Blog - Handi Quilter

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – For Real

I know you have been practicing every day for 15 minutes. You raised your right hand and made that promise. I saw you. I’m getting lots of comments from folks who are finding it to be very effective in improving their skills and it makes me so happy to hear that! It’s super easy to fit that 15 minutes a day into your schedule, when you always have your frame loaded with practice fabric. But what happens when you want to quilt something for real?

 

Switching from practice to for real

When your confidence swells and you think you’re ready to quilt that top that’s waiting to be finished. It’s time to remove your practice piece to make room for your for real piece. If you haven’t filled it up, you’ll want to be sure you can put it back on easily. So I have a few hints to help you.

Basting

Set your machine to the longest stitch you can. On our Handi Quilter machines we have basting stitches. They go from 1/4 inch to 4 inch stitches! I like to do this basting at 1 inch stitches.

  1. Baste horizontally across the bottom of your quilting area that is showing right now.
  2. Advance your quilt to expose new un-quilted fabric.
  3. Baste down the sides of the fabric and again baste horizontally across the bottom of the quilting area.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you get to the end of your fabric.
  5. Baste across the bottom of your fabric sandwich.

Now you are ready to remove your practice piece. It is no longer 3 separate pieces; backing, batting and top. It is a single basted quilt. This is important for when you finish your for real quilting and want to, NEED to, put your practice piece back on.

 No fear, for real

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

You’ve been practicing for weeks now. You are ready for this! You’ve come a long way, baby! So go for it, just jump right in and get that quilt quilted.

You are going to do great! After all, you know the SECRET to free motion quilting.

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

Reward: For real quilting counts as your 15 minute a day practice quilting. (But just for today)

Getting ready for tomorrow’s practice

As soon as you take your for real quilt off the frame, put your practice piece back on and you’ll be ready for tomorrow.  Never leave your frame looking like this:

empty quilting frame Bare, naked, devoid of any inviting quilting fabric. Shame!

You can attach your practice piece any way you like, but I’ll share the quick and easy way I do it.

I use HQ Super clamps. They are C-shaped clamps that fit over the poles.

Handi Quilter Super Clamps end view

I simply put the top of my piece over the take up pole and put the Super Clamp over it.

Then I put the bottom edge of my piece over the belly bar (the one that holds your backing) and place the Super Clamp over that.

And roll the quilt up on the belly bar.

That’s it! Done! Took all of 10 seconds. If needed, you would roll to the place where you have available un-quilted territory.

Pro Tip: Super Clamps come in 2 sizes (soon to be 3). The large are for the Gallery, Gallery2, and Fusion frames. The smaller clamps are for the Studio and Studio2, and LittleFoot frames. A new size will become available soon for the Loft frame. They are all 23.5 inches long. I have 6 clamps so that I can load wider practice pieces, Using 2 or 3 clamps at each end.

You stationary machine quilters? You have no problem. All you need to do is move your stack of sandwiches to make room for your for real quilt. And then move it back when you are done.

One more thing: Do NOT remove your practice piece until you have your quilt top and backing and batting ready to go. Really, a naked frame is not a pretty thing. I’m sorry for posting a picture of mine but we are all adults here and I hope it helped you.

Happy practicing!

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Getting Loopy

Back for more free-motion quilting this week! It’s time to try our hand at loops. I think that loopy designs are the most forgiving and the easiest to quilt. Often times with other shapes we have to try really hard to make the shapes uniform in size and proportion in order to make the quilting look its best. With loops, even if they are different sizes and some are round and some are tall and skinny, they still look good. Unlike a stipple, where you cannot cross lines, with loops you have to cross the lines! The motion to create loops is very smooth and easy-going. So let’s just dive right in and get loopy.

Loopy Meander

This is the easiest free-motion design to quilt in my book. Just start making loops. Make them go in all different directions. Fill up any space with loops.

loopy meander quilting design

Notice how they are pointing in all different directions and some are large and some are smaller and some are round and fat and some are more oval shaped? Easy! Oh, but there is one thing you do need to pay attention to when you quilt a loopy meander. To make your quilts look their best, no matter what design you are quilting, you want an even distribution of texture.

Even distribution of texture

What does that even mean?!!

It means you want the quilting lines in the design to be approximately, evenly spaced apart. In other words, you don’t want a bunch of loops really close together and then a big space and then some more loops.

If I fill the same space as the first example with loops like this, it will not look good on a quilt. The tightly spaced loops in the upper left will make the quilt flatten out. There will be poofy-ness in the big open space where there are no loops. This will cause the quilt to be lumpy. Lumpiness is never attractive. You don’t want lumpy gravy, you don’t want lumpy thighs and you don’t want lumpy quilts.

