Education Archives - Handi Quilter

Creating Texture

Every time you quilt you are creating texture. The very nature of what makes up a quilt, three layers, with the center being a compressible fiber, means that when you stitch the three layers together you will compress that inner layer with your stitches and create texture. The location of the stitches will be lower than what surrounds them. The contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt. That variation is the definition of texture. (See last week’s blog post to refresh your memory of that definition.)

Seeing texture

Sometimes you look at a quilt and swoon over the gorgeous texture of the quilting. With other quilts, you might hardly notice the quilting. Why? If you look at a variety of quilts, (Pinterest is a good place to do that), notice where you can really see the quilting and you’ll come to realize that quilting shows up best on solid, lighter color fabrics. This quilted bag has a ton of quilting on the black background surrounding the mandala. But you can hardly see it.

Mandala tote by Mary Beth Krapil

This quilt has a lot of texture too. It is hardly noticeable on the colorful, busy and darker fabrics. You can see a bit of the texture in the light blue areas. This quilt is 12″ x 12″.

Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

But look at the texture you can see on the back of the quilt!

Back of Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasizing texture

What can we do to emphasize the texture? Here’s some tips you can use:

Pick the right place

Choose the lighter, solid fabric areas of the quilt to create the most interesting textures. [Don’t neglect the other areas with busier, darker fabrics though! If you want your quilts to lie flat, you want an even distribution of texture.]

And always remember, in the right lighting, even texture on darker fabrics can be seen.

back of Mandala bag by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasize the contrast

Remember the contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt, creating texture. So if you stitch some tighter quilting next to an area you want to emphasize, the tighter quilting will flatten out and allow the area next to it to pouf forward.

Mary Beth Krapil

The daffodils pop forward because there is tighter (or smaller) quilting next to them.

We usually refer to the tight quilting as background quilting.

Rule of thumb: The background quilting motif must be at least 1/3 or less the size of the motif you are trying to emphasize.

Choose the right batting

When you are trying to achieve texture choose a batting with a higher loft. There has to be something to fill up the unquilted areas to make them pop forward.  Avoid very flat batts.

100% cotton is an example of a flat batting. Wool is an example of a batting with loft. You can also use a polyester batting, just choose one with a higher loft or thickness.

When I want to emphasize texture I usually use two batts. A layer of 100% cotton or 80/20 on the bottom and a layer of wool on top.

But this was a faux leather pouch that I quilted with upholstery foam instead of traditional batting. It had super-defined texture!

creating texture

Faux leather bag
by Mary Beth Krapil

Choose the right thread

Both weight and color are important here. Matching the thread color exactly to the fabric results in seeing pure texture. The thread disappears.

micro-fill sampler
by Mary Beth Krapil

A fine thread also tends to disappear and leave the viewer seeing only texture.

Mary Beth Krapil

There are no hard and fast rules about thread though. Just like anything else in quilting, experiment and see what happens when you change things up. A contrasting thread can add to the texture!

Grid Sampler
Mary Beth Krapil

You’ve heard the saying, “Quilting makes the quilt”?  Well I think that’s true because quilting makes the texture.

What do you think?

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing a Vintage Quilt Top

I’d like to share with you my process of preparing a vintage quilt top for finishing. Each top is different and will require different things of course, but this one is my latest finish and it has an interesting story and was extra challenging.

Choosing the vintage quilt top

I loved the colors in this top the minute I saw it. And one of my favorite flowers is the tulip. Those things drew me to choose it. I did notice some fullness in the blocks, but since I have experience with quilting hand pieced vintage tops, I had confidence I could tame it. Oh boy,  was I wrong!

The Truth about vintage quilt tops

There is usually a reason these tops never get quilted. Any quilter will tell you that they have quilt tops waiting to be quilted. In modern times, it’s usually a matter of not enough hours in the day to get all our projects completed. The vintage tops that end up in estate sales or on auction sites usually have some issues that would have made quilting them difficult. Remember, most were hand quilted back in the day. This tulip quilt had some major issues. But I’m so glad I chose this one. I loved working with it and learned a few things along the way.

Preserve as much of the original as you can

I try to preserve these vintage tops as best I can. They are a piece of history. I think about the hours of work that went into the hand piecing. Just look at those pretty, even, hand stitches!

