read Amy's Quilting Adventures Newsletter here.

One of the things I'm learning (OK, truth: learning, forgetting, relearning) is the power of a positive attitude. Yesterday was an absolutely amazing day and I'll tell you about it soon. Some was rather mundane, but it was just good. I want to remember it, so I'll share here.

One of the good things was this little cutie coming into my life. I'm in love. I've got a baby again and she's the sweetest little thing. I promise my new social media strategy is not going to be cute cat pics.

But she's cute enough for it isn't she? This is our first pet since the death of my beloved pug nearly 9 years ago. (Not counting a brief fostering of my mom's cats that didn't work out too well. They are happily back with my mother.)

Now, back to work in my shop. I've got fabric to unbox!

Quilting with Rulers: Diamond in a Block

Managed to stitch out one of my favorite ruler work designs for in a block the other day and shot video while doing it. It's kind of funny quilting away while talking to the camera. It's become sort of natural and makes me long until I find myself quilting while giving a running commentary even when there is no camera? LOL!

This a great design for larger blocks even when you don't have a large/long ruler. It can be dressed up with additional quilting inside and outside the diamond. I'll have to show that some other time.

This week, my hubby tells me that I had blog followers come to the shop before I arrived in the morning on two separate occasions. I am so sorry to have missed you, whoever you were!

Rip It!

Have you ever sat there, pick, pick, picking away at a seam that needs to be "unsewn" and wondered why your seam ripper isn't called a picker? It's because you can actually rip those stitches out, if you know how to use that little red ball that you find on many seam rippers. Some of you may know this, but those who don't have been tickled by my little video below.

This was part of a Facebook Live video I did on my shop's page, so the intro and outro are a little choppy.

Have you checked out Craftsy's new look? It's been a bit of a difficult transition, but it looks great! They are doing a scavenger hunt on the site so you can learn more about how it's laid out. Navigation is different, but once you get used to it, it's meant to be much more user friendly and laid out better.

To make it worth your while, find all the treasure and you'll be entered to win 5 classes of your choice! Click here to get started:

Stitching on the Swirly Bird: Free Motion Quilting Swirls

I'm trying to finish up some small projects and have been free motion quilting around this bird which was appliqued using the Artistic Edge cutter and then machine embroidered on a Janome MC14000.

It was my first attempt to digitize my own MEA design and it wasn't completely successful. Watch the video to see how I dealt with the excessive thickness of the satin stitches by adjusting the foot's height as I went.

Thanks so much for all the positive comments on my quilted window from my last post. I think it was a hit!

Quilt that Window!

Yes, you read that title correctly.

I've quilted up one of my shop's windows.

No worries, I haven't gone bonkers, nor did any glass get broken. See, I have four big windows at the front of my shop and two of them have gone all foggy between the panes. I've been eyeing them for quite some time to do something to make them look better.

Replacing them is out of question as we rent the space and it would have to be done at my expense. Since we hope to outgrow this spot within the next few years, I can't see paying for it. Both windows typically have a car or minivan parked in front of them, so it's not too much of an eyesore. The other two windows are more visible and have my signage in them with adhesive vinyl (done by yours truly on the Artistic Edge cutter).

 I thought about putting some of those perforated vinyl window signs in them. These are the kind that you can see right through from the inside but can print images or signage on the outside and they are solid looking from the outside. Again, kinda pricey and I don't know what I'd have done on the outside of them.

Enter beautiful images on Pinterest of hand drawn shop window lettering. Combine that with my penchant for doodling quilt designs and I took up my (removable) paint pen.

I did want to say something on this window, so I first wrote the word "Create" on it. Since I was drawing on the inside of the window, I first wrote the word on the outside using a dry erase marker. Then I traced the lines from the inside with the paint pen.

The paint pen is the type you can pick up at an office supply store commonly used for writing "Go Team!" or "Just Married" on your car windows. It washes off with water and some elbow grease.

I'm not sure it's the best thing to use. The tip is very thick and blocky. It was a little hard to control. I plan on doing this on the second window soon and then after a while I will redo both windows. Gotta change it up and keep it interesting. I may find a different pen next time.

I made a video of most of the process. I have got to work on finding the right speed setting on this set up. I felt like this video could have been faster and the last quilting video I did could have been slower.

The only thing I don't like about this process is that when the shop is closed and the shades are lowered, you can't really see it.

So, do you think I've gone too far? It was a lot of fun, though a bit stressful to put my quilting on display for the neighborhood. I had to fight the urge to make it perfect or post a sign that says, "I quilt better than I draw."

September Sale

I totally dropped the ball as an instructor for Craftsy this weekend. They had another sale and all classes were under $20.00. I believe this sale is a surprise one as Craftsy isn't currently planning one in October as they are rolling out a new design for the website.

Because they like to keep us on our toes with surprises, they're continuing the sale through today!

Your classes will still be available as they launch the new site, but you'll see a few changes. The Projects area will have the comments section replaced with a Q and A section.  If you are a regular Craftsy student, you should have gotten an email about some of the changes you might notice. It's my understanding that most of the changes will be minor, other than the look of things. If you click on one of my links in an older post, the link might not work or will be redirected. Let me know if you run into a broken link from my sites to Craftsy.