Achieve even distribution of texture by spacing your loops approximately the same distance apart and don’t leave any large gaps where there are no loops. How do you do that? Use The Secret. Remember the secret? Look ahead. And plan where you will go next. Practice this every day (15 minutes!). Draw a shape (square, rectangle, triangle) on your fabric and fill it with loops. Draw another and fill it with loops. The more you do it, the better you will get at looking ahead, planning your next move and filling the shape without any gaps and getting an even distribution of texture.

Advanced practice: draw a shape and then draw another shape within the first one. Like a heart within a square. Quilt around the inside shape but not over it.

This example is a stipple, but you get the idea. We will get to stipple quilting soon.

Simple loopy border design

You can quilt loops all in a row for a very fast and easy border design.

It works great for smaller borders and for sashings. You see I alternated the direction of the loops, mostly, but every now and then I threw in two loops in the same direction. I’m going to say I did this on purpose, to create interest. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉

Well, just maybe, I got distracted when I was quilting that loopy border and forgot to alternate direction. So I fixed my mistake by doing it again every so often to make it look like it was intentional.

Pro-tip: If you make a mistake, do it 3 more times and then it becomes a design choice.

Mantras

That brings me to the topic of mantras.

Mantra is defined by dictionary.com as a word or phrase chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer; or an often repeated word, formula, or phrase.

In quilting, I use mantras when I am quilting a pattern that repeats regularly to help me keep the pattern going. Like the loopy border design.

One loop goes up

and one goes down

So if I am quilting a loopy border horizontally I will say, out loud, “Up….Down…..Up…..Down…..”

If I’m quilting the side borders vertically I will say, out loud,

“Right…..Left…..Right…..Left”

It keeps me in the pattern. Otherwise, if I don’t say the mantra, my mind starts to wander and I’m thinking about what to have for dinner or how many yards of backing fabric I need to buy for the top I just finished or…., well you get the picture. And when my mind wanders, I end up with 3 or 5 UP loops and no DOWN loops. 🙁

Notice that I say the mantra out loud. If I only think the mantra, saying it in my head, I will still wander off.

Thinking it might work for you. You’ll have to try it and see. That way, your friends and family will not think you are weird when you are shouting, “up..down..up..”

L’s and E’s

Moving on to a little more challenging loopy design know as L’s and E’s. It’s a simple design that is just like writing cursive lower case l’s and e’s. It is a go-to design that you’ll find yourself using over and over.

Simple loops all going in the same direction. One loop is tall (the L) and one loop is shorter (the E). Sounds easy, right? This is a design that I really need to sing a mantra for.

L ….. E ….. L ….. E ….. L ….. E

It’s so easy to get distracted quilting this pattern because it is so easy to quilt. And it doesn’t look that good with 3 L’s in a row.  So use the mantra and you’ll do fine.

Here are a few hints to make the design look more professional.

Pitfall: slanted loopy letters

Because this is so similar to cursive writing, we all have a tendency to slant the letters just like we were taught to do when writing.

But for quilting, the design looks best when the L’s and E’s are straight up and down.

So a trick you can use is to quilt over a grid.

You can mark the grid on your quilt with a ruler and removable marker or use a grid stencil. The vertical grid lines help to keep my letters straight up and down.

Pitfall: different sizes of L’s and E’s

If your L’s are not all close to the same size and your E’s are not shorter than your L’s it blurs the beauty of the design.

The grid helps with this as well.

The horizontal grid lines help to keep my tall L’s all the same height and my short E’s all the same. I just touch the tops of the loops to the appropriate horizontal grid line.

Pitfall: Uneven spacing

I like to stitch my letters on the grid lines. (Another way is to stitch your letters in the grid spaces.) If I put a letter on each line, my letters stay evenly spaced. I achieve an even distribution of texture!  That makes me happy and my quilt beautiful!

When I’m done quilting I remove the grid markings and my design looks great!

Advanced practice: Stitch a line of L’s and E’s and then under it stitch another line that is flipped. Like this:

Isn’t that pretty?

 

That’s plenty for you to practice this week. We will certainly learn more loopy designs in the future.

Have fun quilting!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

Pro-Stitcher New Features

Attention: We interrupt the series on Free Motion Quilting for Beginners to bring our Pro-Stitcher robotic quilters some information on the latest Pro-Stitcher update. Free motion quilting will resume next week. Keep your 15 minutes a day going!

We are so excited to have an official (non-beta) new update for Pro-Stitcher. It has loads of new features that are fabulously useful. Don’t hesitate to download and update your PS tablet!

Downloading

Go to the Pro-Stitcher website. Hover your mouse pointer over the Pro-Stitcher tab and choose “Software” from the drop-down menu. Then choose 21.05.0535. We refer to this version as “535”. Save to your usb stick.

