Education Archives - Handi Quilter

Turning the Quilt Successfully

Turning the quilt to quilt the side borders is a great technique that’s used by most accomplished quilters. It is definitely the best way when you are using robotic quilting like Pro-Stitcher, if you are really into accuracy (like me). It’s also a good technique for free motion quilters. Quilting a border all in one go is just easier. Not to mention all the stops and starts you’d have along the sides if you don’t turn.

What am I talking about you ask?

 

Imagine this scenario: You decide to quilt the borders of the quilt differently than the rest of the quilt with a continuous design. An example of this might be a quilt with a feather vine along the border.

Silver Celebration by Mary BEth Krapil

Silver Celebration by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Or a border that does not turn the corners, like this one.

You quilt the top border all the way across and it turns out beautiful. But only a small portion of the side borders are showing in your throat space. If you quilt the side borders as you work your way through the quilt, you have to figure out a way to divide them up into manageable pieces that fit in your throat space. This is called “chunking the border”.

You will have to have tie-offs at each section. Tie-offs can sometimes be visible unless you knot and bury the tails. Visible tie-offs are not good. Knotting and burying takes lots of time, also not good! So how do you solve this problem? Turning the quilt!

MY process

Start by basting the top and sides raw edges within your first throat space. Whenever I quilt a separate design in the border, I will stitch-in-the-ditch the seam between the border and the body of the quilt. It makes a great difference in the look of the finished quilt and is well worth your time and effort. Stitch-in-the-ditch across the top seam and as far down on both side seams as you can go.

Quilt the top border. Don’t quilt the side borders, just the top. Baste the side borders. Either with long basting stitches or with pins placed horizontally.

Then quilt the interior of the the quilt (as much as you can within the throat space).

 

I usually use pins unless the border is very wide.  Be SURE to place the pins horizontally. This allows the pins to roll around the take-up pole without bending.

 

Advance the quilt, baste the side raw edges and stitch-in-the-ditch the seam between border and body as much as you can in that next throat space. Baste the borders. Quilt the interior.

Continue in this manner til you reach the bottom of the quilt.

In the last throat space, baste the sides and bottom raw edges. SID (Stitch-in-the-ditch). Then quilt the bottom border. Baste the side borders. Quilt the interior of the quilt.

Now everything is quilted except the side borders. They are basted in place.

Tips for turning successfully

Remove the quilt from the frame. Trim all excess batting away from the quilt top. Be careful not to cut the backing.

Handi Batting Scissors are ideal for this job.  Trim all four sides.

 

Measure the excess backing fabric from the edge of the quilt top on both un-quilted sides. Trim if needed so that it is even all the way across.

 

Attach one of the sides to the take-up leader. I pin to my leaders. Use whatever method you are comfortable with. Do NOT pin the other end to the backing bar. Drape the quilt over the backing bar and clamp in place with HQ Super Clamps.

 

Notice that I have not removed my basting pins. Wait until you are ready to quilt!

Remove your basting (pins or stitches) and quilt this border.

 

Then remove the quilt from the frame and turn 180 degrees. Attach the other border to the take-up leader. Secure the quilt to the backing bar. Remove your basting and quilt the final border.

 

Your side borders are quilted perfectly! With no stops and starts! All in one go!

I hope you give this a try. You’ll find it does not take any more time than chunking the border as-you-go and you will get much better results! If you do, let us know what you think of turning the quilt in the comments.

Happy Quilting!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

P.S. The designs you see on the patriotic quilt are available on Quiltable.com!

 

 

 

One More Echo – Free Motion Quilting for Beginners

One more super easy and super fun echo quilting design and I promise to stop. (Maybe) But can you see how echoing is a essential skill for a free motion quilter? It is a must-have in your tool box.

Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels

 

This design was originated by my good friend and Handi Quilter Ambassador, Helen Godden. Helen quilts free-motion on the HQ Capri. If you don’t already follow her on social media, you should! She is a wealth of fabulous ideas and techniques. You can find her here:

Facebook:  Helen Godden Quilts
YouTube: Helen Godden Quilts
Website: www.helengodden.com

She calls this design “Roadmaps”. That’s an appropriate name since you create a roadmap for yourself and then echo quilt. It’s really that simple!

I love the look you get with swirls.

Here’s How:

Choose your favorite removable marking tool. Chalk, Handi Iron-Off Pencils, water soluble marker, air soluble marker….  There are lots to choose from. Just be sure to test, to make sure the marks will come out once you’re finished quilting.

Handi Iron Off Pencils

 

Create your roadmap

Draw a swirl.

 

Add another swirl. And one more.

Keep going until you fill up your space.

 

Now you have your roadmap.