A few tucks or a stain here or there is OK, just part of the uniqueness of the piece. This quilt top was uber unique! It presented a challenge that was insurmountable without some major alterations.

After spending some time trimming frayed threads from the back, I took it to my ironing board to see how I could possibly get the top to lie a little flatter. Several hours later I came to the realization that it just was not going to happen. I had to make the difficult decision to take the quilt apart and separate the blocks.

A special group collaboration

Most of the blocks had a name written on the back in pencil (3 blocks had no name). These were not signatures, since they were all in the same handwriting. But I imagine they are a record of the maker of the block. This quilt was a collaborative group effort! Making it even more special and deserving of preservation.

Abbie

 

Kuhma

 

Laura Barton

 

Leona

 

Lizzie

 

Maude

 

Mrs. Gibson

 

Mrs. Spoor

 

Nellie Gray

 

Ora Tyler

 

Pearl

 

Stella

 

Velma

Who were these ladies?

The whole time I worked on this quilt I thought about what sort of group this might have been. Was it a quilting bee? A group who gathered around a quilting frame whenever a quilt needed quilting? Were they neighbors, friends, a church group, members of a guild? It led me to think about the groups I have had the privilege of being a part of. And the wonderful friendships I have made through quilting. I hoped these women enjoyed the same blessing I have had.

I also thought about why they might have decided to make a quilt together. Was it to comfort a sick friend? Celebrate a milestone? Donate to a worthy cause to raise money? I wondered if, back then, did they hold block exchanges? Was there many more of these quilts, one for each of the contributors? Did any of them get quilted?
I wish I knew more about these ladies.

I thought maybe they were a group with varying ages since some were just first names (younger), and some were full names, and some were surnames, Mrs. so-and-so, (older and more respected?) It was actually quite fun thinking about the possibilities. And now that I have finished the quilt, I think I am a member of the group too.

Back to work

But back to the job of preparing this top. I had to un-sew the blocks on this vintage quilt top to see if I could somehow stitch them together in a way that would let them lie flat.

My original idea was to add sashing to compensate for blocks that were not all the same size. That’s quite often a common problem with group quilts. But when I got them apart, it became apparent what the problem actually was.
The blocks were not square, or rectangular. They were an unusual shape with sort of pointy wings in each corner.

not square vintage quilt

Someone, (I wonder who?), painstakingly sewed these blocks together by hand. That was certainly a labor of love.

You can see the middles of each side are straight but then they bow outward to the pulled-out corners. I thought about adding melon shapes between the blocks but after measuring and discovering no two blocks measured the same, I gave up on that idea.

The fix

I trimmed the blocks to as square as possible without losing any of the tulip.


Because they were all different sizes I decided to add sashing to each block, to make them all the same size. I hunted for a muslin that matched the vintage muslin background.This process required a lot of accurate measuring and math.

I was hoping that the quilting would eventually hide the seams required to add the sashings, and that the tulips would simply be floating on the background.

Once the blocks were all brought to a uniform size, I sewed them back together into a quilt top. Here they are laid out ready to be sewn. I feel I preserved the look of the vintage quilt top and didn’t really alter it too much.

Sadly, I did have to eliminate four of the blocks. The piecing on those would not allow me to press them anywhere close to flat. Let me publicly apologize to those ladies whose blocks didn’t make it back into the quilt. I’m so sorry, I know you did your best.
One of those blocks did get used on the back for the label. I might just hand stitch the other three to the back of the quilt as well. Just so the group can stay together.

Now that I had a nice flat quilt top, I could start thinking about the quilting. Come back next week and I’ll share about creating the designs and quilting with my HQ Infinity.

This quilt will be featured in the May/June issue of Love of Quilting magazine.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Power Protection

Are you taking care of power protection for your beloved longarm machine? Do you even know what that means? We all want to take the best care of our machines so that we can have fun finishing quilts for years to come.

Power protection

puts a layer of protection between your treasured electronics and the outside world. We use surge suppressors (or protectors) and uninterruptible power systems to do it.

Handi Quilter strongly advises the use of surge suppressors. However, we do not endorse specific manufacturers or models of surge suppressors.

Power strips and surge suppressors are different.

Power strips are inexpensive and function to expand the number of outlets. Some claim to offer protection via a circuit breaker. But they don’t offer any real protection from electrical issues. You want a surge protector or surge suppressor to give you some level of protection. They are not all created equal.

