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.
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.
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.
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,
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