Quilting

Start at the beginning with your first swirl. Echo quilt next to one side of the swirl. Which side you choose does not matter. Use the side of your machine’s foot to glide along your drawn line. This will give you even spacing.

 

When you come to the end of your first swirl, swing around the tip.

 

 

And start quilting the other side of your marked line. When you encounter another swirl, keep going next to that swirl.

Keep going and keep going and eventually you will wind up finishing back where you started. Once finished, you can remove your roadmap.

You are left with a beautiful echo quilting design!

 

So fun and so easy and so very beautiful! I like to use this design for all-over quilting, for background filling, or to fill busy blocks.

Here is one I quilted out.

 

Here’s a close-up, but it’s a little hard to see my blue water soluble marks. I was able to see them fine for quilting.

 

I quilted this piece of fabric to use for a bag project. Why buy pre-quilted fabric, when you can quilt your own?

I like using the foam headliner material in place of batting for bags.  Bosal In-R-Form and By Annie’s Soft and Stable are a couple of brand names for the product.  I load it just like I would load a backing fabric. Then baste the top fabric on, and quilt away. It creates beautiful texture and gives your bag nice form.

I’m planning to have some fun with my couching foot on this. So the echo design is perfect for some quilting and a backdrop for my couching.

I’ll share the rest of my process in another post.  For now, Have fun echoing one more!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – More Anything E2E Inspiration

Last week we got inspiration from fabric and created a design for stitching an Anything E2E. I hope it got you thinking about other designs and other places to draw inspiration.

Look around

All you need to do is take a look around your environment. There are quilting motifs everywhere!

 

I love this bird shape on a little wall decor.

photo for inspiration wall decor

 

Tableware tulip

photo for inspiration bowl with painted tulip

 

Teddy

photo for inspiration teddy bear

 

Leaf found on an autumn wreath

photo for inspiration wreath detail

 

Look closely at wallpaper, carpet, tiles.  Don’t forget about books and magazines.

 

Shapes

I’m interested in the SHAPES that I can create a design with. For instance, the bird on that little wall decor:

line drawing showing stitch path for bird

Start stitching at the green dot, stitch around the wing. When you get back to the start point turn and stitch around the body. End at the red dot. (ignore the dashed line)

Pro Tip: Lazy loops make a good flowing connection between birds. It kinda looks like the bird’s flight path.

This bird might be a shape that’s a little hard to stitch consistently. It’s not as forgiving as flowers or leaves. The proportions of the body parts need to be consistent to look nice. As a beginner, (or even the pros do this) you can rely on some help to get the shape right. What to do?

Create a stencil

Remember the flower inspiration from fabric last week?

fabric with a multi-color floral motif

What if you wanted all your flowers to look almost the same. Same size, same number of petals, same shape center….  Or maybe you were a little challenged quilting that flower without some guidelines and would appreciate some help. Here’s how to help yourself.

Step 1: trace or draw from inspiration

Trace or draw your design. I like to use a light box for tracing but you can also use a sunny window.

flower inspiration on a light box

 

Step 2: Resize

Decide how big you’d like your quilted flower to be. Measure the traced drawing of the flower. If you need to adjust the size, the easiest way is to use a copy machine.

That round tool in the photo is a Quilter’s Assistant Proportional Scale. Instead of guessing what percent to enlarge your copy (and wasting lots of paper refining your guess), the QAPS easily tells you what % to punch into the copy machine. No math required!

Line up the original size on the inner ring with the reproduction size (the size you desire) on the outer ring. The number that shows in the window indicated by the black arrows is what you will enter into the copy machine.

Notice the instructions are printed right on the QASP.

Print out the re-sized image.

 

Step 3: Trace on Golden Threads paper

Golden Threads paper is a wonder in the sewing studio! It has many uses. It comes on a roll in 3 different sizes.

In this case we will use it to make a stencil.

Trace the flower on the Golden Threads paper.

Cut out a square with your image on it.

Step 4: Create the stencil

Take the GT paper to your sewing machine (or your longarm). Remove the thread from your needle and stitch along the drawn line

creating holes in the GT paper.  A longer stitch length works well for this.

Step 5: Mark and quilt!

You now have a stencil you can use with your pounce pad and chalk to mark the image on your quilt top.

Place the stencil where you’d like to have the flowers and swipe with the pounce pad to transfer the design. The GT paper stencil can be used over and over.

Quilt with your lolly-gag continuous line connecting your flowers for E2E quilting.

Result: beautifully finished quilt with your unique quilting design.

I hope you start seeing design inspiration everywhere you go! Let us know in the comments where you found your next quilting design.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – S shape

Continuing the series on free motion quilting for beginners, this week we will explore the S shape. You remember the shape of the letter S from kindergarten, right?