It’s about the joules

Surge suppressors offer protection in amounts called Joules. Most manufacturers rate their products by the number of Joules it can absorb. This is not the best measure of the ability of a suppressor to truly protect your machine. Instead, look for the let-through voltage of the suppressor you are considering purchasing. This should preferably be at least 330 volts (V) but less than 500 volts. A product marked “UL1449 compliant” will have a 400V or less let-through voltage. Not all manufacturers put this rating in their specifications.

They don’t last forever

Absorbing damaging surges takes a toll on components inside the protector so another purchasing consideration is what happens when the protection circuit no longer functions. Ideally, the suppressor would no longer allow power to pass to your machine; otherwise you wouldn’t know that your machine is no longer protected. Some suppressors have an LED indicator that shows if the product has been damaged, which is the minimal indication you need.

If power surges are common and your suppressor does not have such warning features, it is wise to replace the suppressor every two to three years. Remember that surges don’t just come from the outside world. They can also come from within your home to your power outlet from a refrigerator or other large motor operating in your home.

Warranty

Some products offer a replacement warranty (up to a certain amount) on the equipment attached to it. This may offer an additional layer of confidence. Just be sure to read the fine print.

What about Pro-Stitcher?

If you use a Pro-Stitcher system and have occasional power outages, you may wish to consider an uninterruptible power system (UPS) product. A UPS provides both surge suppression and back-up energy that gives you time to power off your machine during a power outage. This can prevent damage to your quilt and make re-starting later easier.

A power rating of 1000 VA or better should be sufficient to give you time to perform a graceful shut-down of the quilting that is in progress. Again, look for the let-through voltage protection rating mentioned above.

Unplug

The Handi Quilter warranty states that machines must be unplugged from the wall outlet (not merely turned off) when not in use. This is still the best protective measure you can employ.

Let’s keep our babies safe and use power protection.

power protection - dream big

Re: the photos in this post. This is such a serious matter, and surge suppressors are not particularly pretty, so I added some pictures of nice quilting to lighten the mood. 🙂

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Make a Stencil

I told you last week I would show you how to make a stencil from Golden Threads quilting paper. It’s easy and fun and results in a easy, follow-the-line, free-motion quilting guide that will make your quilts look fabulous!

Start with a design

You can take one of your fantastic doodles.

Or maybe something you found in a magazine or a book.

You might have seen a fabulous quilting design in nature,

or on some tile or carpet, or on a tissue box,

 

or on a plate.

Look at the fabrics in your quilt,

there might be a super cute design. Inspiration for quilting designs are truly everywhere! Be sure to have your camera ready to capture them.

Draw and trace

Draw on regular paper first. Keep in mind the size you will need for your quilt. Make adjustments until it is perfect. As you are drawing, think like a quilter and make the design continuous, to minimize stops and starts.

Once you are happy, trace your design onto Golden Threads Quilting Paper. BTW, all this drawing and tracing is great practice for when you actually quilt the design!

Make a stencil

Take your GT paper to your machine and pin it to a quilt sandwich.

Set your stitch regulation for a longer stitch. I set my HQ Infinity to 6 spi.

Take the thread out of your needle and stitch the design. The needle will punch holes in the paper and you now have a stencil to

mark your quilt

Position your stencil where you want the design. Using your pounce pad, swipe over the paper.

You have nice lines to follow as you quilt!

QUILT

Once you have quilted the design, the pounce powder will easily brush away.

Now you can create a stencil from any design you can dream up!

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doodling tips

We have been following Diane’s adventures in learning to quilt and a few weeks back I gave some doodling tips to help her (and you). You can read that post here.

More Doodling Tips

I have a few more tips that will shorten your learning curve. Things you can do to make your doodling help develop the skills you use when actually quilting.

Define a space

Diane talks about this in her blog post. She found it very helpful to define a space to practice a design in. While quilting you are likely to be quilting within blocks or other defined spaces on the quilt, so practicing within a space helps you to know what works and what doesn’t. And to know how to navigate the space.

Doodling over a wide open space can be helpful in learning to draw a motif and that’s important.

When you doodle inside a defined space, not only do you learn how to draw the motif, you learn how it behaves when you approach an edge. You experience how it can be adjusted. You figure out how to change directions.

