Sunday, May 4, 2014

3 Rules of Machine Quilting

While there are many books, videos and classes about quilting by machine, in truth the only way to learn is to actually do it. I will share with you the three rules of machine quilting, mainly because I need to constantly remind myself!
In the ditch quilting to stabilize it first

# 1: Slow down!
It is not necessary to go as fast as possible. Somewhere is a balance between moving the quilt and the speed of the's your own combination. Is quilting by machine faster than hand quilting? Yes, but it still takes a long time. And since it's harder to take out "mistakes", I tend make many more assumptions that "nobody will see that!"

# 2: Get your shoulders out of your ears!
Concentrating on the quilting design can cause some tension. Remember to relax. In an ideal world, your arms bent straight out at the elbow would be the height of the machine bed. I hope someone out there can be set up that way, but for most of us the machine is too high. Some day I will get a box to put the foot pedal and my left foot on, so I can pump up my chair to the correct level. Until then, I just have to remember to get my shoulders back down!
And while we're at it, being nearsighted, I tend to hunch over, too! Do you? I have actually had the take-up lever hit my forehead (more than once). My Janome 7700 has an enclosed lever, so that hasn't happened recently.

# 3: Breathe!
A problem caused by concentration or fear, if you are holding your breath your brain is getting starved for oxygen, and nothing good can come of that. 

All three rules could be summed up by saying RELAX.
How easy it is to give that advice to others!
Really, you are doing your work to mine (below) and you will see.


What is that quilt are you working on?
This is one of my "Heirloom UFOs" from my mother. I thought it was fabric and some cut out pieces when I took it to a retreat, so I'd be forced to complete it. I was surprized to find it was a finished top with backing! Mom had said this would be for my brother & his wife, and since their oldest son is getting married in June, I asked if they would like me to quilt it for D. & E.
Here's the pattern Mom used:
"Twisted Ribbons" ...and only $2.95!
What's going on in that first picture?
I am stitching in-the-ditch to stabilize the entire quilt, and using the even-feed (walking) foot set up for my machine. Since I'll be doing free motion designs later, this was just along the diagonal lines, but not around every piece. It was not too much work to pivot at each corner.  There is a little hunk of paper safety-pinned where I will start the next line is easy to get confused about where to go back.

What happens when you switch over to free-motion?
I need to put on a darning/quilting foot, and test the thread tension. When I forget the test, I am always sorry. 
This off-set foot really helps me see where I'm going!
I use a scrap of fabric (preferably from the quilt top) and lay it on top of the excess batt & back along one edge of the quilt. Then I'm sure the tension is right for the materials at hand. It's easy to flip the edge over to see the back and make any adjustments before starting in on the real work.

Do you draw the design on the quilt top?
Heck, no! That would double the time it takes, and I am already really bad about time management.
Free motion to fill a background can be like doodling or drawing with the needle. This is HANDMADE, so it's not supposed to be "perfect". 
Just a circle with three "bumps"
Sometimes I mark off an area to quilt inside, but often the piecing defines a section to work in. Guidelines can be helpful for long parts. Use something for marking that can be rinsed or removed, and no one will ever know if you followed a shape right on the line or not!
When I get to the blue fabrics I'll switch threads and just do some simple lines, maybe a flower in the center square.

What happens on the back?
OK, I'm gonna show you...don't say you weren't warned!
Sins revealed?
I chose white thread because I think it's better to match the top, which is more important than the back. So there will be dark blue threads here, too, when I get to the rest of the quilting. It is easy to see where I doubled over, didn't exactly match a line, etc etc etc. This is not going to a judged show, and it will be washed before it's wrapped up... you'd be amazed how the nice texture from washing helps conceal the boo-boos!
Yes, I think  you should do as best work as possible...but also that there can be different criteria for various projects!

I'll be back in a couple days with the rest of this quilt...including the one place where I will draw a special design for the married couple and quilt it in!

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