Elementary school Alphabet with the S circled

The perfect S with the nice, perfect, counter-clockwise curve at the top that transitions smoothly into the nice, perfect, clockwise curve at the bottom. That perfect shape works as a classic quilting design just as it is. It’s called by many names. One name is

“Red Hot Hearts”

because it looks like hearts flipping along a border or sashing.

image of red hot hearts quilting motif repeated 3 times

Red Hot Hearts

If you’re looking for a quick sashing or border design, look no further!

It starts with an S shape just like you learned in kindergarten. Shown here in red:

Then immediately a mirror-image S (in green). Repeat as often as you need to fill your border.

There is one difference from that kindergarten S. You’ll start at the bottom, rather than the top like you first learned in school.

image showing start point of red hot hearts design with an arrow point the direction of the stitching path

Starting at the bottom is simple. The tricky part, the part that needs practice, is stitching the mirror-image S. Nobody learned that in kindergarten!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

First practice this design by drawing on a white board, paper and pencil, or electronic tablet. You might want to print out the first image in this post and slip it into a page protector to trace with a dry erase, just to get that muscle memory started in the right direction. Remember we want GOOD muscle memory.

Pro Tips

If you’ve been following along with this series, you might be guessing what I’m going to say next.

You may have noticed how symmetrical this design is. So when quilting, it would be super helpful to have guidelines to help you achieve or come close to that symmetry.

This shows my quilt border with the guidelines I like. I don’t want my design to touch the seam lines so I mark a straight line 1/4 inch away from the seam lines. That will tell me how tall to make my S shape. I use a ruler and a chalk marker. You can use any removable marking device you like, (just as long as you know you will be able to remove it when you finish quilting!)

The other guidelines I like are the straight vertical lines that tell me how wide to make my S shape. These need to be evenly spaced. The easiest way I have found to mark these is to use a line stencil and a pounce pad.

various sizes of straight line stencils

The line stencils come in many different widths. I find stencils from many sources. Here are a couple that I like: The Stencil Company and  Full Line Stencils.

You can also accomplish this using a ruler and chalk. It will just take a whole lot longer. I’d rather be quilting than marking!

 

You know, quilts have vertical borders as well as horizontal borders. So I need to give you a

Practice assignment

Once you have the hang of drawing and stitching Red Hot Hearts horizontally, practice drawing, then stitching the same design vertically.

And you might run across a sashing that is on an angle, if you have a quilt with blocks on-point. So move on to 45 degree Red Hot Hearts.

If you have any practice time left you can practice quilting the S shape at random angles. Next week we will explore more S shape design possibilities.

by Mary Beth Krapil

Handi Quilter

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Advanced Meander

Last time we talked about the ubiquitous stipple. I said if the stipple is larger, we often call it a meander. Meander works for quilting entire quilts, edge-to-edge style. It creates good texture, holds the 3 layers together well and is fast and easy. On some quilts it is the perfect choice because the fabrics or piecing carry the design. Like this adorable license plate quilt made by my good friend, Jean Chapman. Jean quilted it on her HQ Sweet Sixteen, stationary machine with an edge-to-edge meander.

License plate quilt by Jean Chapman of North Carolina

detail of license plate quilt

But it can be boring.

When I first started longarm quilting, I started doing an all-over meander on my quilts. I was self-taught and I thought that was where everyone started. I soon became bored and wanted to branch out and do some other designs I had seen. (the truth is, I showed my friends yet another quilt I had finished and they all said in unison,” You NEED to learn a new design.”) The problem was, I didn’t have the skill I needed yet.

Now that you have some experience with meander, I want to share some ideas about how you can stretch and do some designs that look more special on your quilt. But these don’t take a heap more skill than a simple meander takes. So you will be very successful!

Ribbon

Start with a meander.

As far as size goes, think about how dense you want the quilting to be. If it’s a quilt that will be used on a bed or snuggled with on the couch, choose a loose density. For example a softball sized meander. For Ribbon quilting I start with a meander a little larger than I would normally choose, because I’m going to add more stitching.  Stitch this meander (as  much as you can  within the exposed throat space).

When you get to the end, reverse direction and echo your original stitched line, crossing over every now and then. Like this red line:

When you’re done it looks like a floating ribbon that’s swirling, twisting and turning.

Pro Tip: I find that it looks best when you try to cross over on the “sides” rather than at the top of the hill or bottom of the valley. Crossovers are shown in the yellow circles:

 

 

Get creative

Now just let your imagination take over and let’s come up with some new designs. What if we quilt a meander, then reverse and quilt a simple shape just next to it on the way back?

 

Here’s one with simple C shapes.

You could also reverse again and put C shapes on the other side of the meander too! Or try stitching the C’s in the opposite orientation.

 

Change it up and use straight lines that cross over your meander.