You also learn how to avoid getting stuck in a dead end. And how to travel to get yourself back on track to filling the space, without cutting your thread.

Doodle real size

Diane took a photo of her block and then printed it out for some practice doodling.

A happy accident occurred, the print-out was almost the actual size of the block itself.

Diane Harris Doodle tips

She stumbled upon another trick we use and that is doodling in real size. But printing a photo of a block will not always result in an image that is real size. Diane just got lucky with that block!

There are a couple of ways we can create a template of our blocks or areas on the quilt that will allow us to doodle for practice. Or for R & D (research and development), discovering a new design that works to enhance the block. It will allow us to audition designs as well.

Quilter’s Preview Paper

preview paper

Simply lay the clear film over the quilt and use a marker to trace your block or area to be quilted. Use a permanent Sharpie marker for the outline of your block. Then you can doodle in the space with a dry erase marker. Use a scrap of batting to wipe away the dry erase marks and the Sharpie outline will remain so you can try again. (Sharpie marks are easily removed with alcohol and a scrap of batting when you’re ready to move on.)

The other tool you can use is

Golden Threads Quilting Paper

While Quilter’s Preview Paper is a clear plastic film, Golden Threads Quilting Paper is actually paper. It is a high quality tracing paper that is easy to see thru to trace your shapes.

For this you’ll want to use a pencil to trace your block.

One advantage to Golden Threads paper is that if you come up with a fabulous design, you can make a stencil from the paper to mark your quilt for easy, follow-the-line, free-motion quilting. I’ll write about how to do that next week.

Density

Another advantage to doodling real size is it helps to see the density of the quilting. Remember, the denser the quilting the stiffer the quilt will be. For a soft and cuddly quilt you’ll want to keep the quilting designs larger.

It also changes the look of the quilting. Look at these two 4″ squares with swirls in them.

density

Same design but quite a difference in appearance, just by changing up the density of the design.

You can learn so much, just by doodling. Then you’ll come up with your own doodling tips! Please share them in the comments.

Happy doodling!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

Learn

In reflecting back on 2020, one thing is certain, it’s been a year full of change. We had to learn new ways of living. From the way we work, to the way we shop and even the way we learn. And learn we did!

Learning

We learned how to cook at home, everyday, we learned how to share with our neighbors (toilet paper), we learned how to be together, without actually being together. And we learned how to make sour dough bread.

We learned to Zoom.

And we rallied together (but apart) to take on the unique realities and challenges of this year.

Change?

Many things changed in 2020, forcing us to adapt. Change is stressful. So we used quilting to find calm amid the stress. That’s one thing that didn’t change.

HQ is renowned for supporting and educating our machine owners. That’s another thing that didn’t change.

As a company, we at Handi Quilter devoted ourselves to finding new ways to bring you the quality education you have come to expect from us.

Our celebrated hands-on learning opportunities had to be put on hold, for a bit, while we devised a way to safely hold these events at Handi Quilter headquarters and at shops near you.

Handi Quilter University

We consulted with heath and government experts to devise a way to safely hold classes in the Handi Quilter studio. Now we have a safe event, complete with masks and social distancing and hand sanitizer and handlebar covers, to go along with all the excellent information and fun.

Handi Quilter Academy

The premier annual event, that brings together quilters and world-class instructors from all over the world, was impossible to hold as an in-person event. 300 quilters, (as delightful as that sounds), learning and laughing and eating all in one place just could not happen this year. So we found a way to bring those classes to you in a virtual format. HQ Academy 2020 Virtual Sneak Peek presented classes to ticket holders that they can go back and watch as many times as they would like. It was a hit!

Watch and Learn

Wanting to give everyone the opportunity to grow and learn inspired us to start our weekly video program on Facebook called Watch and Learn. It’s a little mini-class that covers all sorts of topics from ruler quilting, to Pro-Stitcher, to free-motion, to how to use various gadgets for quilting. It’s fun and it’s free. You can find it on our Facebook page every Tuesday at noon Mountain time. Post a question in the comments and you’ll get an answer from one of the HQ experts! You can watch recordings of previous shows on our YouTube channel. And be sure to LIKE and Subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. As a bonus, each week a HQ product is featured at a special discount.

What’s next?

It is your drive to keep learning that motivates us – and in 2021 we will continue to think big and create innovations to keep you learning and finishing quilts.