Pro Tip: Be sure to scroll down to read the Release Notes. It’s a complete list of all the new features. Also, read through the Known Issues and make note of the work around offered.  That way, if something goes wrong for you, you’ll have a head start on how to fix it. 

Updating

Hover over the Pro-Stitcher tab again and choose “Overview and Manuals“. Then click on “Installing PS Software” for complete, easy-to-follow instructions on how to update your PS tablet.

Pro Tip: Be sure to power down your entire machine after installing the update. Don’t simply re-boot your tablet. Safely shut down your Pro-Stitcher tablet, shut down your machine and unplug from the power outlet. Wait 3-5 minutes. Re-plug and power up machine, making sure the machine fully boots up before turning on your Pro-Stitcher tablet.

The features

I’m going to introduce you to some of the best of the latest update, my favorite new features, starting with the most exciting tool.

Three Skew Options

Skew

This is the skew we know and love. It works great for blocks and areas with 4 points. Takes a design and fits it into the blocks on the quilt you are quilting. Maybe those blocks were meant to be 12″ x 12″. But the piecer needs a little work on her quarter inch seam. 😉  So her blocks are really 11.6″ x 12.1″.  No problem! Using Skew we can make the design fit the block perfectly and we make the piecer look good.

Border Skew

We knew this as “Skew 2” on previous versions. It has a new name, Border Skew, but it works the same. It is the best choice for areas that use 4 or more points to define. You use this the most on borders, especially wonky borders. Hence the name. It can be used on other shapes as well, just like Skew 2.

It fits your design into that irregular border area and once again makes the piecer look good. When the design fits the space it is quilted in, it fools the eye into thinking the space is a regular smooth shape. Even when it’s not!

Here comes the exciting part!!!

Triangle Skew

With past versions we had to use our alignment tools to get triangle designs to fit properly into triangular areas on the quilt. It wasn’t too hard, but it wasn’t nearly as quick and easy as skew. Triangle skew is quick and easy, and works like a charm on 3 point areas!

Amazing! Once you try it, let me know if you agree in the comments!

New STOP Button

Sometimes we need to pause the stitching of the machine to change the bobbin or re-thread the needle. So we touch the pause button on the lower left of the screen. This is not an emergency, just an everyday occurrence.

pause button

Sometimes things can go haywire. For example, you forget to attach your Glide Foot when quilting an edge-to-edge design. There’s an open, unsewn seam on the quilt and the hopping foot goes under the top fabric and gets caught.

You need to stop the machine ASAP!  This is an emergency!

In this case you’ll want to touch the Stop button in the lower right of the screen.

If it’s not an emergency, you really don’t want to hit the Stop button. You run the risk of losing the positioning of the design.

But in an emergency, the Stop button stops the machine immediately and that is what you need.

Sometimes, quilters would get confused about Pause v.s. Stop and touch the Stop in a non-emergency situation. So the button now has a new look. It makes it more obvious which button to choose.

Stitch Stats

Ever wonder how long it might take to stitch out a design? Ever want to know how much thread you’ll need? You’re going to love this feature!

You can know the number of stitches, the time it will take to stitch, and how much thread is required for any design. Once you optimize the design for your quilt, Stitch Stats uses your machine settings (Speed and Acceleration and Stitch length) to calculate this information. Pro-Stitchers are so smart!

Quilting Space

We now have a visual on the screen that indicates the actual quilting space. It shows up as a black box. It is an insurance policy!

You will always be sure that the design you want to stitch is within the usable quilting space. No more hitting the poles if you accidentally position your design in the wrong place or stretch an edge to edge design and inadvertently make each row larger that your quilting space.

This image shows the black quilting space and a design that goes outside of the space. If you were to try to quilt this design you would fall off the right side of the quilt and hit the pole at the bottom. If you see the design outside of the quilting space, stop, and reposition to avoid disaster.

Pro-Stitcher Designer button

Under the Tools tab there is now a Pro-Stitcher Designer button on the ribbon.

It let’s you easily transfer your design and area over to PS Designer. If you have PS Designer activated on your tablet, you can then manipulate or alter your design as desired using the great tools within Designer.

Once you have the design looking the way you want, simply touch the Send button in Designer to transfer the new, altered design back to Pro-Stitcher.

This is a wonderful feature. When your design needs just a little tweak to make it perfect for your quilt, it works wonders.

That’s what Pro-Stitcher is all about….. easy peasy perfection!

More New Features

I have described the new features I think are the most exciting and the most useful. There are more new features that you can read about in the Release Notes. I know you’ll be amazed!

by Mary Beth Krapil

P.S. There are more new designs too! Be sure to check them out. Let me know which one is your fave!

