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.

Quilting with Rulers

I hosted and taught "Quilting with Rulers" here in my own shop last weekend. It was the first time I hosted my own class in my own shop and it was wonderful.

These four wonderful ladies traveled to my shop from Roanoke, Virginia which is a little over an hour away. As always, quilters are a great group of people to work with. There's always a lot of laughter.

First I talked about the need for a ruler foot when guiding your free motion quilting with rulers. Then we took a break and fitted the machines with ruler feet. Three machines were fitted with the Janome ruler foot combination and one took a Westalee foot.

Then we worked on using basic rulers for straight crosshatching, followed by working with curves. Then I supplied the rulers for an "open-bar" of sorts, giving the quilters a chance to try unique shapes, sizes and specialty rulers without obligation to purchase them.

I love the reach I have through my classes at Craftsy, but there's something extra special about being able to teach students in person, and I'd like to think that quilters enjoy classes in person as much as I do.

Speaking of my Craftsy classes, my students have been posting their own projects using ruler work and I've got to say it's pretty amazing. Below is a selection of several recent projects posted by students.

Photo courtesy of Craftsy and the student who posted it. 

First is a sampler of ruler work practice by Craftsy username DittsMon. I love that she made a practice piece and shared it. Not only did she do the first couple of designs, but also some variations. I feel like I've accomplished my goal when students take what they've learned, tweak it, and make it their own.

Photo courtesy of Craftsy and the student who posted it. 

Barb Lounsbury posted this beauty and the combination of ruler work designs and free hand fills sets this colorful quilt off fabulously. She used a double batting, with wool on top for greater texture with nearly a trapunto effect. It makes that quilting really pop.

Photo courtesy of Craftsy and the student who posted it. 

Craftsy username Schaeferhund posted this striking modern piece. Her quilting is gorgeous and I love how she's integrated ruler work throughout it as well as worked the curved lines and circles from the main part of the quilt into the centers of the borders.

I'm getting ready for our "new owner open house" event this weekend. Most of the 80's wallpaper has been covered by white batting, making for a big design wall. I painted the shelving unit white. It's so much brighter without the country blue.

If you're near the Lynchburg, Virginia area, I'd love to meet you. Maybe you'd like to sign up for a class? Should you like to see my class offerings, visit Sew Simple of Lynchburg's class page. Now, I better get back to work! The to-do list is very, very long.

Second biggest Craftsy Sale of the Year

There's a big Labor Day sale over at Craftsy this weekend. They've come out with some fabulous new classes recently, so take advantage of it.

Sometimes I have a hard time watching all the classes I've gotten. Did you know that you can download the classes if you're using an iPad, iPhone, or appleTV (whatever that is...)?  I've been watching some on my iPad mini while spending a little time in the doctor's office. (Nothing major...I think.) Downloading the classes lets me watch them even when the wifi is iffy or unavailable.

It's birthday season in the Johnson household with a kid's birthday each month and then we dive into Thanksgiving and Christmas. I might try to up my game this year by taking The Perfect Birthday Cake. It looks like it's my speed. I am so cake challenged! Unless it's cheesecake---I make a great one and it's my favorite!

My friend Sarah Snuggerud has a great class out on making T-shirt quilts. It just came out and is a hit. I've also got to mention Kim Brunner's class on quilting with templates as it's a great follow up to my classes on rulerwork.

All the links here are my special instructor affiliate links. They'll give you the sale prices and help support the work I do here. To get the sale price on any classes during the sale, click here.