For now, thanks for learning with us.

There are many things we’d like to forget about this year. But hopefully we will never forget all we learned.

We wish you and your families all the best of health, happiness and quilty-ness in the new year.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

Quilting Sideways?

For those who quilt on a frame system with a moveable machine, sometimes it just makes more sense to do the quilting sideways. Normally we load a quilt onto our frame with the top edge at the top and the bottom edge at the bottom. But there are times it can be advantageous to load the quilt sideways. Let me give you some examples.

The seam in the backing runs vertically

If the seam in the quilt back runs vertically, when we roll the backing around the pole, those extra layers of fabric from the seam allowances can cause the backing to get floppy or sloppy. To get wrinkles and puckers or even pleats. There is nothing worse than finishing a quilt only to remove it from the frame and discover you’ve stitched a pleat into the backing fabric. That usually means major un-sewing hours in your future. (Or you can get very creative in the placement of the label, but that’s a topic for another post.)

You can avoid all this by being extra careful while loading the back, smoothing and compressing the seam allowance as you go. Or, you can load the back sideways, so that the seam goes parallel to the pole. The extra layers of fabric run the whole length of the pole and don’t cause any problems at all. You only have to remember to load the quilt top sideways too!

quilting sideways

Be sure when you choose this method that the design you want to quilt is not directional.

Your design will look best quilting sideways

Maybe you want the design to go a certain direction that can only be achieved if you quilt sideways. On the Christmas quilt above, the holly looked better if it was quilted sideways.

So, this quilt had 2 reasons to do the quilting sideways! A vertical seam in the back and a design that looked better sideways. Win-win!

You want to quilt lots of vertical straight lines

Using channel locks lets us quilt perfect straight lines. Our options are physical channel locks,

channel locks

Electromagnetic Channel Locks,

electromagnetic channel locks

or the channel locks built in to Pro-Stitcher.

All three options will allow you to stitch perfect horizontal or vertical straight lines. If your quilt calls for long vertical lines (longer than your throat space), consider mounting the quilt sideways and stitch horizontal lines instead. No thread breaks, no tie offs, perfect continuous lines!

Fewer advances needed when quilting sideways

If you like to get quilts done as fast as possible, quilting sideways usually means fewer advances to complete the quilt. Most quilts are longer than they are wide. Advancing the quilt takes a little time but when you multiply that by the times you need to advance to make it to the bottom of the quilt, it adds up! Load sideways and you will need fewer advances. It will shave a few minutes off your quilting time. Done in time to spend a little quality time with your sewing machine!

I hope you’ll think about quilting sideways and see if it works for your quilts. What tricks do you have up your sleeves that help you quilt better or faster or easier?  Please share!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

When to Frog Machine Quilting – and When to Resist

My friend, HQ Stitch Ambassador, Diane Harris is quilting her scrappy Gypsy Wife on her HQ Capri stationary longarm machine. She’s fairly new to machine quilting. And she is chronicling her adventures with her new machine over on the HQ Stitch blog. This week she asks the question, “when to frog machine quilting – and when to resist?”. Diane says. “I know that ripping out machine quilting doesn’t make you a better machine quilter. It’s practice that makes you better! Nevertheless, I want my quilts to be reasonably well made and that includes the quilting.”

How do you find the balance? Let’s talk.

Definition

Frog: [frawg] verb – to remove stitches, usually with the help of a sharp implement, such as a seam ripper and the occasional un-lady-like word or phrase. Origin: from the sound emitted by the amphibian known as a frog, i.e. rip-it, rip-it.  Synonyms: rip, unstitch, unpick, unsew.

The Quilt

The Gypsy Wife is a sampler design by Jen Kingwell with many blocks in many sizes and lots of long, skinny strips. Don’t you love Diane’s amazing, riotous use of color?

Imperfections?

Diane thought the busy fabrics might hide her wobbles and bobbles that are a normal part of the quilting learning curve. And she was right! Busy fabrics on the quilt top and the backing will certainly hide many imperfections. The trick is to use a thread that will blend with all the colors in the quilt. With all those colors, Diane had a really difficult task!