Oh! and one more that is just awesome….  I LOVE the Baste button that we got in the last update, but I tend to forget to turn Baste off before starting to stitch the design. We now have a Baste pop-up warning that appears when you start the design and you are still in Baste mode. I cannot tell you how many times it has saved me! Even though basting stitches are easy to pick out, it is still no fun to have to pause, pick, and change the start point to start again with normal size stitches.

Thank you PS programmers and engineers!

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Curvy Designs

Now that you are very comfortable stitching curves, you’re ready to learn some curvy designs. We will put those curves to good use quilting designs you’ll use over and over.

Block Designs

Let’s start with some simple block designs.

Here’s the block we will quilt:

block

Continuous Curve

And here’s the design:

Notice that it is just 4 simple arcs or C-shapes or curves.  Here is what the design looks like on the block:

This design is known as Continuous Curve.

You will use the skills you gained from last week’s practice. Quilting nice round curves and using The Secret.

Start in the upper left corner of the block. Can you figure out where your goals will be on this block?

That’s right! you will use the intersecting seam lines of the piecing for your goals. If it helps, you can mark those spots with chalk or your favorite removable marker. I like to use the Handi Iron-Off Pencils. The marks easily iron away when you’re done quilting. If I’m quilting on white fabrics my go-to is Dritz Mark-be-Gone water soluble pens. Be sure to test any marking tool you use on your fabrics to be sure they will come out.

So, start in the upper left corner of the block and quilt a nice curve to your goal. The next goal is the upper right corner.

Then quilt the next curve moving clockwise around the block, as shown. You end up back where you started.

If you want to practice this design you will have to draw a block on your plain practice fabric. Simply use a small, square rotary cutting ruler and a pen or marker. Then add dots for your goals.

After quilting a few of these, try simply quilting a curve from corner to corner around the block without the dots as helpers.

Orange Peel

Let’s try another one. It’s called Orange Peel. Notice that the curves all meet in the center of the block.

Start in the upper left corner. Your goal is the center of the block.  Then to the upper right corner

– to the center – to the lower right corner – to the center – to the lower left – to the center – and back to the upper left corner.

 

Both Continuous Curve and Orange Peel can be used in many ways and we will explore those in the future. For now we will stick to blocks.

Big Flower

big flower design

This one  is much more freeing. There are no guidelines or goals to worry about. It fills any block with quilting and can be used anywhere. A good design to have in your stash!

Start with a “kind-of” circle in the center, but don’t close it. Leave it open.

Add some arcs or C-shapes around the center shape. Any size you like, and as many as it takes to go around the center.

Then keep going in a spiral, adding more arcs around your previous arcs until you have filled the space you need to fill.

Have fun with this one! You can make it as big as you like.

Happy (Practice) Quilting!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – the Secret to Curves

There’s a secret to curves. Well, the secret really applies to all quilting shapes, but it works especially well on curves. Curves make up 97.35% of the best quilting designs. Take a look at any collection of quilts and pay close attention to the quilting. You will see curves on almost every quilt.

Curves

C-shapes, arcs, circles. These shapes are curves. They can be put together into a myriad of designs. It’s the most important shape for you to learn to quilt well. You have been doing your practice (15 minutes every day) on solid fabrics so that you can see your stitching easily.

Supplies

For this week’s practice you’re going to have to dig into your stash, or (yay!), make a trip to the quilt shop and get some specific fabric. It should look something like this:

Covered with round objects that touch each other. Baseballs, basketballs, oranges, anything that is nice and round.

not like this:

They don’t touch.

nor this:

 

Not touching, and the dots are too small.

The circles have to touch and should be at least an inch across.

You will use this as training wheels to develop your muscle memory for quilting nice smooth round curves. Purchase about a yard. Or if you get a yard and a half, when you are finished you can bind it and give it to a little baseball or basketball (or orange?) fan. They will love it! And take my word for it, they won’t notice the quilting at all. They will only see the game they love and know you made something just for them. Multitasking! you get practice and a warm hug for someone you love.

Practice

You will spend your 15 minutes a day stitching around each of the round objects. Stitch right on the edge of each baseball. Go all the way around each one. Then transition to the baseball that is touching the one you just stitched. This practice will teach you many things! Do 15 minutes a day. Outline the the rounds on the entire piece of fabric

At first you will wobble and bobble.

But as you do more, you will get better and better.

Soon you’ll be stitching nice round circles right on the edge of the baseballs.

You won’t be perfect, but it will look pretty good and the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

What you’ll learn

  1. Quilting smooth round curves and circles. The best muscle memory to have!
  2. Transitioning from one curve to the next.
  3. How to overstitch accurately.
  4. The secret.  Yes! the secret.