What if you just mark the meander with a removable marker and stitch the zig-zag?

Looks complicated doesn’t it? Shhh! Don’t tell anyone how easy it was!

Play time

What can you come up with? A good starting point for ideas are those 5 basic shapes.

 

 

 

 

Some of the designs in this post were inspired by phenomenal quilter and Handi Quilter educator, Megan Best. For more inspiration check out her book, Spinal Twist.  You can find it in digital format on her website.

Add your photos to the comments on this post to share with our Free Motion community. The more the merrier!

Who knew that simple meander could be so much fun?

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Stipple

The time has come to talk about stipple. You see it all over the place on quilts. What is a stipple, anyway?

Dictionary.com says:

Stipple History

Dots, small spots, small touches. In the quilting world stipple began with hand quilters. They placed single stitches randomly in the background of an applique or embroidery or a larger quilted motif. These stitches mimicked the small dots of paint used by artists who use the stipple technique. VanGogh’s self portrait is an example.

The stipple stitches did the job of flattening the surrounding area, letting the focus motif come forward and become even more prominent.

Machine quilting stipple

Machine quilting cannot produce these random individual stitches easily, so quilters came up with a continuous line way of achieving the same effect.

Remember the definition of stipple is small dots. When this continuous design is quilted, the negative space, or un-quilted area, created by the stitched line is like dots. Like these red circles:

Look what you see when I take away the stitch line:

Pro Tip: If you use a thread that blends or matches with your fabric color you won’t see the thread or stitches, you’ll just see the dots.

Figure it out

So now that you know why it’s called stipple, let’s examine the pattern and talk about how to quilt it.

Going back to our five basic shapes

We can see that stipple is made up of simple curves ( C-shapes) going in different directions. The quilting path does not cross over like it does with loops.

As a matter of fact, if you are stippling and your lines cross, the quilt police will show up at your door!

Not really, but I want you to try really hard not to cross the lines. Because that’s the design. If you do cross, no one will notice or care.  Don’t stress over it, but do try your best.

Remember last week we talked about even distribution of texture? Every time you quilt you should strive for it and stipple is no different.  To achieve the

even distribution

you should strive to make the spaces (those red circles) approximately the same size and nice and rounded. It sounds hard, but of course I’ve got a trick you can use.

Last week we learned about using mantras to keep our patterns going. Quilting a good stipple requires something a little different.

Mental Image

Sometimes it is helpful to keep a picture in your mind’s eye of an object or a shape. In the case of a stipple we want those curves to be nice and round and all about the same size. The mental image I use for stipple is a round object that I know the size of. Something I can easily picture in my mind. In other words something so familiar to me that I could come very close to the actual size if asked to draw it.

I think about a quarter, or a dime, or a ping pong ball, or a baseball, or the head of a pin, or a pencil eraser. The size of all those items is very familiar to me. Which I choose depends on the density of quilting I’m trying to do.

I imagine those dimes laying on the surface of my quilt and I stitch around them, clockwise then counterclockwise, clockwise and counterclockwise.

 Practice Stipple

Remember back when you used baseball fabric to practice and get good at quilting nice smooth curves? Well you can use the same trick for practicing stippling. You’ll want fabric with randomly scattered objects. like this:

star fabric for practice purposes

Pick a star (or whatever) and stitch around it part way. As you are stitching use the secret of looking ahead and pick your next star. Keep going, always picking your next star as you stitch, clockwise then counterclockwise, clockwise and counterclockwise.

Fill up a yard of this fabric and you will be an EXPERT stippler!

Examples

Here are some examples with a quarter in the photo for size reference.

The stipple makes the letters and flowers stand out.

This is a lattice design with a stipple in the background. The squares are about 1 and 1/4 inches. So the stipple mental image I used was the head of those yellow quilting pins. You know the ones.

yellow quilting pins for size compairison

Once again those triangles really stand out thanks to the stipple. The triangles get all the glory while the stipple does all the work.

This is a thread sampler to show the look of different weight threads. The stipple is larger because it’s not in the background of anything. It’s just a meandering line of stitches. Larger stipple is often referred to as Meander.

I call this tiny stipple a sand stipple. It looks like sand once you’re done stitching. The smaller your major motif is, the smaller your stipple needs to be. My mental image for this one was the head of a silk pin.

Even though I’m stitching so very small I still try to “go around” my mental image. There are crossed lines in sand stipple. It’s impossible to avoid it. But I still try not to cross. I find the effort gives me the best even distribution of texture. 😉

Pro Tip: when stitching this small, be sure to shorten your stitch length and use a very fine thread. You want to see texture not gobs of thread.

Go to the quilt shop now! Get that practice fabric and have some fun.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

Handi Quilter National Educator

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 3 sizes. 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 is available 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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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