Diane’s first example is this block:

She was happy with the quilting in the center square except for the long curve at the bottom. I think what made her unhappy is that the long curve is way more visible than the rest of the quilting. The medium colored thread she chose, (a good choice in my opinion), stands out much more on the black fabric where that curve is stitched. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Ask an honest friend

Before you pull out the seam ripper, ask a friend, preferably a quilter friend, for an honest assessment. You both need to trust each other completely for this to work. Your friend needs to know that if she tells you to rip, that you won’t be offended. And you need to truly value her opinion when it comes to quilting and quality. Finding two people who can manage this type of interaction is hard and probably close to impossible. Quilters tend to be really nice people who would rather eat live bugs than hurt a friend’s feelings.

Ease up

The problem with making the assessment yourself is that you are too close. You spent hours piecing the top and so you want the quilting to be spectacular, to make the quilt look its very best. Looking at each and every stitch and expecting that the hours of practice you put in should be paying off by now, clouds your judgement. Take a few steps back. Wait a few days, then look at the overall quilt. Can you still see what you thought might be a mistake? Chances are, you won’t even be able to find it.

Some designs require more accuracy

Here’s my OCD showing!  Diane thought this block was one of the most problematic.

I agree with her. Straight lines need to be straight. Using a quilting ruler can help a bunch to improve the look.

This block is quilted with straight line designs and looks great. I’m pretty sure Diane used a ruler for what she quilted in the green and gray pointy parts. In her blog she says, “This sharply-pointed star isn’t perfect but it’s good enough. Consider it finished.”  I think she’s right!

When to Frog Machine Quilting – and When to Resist

The ultimate question

Diane asks, “How do you decide when it’s bad enough to take out and when it can be left in without utterly destroying your credibility?”

In other (less dramatic) words: when to frog machine quilting – and when to resist.

I think that question can best be answered with a few of questions.

Can you live with it?

Will you cringe every time you look at the quilt and that awful quilting will just scream at you? Then start frogging.

But before you do, give it some time. You may just forget and be unable to find the spot again. Then resist.

Do you think you can do better if you try again?

Maybe a different design will work better in the block? Maybe you can practice quilt a bit on a scrap and then give it another go? Start frogging.

If the design adds texture and does not look messy. Resist.

Do you want to spend the time it takes to frog and re-quilt?

What takes 10 minutes to quilt takes 3 hours to pick out. Is the quilt that important that you will invest your time? Yes? Start frogging.

If you’d rather quilt something else and try other designs, or the quilt is for your sister-in-law and you don’t like her much anyway. Resist.

I suppose it all comes down to the expectations you place on your level of expertise. If you know you can do better and you care about the quilt, then parent yourself. Make yourself take it out and try again. Study, if you have to, by practicing.

Here are some of Diane’s blocks that look just fine. Some she agrees with me, and others not.

Print out this sign and hang it on your quilting room door:

and add this sign too:

Rip or resist? How do you decide? Let us know in the comments.

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Building New Habits

My friend and colleague Diane Harris, HQ Stitch Brand Ambassador, shared some new habits she is building in her recent blog post over on the HQ Stitch page. Be sure to check it out; there are some great habits to get more piecing done. A couple of her habits will really help with finishing more quilts.

Prepare the Backing

Diane says:

When I finish piecing a quilt top, I prepare a backing right then and there. I used to fold up the quilt top and stick it in a cupboard where it languished. I might not think about it again for years. I stopped that bad habit, and I love practicing this new habit!

I don’t enjoy getting the backing ready so if I can conquer that task, I’m one huge step closer to finishing the quilt. And prepping the backing causes me to think about the quilting plan, which again moves me closer to a finish.

I love this idea! I like to make the backings but I don’t do it right away, as soon as I finish a quilt top. Maybe it’s because I have so many other projects going. I feel so great finishing something, and want to get to the others and try to get them finished, too. So I fold up the quilt top and put it aside. My problem is that when I do get a chance to quilt it, I don’t know what I did with the backing fabric. Or maybe I thought I would piece the back from the scraps and leftovers from the top. Those fabric have been stashed away and I don’t really want to hunt for them!

Making the backing right away would solve my issues and would make it so much easier to get to the best part: The Quilting. Thanks Diane! I am going to build this new habit into my routine.

After I read Diane’s post I pulled out a finished top, hunted for and found the backing fabric, and sewed the backing to size. I’m ready to quilt when I get some free time. It feels really good!