Smooth curves

Like I said, curves make up most of all quilting designs. If you’re good at curves, you’re going to be good at many designs. You’ve got a huge head start!

Transitioning

Once you go around the circle, you have to figure out how best to get to the next one. Sometimes you will keep going in the same direction, sometimes you might be better off to reverse directions. You want to minimize overstitching whenever possible. If over stitching is needed you want to choose a path that makes the overstitching as short as possible.

You have to think ahead, to know which way you plan to go.

Pro Tip: plan your path before you start stitching. Use your finger to move along and map out your stitching path.

 

Pro Tip: Your machine has an off switch. Use it when you get overwhelmed. If you don’t know where to go next, stop the machine and make a plan.

Overstitching

Definition: overstitching is when you stitch over a line that you already stitched in order to get where you need to go.

Try your best to make the overstitching directly on top of the original stitches.  Slow down and take your time.  I try to minimize the amount of overstitching if at all possible. It’s fussy work. It’s also a good skill to have because you’ll use it often. You will get better with practice.

The Secret

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. The secret to being a good free motion quilter. The one secret, that if you know it, will make you into Super Quilter!

Look ahead.

That’s it. The secret. Look ahead.

Don’t look at the needle. Look ahead. Look at your goal.

Let’s take some simple arcs as an example.

With your needle at the Start point, your goal is the top of that arc. There is a gentle curve between those 2 points. Your brain knows you are quilting a curve and you have the muscle memory to do it. If you watch the needle as you stitch, you’ll wobble. Trust your muscle memory to make that curve, and keep your eye on your goal. Don’t watch the needle.

Once you reach your goal, move your eye to your next goal. Keep your eye on that goal and let your muscle memory do the job of creating a nice smooth curve.

Simple. Right? I promise it works. It just takes……..you guessed it, Practice.

So off you go to the quilt shop to get your round objects fabric. You may as well get a few things for your stash while you’re there. 😉 And you might have to go to 2 or 3 shops before you find what you are looking for. You’re welcome.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Muscle

I hope you had some fun trying out those straight line designs from last week. They will become some of your favorite go-to’s when you’re deciding how to quilt lots of tops. As you practice you are developing muscle.

photo by Alora Griffiths

No, not that kind of muscle!  Muscle memory.

Is muscle memory a thing?

You bet it is! When you practice a new skill over and over, your brain (not really your muscles) learns to perform the task without really thinking. There is a bit of muscle component too, but it’s mostly brain.

photo by Fakurian Design

How do I get muscle memory?

Some of the best advice I received as a new quilter was to pick a couple of designs and get really good at them. Then you will have a way to quilt any quilt with confidence. By now, I think you know the way to get really good at something. Practice. And practice EVERYDAY. It’s what will develop that all-important muscle memory.

Remember your promise?

But here’s something to think about: you want to develop good muscle memory, not mediocre muscle memory, and certainly not poor muscle memory. By that I mean you want to train your brain and muscles to execute a really excellent version of the design you are learning.

An Olympic track athlete doesn’t train by slowly strolling around the track. They run fast. They train the way they want to perform in the real race.  And they pay attention to every nuance of their body and movements. They discover what makes them faster and what slows them down through experimenting with different techniques.

Training with the good stuff

You want to quilt like an Olympian. So you need to learn the design the way you want it to look on your show-stopping quilt!

All you need is a really good example of the design you want to learn. You might find it in a book of quilting designs.

Books of quilting designs

page from Quilting Dot to Dot by Cheryl Barnes

Or on a quilt you see at a show or a sample in a quilt shop. Take a photo. Get a close-up of the quilting design!

If you take a class, often times the teacher will provide handout notes with drawings of designs. Score!

You might find a design you like in a magazine.

from Quiltmaker Magazine Nov/Dec ’10

You’ll need a plastic page protector or piece of clear plastic that you can write on with a dry erase marker. If you are using a design from a book, place the plastic over the design.

Then trace the design with your dry erase marker.

Pro Tip:

Keep your elbow up off the table to help with the muscle memory development.

Erase and trace again. And again.

Pro Tip

Use a small scrap of batting to erase the marker. Paper towel will cause dry erase ink to “flake” off.  If those flakes get on your clothing or upholstery it will leave a permanent mark. The batting absorbs the ink with no flaking.

Another method is to make a copy of the design and slip that copy inside your plastic page protector.

Once you feel confident with the path of the design, remove the image and try drawing the design on your own. If you’re happy with the results, move on to your machine and practice fabric to try stitching.  If you don’t quite have the hang of it yet, keep tracing.

Notice the details

Just like the Olympian track star, pay attention to the small things. Like how the curves of your design are really very round. Or how the angles come to a sharp point over there. Or how the space between the lines is about 1/2 inch here, but only a 1/4 inch there.

