Quilting life Archives - Handi Quilter

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

 

 

 

 

Handi Felting Foot Kit

I’ve been having a blast creating new fabrics and projects using my felting foot on my Amara. The Handi Felting Foot Kit transforms your HQ longarm into a felting machine with infinite possibilities! It creates new fun you can have with your Handi Quilter machine. I must give you the Sewing Surgeon General’s warning: felting is addictive.

Handi Felting Foot

 

What is Felting?

The Handi Felting Foot Kit puts a modern twist on an old way of creating embellished fabric by meshing fibers together so they interlock and become one. The kit includes a needle body that holds 5 barbed needles that will punch the fibers and mesh them together and a special foot that will protect your fingers and hold the fibers in place as you work.

Select your fibers

Needle felted cloth is fun, easy and quick to create. All that is need is a base fiber and bits of other fibers to add to the base. The fibers can be anything that can be penetrated by a needle: silk, yarn, wool or silk roving, tulle, cheese cloth, ribbons, fleece, lace, felt, burlap, sheers batting. Some fibers work better than others for this technique; experimentation is key. At least one of the 2 fibers you wish to combine needs to be fibrous, like felt or wool. Trying to felt 2 layers of a smooth finish fiber like quilting cotton or 2 layers of sheers doesn’t work well. You must play with your yummy fibers and textiles and see what you get!

Machine Prep

Once you have your assortment of fibers, refer to the Handi Felting Foot Instruction Manual to get the needles and foot attached to your machine. You can also watch the video to see how to get set up.

If you quilt on a movable machine it is helpful to attach your ruler base to provide a flat surface for laying out your fibers.
Remove the bobbin case from the machine and set it aside. Felting creates huge quantities of lint.

Be sure to clean the bobbin area frequently while felting and when finished clean thoroughly and oil the bobbin race before starting a quilting project.

 

 

 

 

 

Machine Settings

Set the machine to manual mode. Go slow when first starting until you have a feel for how it goes. I like the machine speed to be about 500 SPM. This allows me to move at a nice moderate pace. You want to keep moving, staying in one place too long can create a hole or can push all the fibers to the back of the piece. Different fibers require different amounts of felting to meld the fibers together.
Set your needle to stop in the up position so that you can move away and add more fibers without having to raise the needles.

Mounting the base fabric

If you needle felt with a movable machine, (Amara, Forte, Simply Sixteen, Avante, Fusion), you can mount your base fabric by attaching it to the leaders. If the piece is not large enough, simply baste some muslin or scrap fabric to the edges and attach that fabric to the leaders. Mounting to the leaders is not necessary however, you can always use channel locks to keep your machine stationary and use the ruler base to give a surface to support the fabric. That allows you to move your fabric under the needles just like you would do on a stationary machine. It works well for  smaller pieces. If you needle felt on your Sweet Sixteen or Capri, you are ready to go.

Getting started felting

Start simple with two layers of craft felt. Use one piece for the base and cut out a simple shape from another piece. Lay the shape where you’d like it on the base fabric. Move the machine over the shape and start by lightly going over the entire shape to tack it down starting in the center and moving out to the edges. Once tacked in place go back and felt securely. You will quickly see how fast or slow you need to move to get the desired results.

Next try some yarn. Use caution so as to not get your fingers near the needles. Needle felting is a very organic technique so don’t be too worried about being exact. Try felting the yarn as it comes from the skein and also try separating the fibers.

 

Now you’re hooked

Add as much or as little you’d like. Once you take it off the frame you can trim it and add a piece of felt or cotton batting to the back, running a line of stitches down the center. Fold over on the stitch line and you’ve got a fancy little needle book to use for those hand stitching projects.