Hone your skills with practice

Diane says:

And speaking of the quilting plan, I fill my empty moments with doodling these days. Now there are no empty moments! Doodling lets me consider ideas for quilting. Swirls, ribbon candy, loops, hills and more go down on paper even if they’re uneven and ugly. You never get better if you don’t practice, and most people’s motifs start out at least a little bit ugly.

And did you know it’s better to doodle within a shape than on a blank sheet of paper? I will explain why in the next post.

I look forward to hearing Diane’s explanation! And I have have a few tips that will make your doodling time even more productive in honing your quilting skills.

Use a dry erase board and marker. The marker flows easily over the board similar to the feel of moving a frame machine or moving the fabric with a light touch on a stationary machine. They sell them at the dollar store. Keep it somewhere handy so you can grab it quickly for a few moments of doodling throughout your day.

Use a scrap of batting to erase your marks.The batting absorbs the dry erase ink and it won’t get on your clothes or furniture. Paper towel tends to make the ink flake off, and if that gets on fabric, it will be permanent. Ask me how I know.

If you draw a particularly nice design, snap a photo of it with your phone to save it for future reference.

Muscle memory training

Drawing for practice is all about muscle memory. We tend to draw or write with our hand and forearm down on the paper. To train the muscles you use for quilting lift your elbow up and keep your hand off the paper or board. With your hand and arm down, you are using your finger and wrist muscles to draw.

When you lift your elbow you will use your upper arm and shoulder muscles to create the drawing. These are the muscles we use when quilting, so now you’re training the right muscles and creating muscle memory for quilting.

If you want to get good at something…..you have to practice. Put in your 15 minutes a day. You will improve, I promise!

Thanks, Diane, for the great ideas to build new habits that will help us finish more quilts.

by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator

 

 

 

 

Deep Clean

I was playing with my new Handi Felting Foot recently and decided I needed to do a deep clean before I go back to regular quilting. Haven’t heard of the Felting Foot? You can see it here.

A deep clean is something you should do every so often. Not like the normal maintenance of clearing out lint from the bobbin area and a drop of oil that you do each time you put in a new bobbin. I’m talking deep clean, like actually move the furniture when you vacuum kind of deep clean. Depending on how much you quilt, you might want to do this about once a month. Or if, like in my case, you were working with particularly linty materials.

Remove the throat plate

Warning: if you have an Infinity you might not want to remove the throat plate. There are some parts attached to the bottom of the Infinity’s throat plate. Consult the manual.

You will need a short, flat-head screw driver to remove the two screws holding the throat plate. You probably have one of these that you use with your domestic machine.

The little pink one is magnetic which is a plus because the screws will stick to it.

I like to start by removing the needle and the foot. You will need your small hex tool that came with your machine to do that. Then I remove the throat plate. Mine has extra holes meant for the Felting foot.

Put those little screws in a safe place!

Use your small brush to clean the exposed area. Also, turn over your throat plate and you’ll likely find some lint stuck to the bottom.

Here’s a tip: Plastic mascara wands work great to get into tight places. You can usually get a whole package of them for $1 at the dollar store.

If you have an Amara or Forte or Infinity or Moxie you may use canned air. Just remember: 1. Do NOT shake the can, 2. keep the can upright, and 3. use short, quick bursts of air.

Once it’s all clean and shiny under there, replace the throat plate, the needle and the foot. Place a drop of oil on the bobbin race and you’ll be ready for the bobbin case. But before you put that back in you’ll want to

clean under the bobbin tension spring

Small goobers of lint can accumulate under the tension spring on your bobbin case and cause all sorts of havoc with your tension if they get into the wrong place.

My favorite tool for this little job is the corner of a business card.  The tension spring is the flat metal piece on the outside of your bobbin case.

Start by putting the corner of the card under the tension spring close to the screw you turn to adjust tension.

Then slide the corner of the card under the spring to the other end. You might get a tiny little lump of lint out. You can do this motion a couple of times.

I don’t like to use a pin for this procedure. You will risk getting a minute scratch under the spring which could over time develop into a burr that will shred your thread.

If there’s lint on the inside of your bobbin case use your brush or canned air to clean it out.

That’s all there is to it! You are now ready to finish that next quilt. A clean machine is a happy machine. And a happy machine makes for a happy quilter.

by Mary Beth Krapil, the happy quilter 🙂

 

 

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