Basic shapes

And pick out those basic shapes to make it easy.

You already know how to quilt all of the shapes. You just need practice in putting them together in different ways.

Next week we will explore designs made with curves.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Putting it Together – Straight

So, you’ve been practicing quilting those five basic shapes in all different orientations. Now it’s time to start putting it together into free motion designs, basic ones that are fun to use on quilts. We will start with straight lines.

Putting it together – Straight lines

Modern quilters love straight line quilting. So do traditional quilters. You really can’t go wrong with straight lines. Here are some super useful straight line design ideas you’ll use over and over again.

Piano Keys

Piano keys is probably the #1 most useful quilting design ever. I use it on almost every quilt somewhere.

Piano keys are most often used in long narrow sections of a quilt such as borders or sashings. There are a gazillion variations of piano key designs. If you don’t believe me, just Google it or search on Pinterest.

When quilting piano keys, the straight line quilting usually goes perpendicular to the edge of the border and the lines are, usually, evenly spaced apart.

Pro tip: An advantage to the piano key design is that it takes up fullness in a border.

The basic piano key looks like this:

and is stitched like this:

 

You can vary the spacing like this:

This design is sometimes referred to as Beadboard.

And you can double or even triple stitch your straight lines. Like this:

Or you can even try slanted straight lines, like this narrow border at the top and on the left:

Keeping straight

You might notice that my straight line quilting is very straight. That’s because I use a longarm quilting ruler to guide my hopping foot as I quilt. It’s kind of like using a ruler and a pencil to draw a straight line on paper. The pencil is my needle. My ruler keeps my lines straight.

Another way of achieving straight lines is to use channel locks for straight horizontal and straight vertical lines. There are two options for channel locks, Electromagnetic Channel locks and wheel-lock type channel locks. Both work great!

We will delve into ruler work quilting in future blog posts. For now, just know that you can accomplish these straight lines with simple free motion. They will be straight-ish. And that’s OK!

Pro Tip: Give yourself guidelines to keep your piano keys spaced the way you want them. A simple way to do that is to use a ruler and chalk to mark the intervals. For example: put a little dot of chalk every 1/2 inch along the edge of the border. Then stitch a straight line at each mark. Travel along the edge of the border, don’t break thread in between. You might even mark the piano keys with chalk. That will help keep you going straight and keep your keys standing up straight like soldiers.

Bricks

Bricks is a fun design that’s easy to quilt. And it quilts fast!

(Note: the green circle is the start and the red circle is the end in all the examples.)

Start at the left side of the first row of bricks. Stitch the bricks in rows. I stitched up – right – down – up -right – down- up -right etc. When you’re ready, start the next row and stitch it right to left. Be sure to alternate the spaces between the bricks in subsequent rows, so it looks like real bricks. Keep going in rows til your space is filled.

You can use Bricks as an all-over design, as a background filler, even as a border. It just depends on the size you make your bricks.

Stars

Stars can be used in blocks or connected by loops or a meander for an all-over design.

Two kinds of stars are pretty easy to stitch.

Teacher’s Stars

Remember back in grade school your teacher would put a big star on your paper if you did a good job? These are the easiest stars to draw and stitch. Here is the path you take:

Remember to pause in the points (go back here and read the Pro tip) to get nice sharp star points.

This star has quilting lines in its center. If you prefer an

Open Star

it’s a little harder to draw and quilt. But I have some tips for you to make it easier.

Start with a Witch’s Hat like this:

That’s not too hard. Then imagine another Witch’s Hat that overlaps the first. Like this:

Then you only have to stitch the V-shape (circled)

Visualizing the witch’s hat helps to get the correct angle on the lines so that your star comes out looking nice. Note that the left and right “brims” are on the same plane. They form a straight line and the “peak” of the hat is an upside down V-shape right in the middle.

Then just add 2 more star points using the witch’s hat visualization trick and you’ve got a beautiful open star!

This open star is a design you might want to practice drawing on paper until it becomes natural for you. Then go to the machine to quilt it.

Here are a couple more straight line designs that you can practice this week. I know you can figure out the path pretty easily.

Pro tip:  When quilting designs like these, they look best when the spacing between the quilting lines is similar. They don’t have to be exact, but similar. It helps to create nice even texture on your quilt. Use the edge of your hopping foot to give 1/4 inch spacing. Ride the edge of the hopping foot along the previously quilted line.

Greek Key

Squared Spiral

Have fun giving these designs a try! How’s that 15 minutes a day working for you? Are you being faithful? I’m watching you!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Quilting for Healing

Warning: this blog post contains profanity and discusses serious topics such as death by shooting and mental health crises. Please read at your own discretion.