Felting: You’ve got this

Learning to needle felt is an easy transition from free motion quilting. Since you are already a longarm quilter, you already have the feel for free-motion quilting and needle felting is very much the same motion. You might not be accustomed to running your machine in manual mode. Since there are no “stitches” to show and no thread, it doesn’t matter and the smooth sound of the machine at a constant speed helps you to move smoothly. One thing you want to remember is to have the machine set at a faster speed and you should move the fabric (or the machine) at a slower rate. This will help prevent breaking needles. Also remember to have the needle stop set for UP. Learn more by watching the HQ Watch and Learn show about the Felting foot.

What will you felt first?

by Mary Beth Krapil

And I Quilt Personality, Dorien Keusseyan

This week we hear from And I Quilt personality, Dorien Keusseyan. Dorien is a hockey player, a mom, and she quilts. Before COVID, Dorien led an active, busy life as an athlete and mother, but always found time for quilting.

A pandemic has a way of changing what everyday life looks like. But it didn’t change Dorian’s love of quilting and giving. She dug deep into her favorite endeavor to find a place of peace. And she found a way to comfort a friend along the way. Here’s her story:

 

My COVID escape

Quilting keeps me going, especially in these most recent times of uncertainty. My hours used to be filled with a part-time job and sports, both playing and watching. When COVID-19 hit, and hit hard, it turned so many people’s worlds around, including mine. These freed-up hours left me with less of an identity in a way, too, and with no real good news on the news, unrest started to overtake me. I needed an escape. My Handi Quilter Amara did just this for me.

Dorian Kuesseyan and her Amara

Making masks

It was during those first few months that I, like so many of us with the gift of sewing talent, turned to my machines for mask-making. Making masks for friends, family, and donation kept my mind busy and made me feel like I was making a difference. I did make a difference. We all made a difference, a very important difference. I am thankful for keeping my family safe and share that with others.

Quilting

Once I made a few hundred masks, I turned to my quilting, a more artistic outlet. I have always been a better person when busy, so that’s what I did, I kept busy with Ms. Amara. Since the COVID shut down I pieced and gave away 9 quilts, most of them queen sized! Imagine, my husband thought I’d never use all the fabric I had. I continue to sew and quilt several hours each day. I also quilted many benefit quilts for my guild. I try to do ten each month.

I managed to quilt for hire a bunch of tops for some folks near me too. Quilting and spreading love and happiness puts me in my happy place. Buying my Handi Quilter was perhaps one of the best and most fulfilling things I have ever done. Not only is my studio my favorite place in the house, it makes me feel complete. I am part of a community, the Handi Quilter community, and feel like we are all family.

Focus

Quilting demands attention to detail and focus, which clears my head. This escape is amazing. I love creating and showing off the finished product, social media is a great forum for this. Cruising social media groups is also a great place for collecting ideas for projects. Often when I am stumped for an idea for a place to start with a top, I turn to the internet.

Bringing the community together

One of those nine quilts that I made during the early part of COVID really brought my community together when we needed it most. The school nurse at Arlington High School, Sarah Lee Bolt, who is a friend and neighbor, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I happened to be at the gym, where I worked as a personal trainer, with another friend and neighbor who informed me of this. This client at the gym mentioned to me that the signup genie was all full, so I thought, there’s gotta be something I can do for her, as she has done so much for our community and my sons in particular. I’m betting you can guess what I did? Yup, made a quilt.

It was a community effort though! I ironed muslin onto freezer paper. Thankfully, I had it on hand since all the shops were closed. And started an email and texting effort to get other friends and neighbors of hers to write inspiration and healing messages on these squares with fabric markers. I planned to put them together into a quilt.

A parade!

After a few weeks and lots of coordination, I had 48 blocks! I can’t tell you how many people who got the bag with the blocks were in tears after reading the finished blocks. It still brings goose pimples to me just typing this. Once complete, we neighbors organized a car parade that actually made the local news!

This quilt was incredibly uplifting for her and got me thru that first month, when I wasn’t sure how long things were going to be like they are – this new normal. My new normal includes escaping with everything quilting!

Thanks, Dorien! I think so many of us quilters can relate to your story. Keep on quilting, it’s a life safer!

 

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