practice tips Archives - 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 – 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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