Marilyn Farquhar, from Ontario, Canada, is a member of the HQ Quilt Your Desire Inspiration Squad. Sadly, in late 2019 and early 2020  Marilyn lost her husband and father to cancer, then her brother, in a tragic shooting by police during a mental health crisis. In August 2020 Marilyn commenced a series of grief quilts, using quilting for healing to help her through the grieving process.

Quilting can be therapy in many ways and many quilters use quilting as a way to cope with difficult times in their lives. In August 2020 Marilyn commenced a series of grief quilts entitled Kairos – An Opportune Time for Action.  She has completed 3 quilts.

His Call For Help

Quilt titled His Cry for Help

His Call for Help – representing despair
Photo Credit The Abbotsford News

Marilyn’s artist statement:

On September 10, 2019, Barry shared his despair with me.  We sat on my back deck—he wore my pink jacket and smoked a joint while crying shamelessly.  He asked for his miracle—he pleaded for his miracle!  He stated “I’m such a piece of shit.”  “I’ve only caused heartache and sorrow.”  “The pain in my brain is unacceptable.”  I heard him, but I did not hear him!  I believed my strong brother would navigate his way through his struggles—I was wrong!  I am sharing this very personal story in the hopes that others, faced with this situation, will be able to recognize despair in loved ones during their darkest hours. Then find a way to get them help.

One Bullet

One Bullet – representing grief and loss Photo Credit Praveenraju909

Marilyn’s artist statement:

He asked to be shot six times—it only took one bullet to end his life.  There are many victims—not just Barry.  His friends, family, colleagues, and society have all been impacted by the loss of Barry.  Barry was a well known advocate for the homeless and marginalized.  The transformative effect of his work to change laws that impact the homeless will continue to be felt in the City of Abbotsford, BC, as well as across Canada.  Survivors left behind, despair at his loss, as much for a vital life cut short, as for the unnecessary circumstances of his death.

May Your Spirit Soar

May Your Spirit Soar – representing hope
Photo Credit Praveenraju909

Marilyn’s artist statement:

Barry’s spirit is now released from his earthly body—free to soar like the eagles.  My wish for all those impacted by poor mental health, grief, and the excessive use of force by police is that they will find within themselves the freedom to soar. May all the officers involved in this incident find peace.  If we are to be considered a civilized society, we need to find a better way of helping our fellow man.  This is the only way to pave the way to a more promising future we all deserve. 

Quilting for Healing

Marilyn’s goal in creating these quilts was not only to grieve her brother’s death and to heal herself, but also to make Barry’s life meaningful. She hopes these quilts will cause people pause and consider, and to talk about mental health, grief and changes in policing.

There is a documentary showing some of Marilyn’s process of making these quilts as well as more of the tragic story of her brother’s death.

When the Ontario and British Columbia travel restrictions are lifted, Marilyn will be taking the quilts across Canada. Her quilts will be on exhibit at various venues.

 

 

Please note: the series on free-motion quilting will resume next week.

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners, Theory

Now that you’re ready, we can delve a bit into the theory. Wait, you’re not ready? Be sure to read Part 1 and prepare to have some fun learning free motion quilting.

Theory

Theory sounds boring, right? But I’m a big believer that the more you know, the more you can do. And this is not rocket surgery or even brain science. Just a little deeper thought into what forms free motion designs.

All the designs we can ever quilt or even think of quilting are made up of 5 basic shapes.

5 Basic Shapes

Take a look at any quilt or photo of a quilt where you can see the quilting. See if you can pick out these shapes in the quilting designs.

Straight line

straight line quilting

 

Curve

curve quilting

Curves are all over quilting. You’ll find them everywhere you look!

 

 

Loop

loop quilting

 

S-curve

 

Hook (or spiral)

hook quilting

You already know these

They are basic shapes and you are quite familiar in drawing them. I know you know this, because they are the same shapes you use in cursive writing. You know how to sign your name, you know these shapes!

Remember back in school when you were learning to write? Your teacher had you practice over and over again to perfect the shapes you were forming. Sound familiar?

And you got better and better.

If you are thinking, “my handwriting is not so good, maybe I’m not cut out for doing free motion quilting.”  Do not despair!

Quilting is much more forgiving than penmanship! In writing, the letters all need to be the same size and slant in the same direction and be spaced apart equally. Remember this?

Those lines on the paper were guidelines to help you keep your letters all the same size. And your words nice and straight.  In free motion quilting you don’t have to worry so much about that.

It’s OK to have different sizes. And it’s actually desirable to have the shapes going in different directions! It’s OK if some of your loops are fat and round and some are long and skinny.

Assignment

Here’s what to do this week in your 15 minutes a day, (that you signed the contract for).

Practice quilting each one of the shapes for 15 minutes. One per day.