Of course I think you should buy my classes on ruler work during this sale, but I'm pretty certain most of my followers have bought my first class "Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine" which has over 12,000 students!

 Now is a great time to purchase the follow-up class, "Creative Quilting with Rulers, More Techniques and Motifs" if you haven't done so. This is probably my favorite  of the two, as it's more design focused instead of ruler and foot focused. I show you ways that you can use basic rulers for a wide variety of designs. No expensive specialty rulers involved.

Two classes by other instructors that fit well with ruler work are Kim Brunner's Machine Quilting with Templates and Angela Walters' Dot to Dot Quilting.

Did you know you can watch the lectures from Quiltcon 2013 for FREE on Craftsy? Yup.

That's all I've got for now. I do have a nifty video to share with you soon! I'm up at the shop today, but we're closed on Mondays, so that means time to do some administrative work (sigh...) followed by some sewing and quilting (yay!).

Turn Your Can'ts into Cans

I hear a lot of comments like "I can't free motion quilt" or "I'll never get that good," sometimes I'll even hear, "You can use rulers because you're so good at regular free motion, I can't."I've had customers tell me they took a class in FMQ and they still couldn't do it.

Free motion quilting is like any other skill, it takes practice to get good at it. It takes a willingness to create some ugly practice pieces in the process. It takes doing what you can to make your sewing set up conducive to doing good stitching. It takes that most valuable commodity....time.

Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate, focused practice to become a master at a given skill. This 10,000 hour rule applies to any skill you might want to master. Now, we might not need to become a quilting master to create the quilts that we want to create and that's a good thing given the time 10,000 hours of practice would require.

What does 10,000 hours actually look like? It would take 3.42 years to reach mastery, and that's only if you can work on it with deliberate focus and sincere effort.....8 hours a day, every day!

I'm pretty certain nobody is keeping that kind of practice schedule up when it comes to quilting, especially from the start. I'm no where near that much practice and I wouldn't consider myself a master of free motion quilting yet anyway.

I figure we'd all be pretty lucky if we have a couple of hours a few days a week to focus on free motion quilting. At 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, each week of the year, that would take 12.8 years! Plus we'd need to have enough time to piece the tops or put the materials together for the samples.

I know I'm no where near that intense with my fmq practice! Especially now that my shop has me doing all sort of non-quilty work. (Let's take a moment and mourn the irony of having a sewing machine shop and have many days where there's no time to actually sew!)

So what CAN we do?

We can put the time needed to become proficient at this or any skill into perspective.

We can work on our machine set up. Even if a larger sewing machine isn't in the cards, try to get the machine bed level with the table or get a taller chair. Give yourself more smooth space around the machine to support your projects. Make sure you've got good light.

We can make sure to actually practice! Don't wait until you've got a quilt that needs quilted and do what ought to be practice work on it. (Yes, we've all been there with an at the last minute quilt....just try not to make a habit of it).

We can search out support for our efforts. Take a class. If you don't have access to an excellent teacher, or the class doesn't suit your learning style, do keep an open mind and "eat the fruit and spit out the pits." Try a different class, teacher, or take advantage of online classes, like those at Craftsy.

Sometimes that support is a fellow quilter who challenges you to practice by working together, or to participate in Show and Tell at a guild, or even an online quilting friend who you share you work with like I do here on the blog.

Next week I'll share a few ideas of what to do with your practice pieces plus other ways you can get your free motion quilting practice done.

Here's what I've been free motion quilting on lately. Below is an embroidery sample I began working on for the shop.

 I did a video on more of my paisley sanity stitching last week, but somehow my ipad/cloud storage ate the footage.

free motion quilting paisleys

While I haven't exactly become a master of free motion yet, I'd say I've reached proficiency and maybe beyond, but I still need to do my practice or I'll get rusty. But these days, I'm focusing more on my shop as a whole which does include my quilting, teaching, and blogging but a whole lot more on the business administration end of things.

It's been frustrating for me because these things take time.....remember those 10,000 hours? Yep that rule applies to this new thing that I'm doing. I've found myself whining over my own "I can'ts" more than I'd like. I'm passionate about helping my fellow quilters and sewists, but some of the work requires the drudgery of practice. (QuickBooks, sales tax, paperwork I'm looking at you.)

But when I put the work into perspective of the 10,000 hour rule and I've had the shop for not even 4 months, I realize that I'm still in the very early stages of my 'practice'.

Speaking of my shop, I've been playing with the brand new Janome Skyline S9. If you are looking for an embroidery/sewing machine combo and the top of the line MC15000 is out of reach, the S9 is amazing! There's an app that will ensure perfect placement of embroidery. Check out the stitching above. The brighter red was the first stitch out of this design. I then re-hooped it crooked and used the app on my iPad mini to adjust the design to make it continuous. The darker red is the second stitching and the basting line shows how much I moved it from the original position. It's giving me some serious ideas! With an MSRP of $3999, it's a heck of a machine! It's got 8.25 inches to the right of the needle too so it's a great choice if you want to make that move up from a regular sized machine to make quilting projects easier and do embroidery too.

Let's make sure we turn our can'ts into cans! Whatever they may be.