Make the shape in all different directions and orientations, since that is what you will need to do when free motion quilting actual designs.

Pay close attention to how it feels to move the machine. Is it easier to move horizontally? Diagonally? Can I make the lines straight? or just straight-ish?

Pro Tip: When quilting points (as in the design above) pause in the points. Quilt the straight line, come to the end where you want to change directions and pause for as long as it takes you to say the word “pause”. If you are new to this, actually say the word out loud, until it becomes second nature to pause in the points. “Quilt, quilt, quilt, PAUSE, quilt, quilt, PAUSE…..”

It gives your body and brain time to re-set for the next line. Setting your machine in Cruise mode (if that’s possible on your machine) allows the machine to take a stitch right in the point. This results in a sharp point every time.

After you have done a day for each shape, use the other 2 days this week to combine shapes together. See what you can come up with.

Don’t stress over it, just let it flow. If you create something interesting, take a photo! And share in the comments.

Have fun this week!

by Mary Beth Krapil

Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners, Part 1

With so many new Moxie owners out there, I am going to start a series of tips on free-motion quilting for beginners. These tips will not only apply to those using movable machines on a frame, (like Moxie, Amara, Simply Sixteen, Forte, and Infinity) but also to stationary machine quilters. That means Capri and Sweet Sixteen owners, as well as domestic machine quilters, will benefit from the series as well. I hope you’ll all come along!

Getting Started

To prepare to really improve your skills will take a few steps. No worries, they are easy!

#1 – Make the commitment

I am a huge advocate of practice when it comes to quilting. The key is to practice EVERY DAY. Yes, you read that right, I said every day, (shouted it actually). I can hear you groaning. But do not despair.

I suggest you set aside 15 minutes in your day to devote to free motion quilting practice. That is not a huge time commitment. I think you can find 15 minutes in your day to do the thing you love to do and get better at it.

Don’t think of it as “practice” (like when your parents MADE you practice piano). Think of it as “Play”.

The reason behind doing it every day is that “muscle memory” thing. And building your skills little by little, consistently. There’s nothing worse than taking 2 steps forward but having to take one step back because you skipped days and forgot what you learned on the first day. So you have to go back and start over again.

So, raise your right hand and repeat after me……

“I (state your name) promise to devote 15 minutes in my day to play at what I love to do, free motion quilting, so that I can improve my skills and love quilting even more than I already do. I promise to do this every day without fail. Just like brushing my teeth, but better, because it will be fun.”

Preparation

This might take a bit of time. You’ll need to find your practice materials and get them ready, so you don’t waste any of that precious 15 minutes on anything but stitching.

Prepare your fabric

If you are a movable machine quilter, load your machine with practice fabric. If you are a stationary machine quilter make up a stack of quilt sandwiches, at least the size of a fat quarter or larger. Here are some ideas of what you can use:

  • inexpensive muslin
  • fabric from your stash. The ones that when you look at them you say to yourself “what was I thinking when I bought this?” are perfect for practice.
    • Tip: Load upside down so that you are stitching on the wrong side of the fabric. You will be able to see your stitching much better that way.
    • Warning: this will take way longer than you might think. You will be looking at all your fabric, which can be super distracting. You might want to devote an afternoon, or an entire day or two, depending on the size of your stash and how easily you get distracted.
  • Old sheets or sheets purchased at the thrift store

Batting

You know those strips of batting that you cut off after you finish quilting a quilt? SAVE them!

They work great for practice. You don’t have to worry about sewing them together. It’s just practice! Simply lay them next to each other on top of your backing fabric. No worries if there are gaps. It’s practice! Errr, I mean PLAY!

Here is my bag of saved strips (chair included for size):

bag of batting strips for free motion quilting practice

I also use these strips on my Swiffer!

swiffer sweeper

Strips laid out on top of a fat quarter:

I don’t worry about the gaps or the wrinkles. It’s practice folks!

Thread

Get out that old thread from your Grandma’s sewing basket. You probably wouldn’t want to use it in a real project, but as long as it doesn’t break every 2 minutes, it’s fine for practice/play.

The orange thread had a price of 50 cents marked on it! That’s OLD!

If you don’t have any old thread then purchase something inexpensive. Save the good stuff for your real quilts!

Assignment

That’s your assignment for this week. Gather your materials and load up your frame or make up your quilt sandwiches. Next week we’ll get to stitching.

One more thing

A couple of things you might want to have on hand, but are not a necessity:

  • A white board and dry erase markers
  • plastic page protector
  • HQ Super clamps for your movable machine frame. Be sure to get correct the size for your frame, they come in 3 sizes for the Gallery frame, the Studio frame, or the Loft frame. (I’ll explain how I use these next week)

Till then….. have fun in your stash! 🙂

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

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