Uncategorized Archives - Handi Quilter

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!


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



















Cyber Week Quilt Show

Please join us for our Cyber Week Quilt Show, November 30 through December 7, 2020.

Enjoy all the fun of a quilt show from the comfort of your own home.


Get inspired viewing quilts of all kinds!

We want to feature all the fantastic quilts you have been making this year! Post your quilts to your account on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #cyberquiltshow  You can also search  FB and IG for that hashtag to be inspired by the quilts of others. There will be an active stream of quilts on our Cyber Quilt Show page as well.



Until we can gather together for in-person classes at shows again, we still want to help you learn more, so you can finish more quilts.

Enjoy direct links to several educational videos to stretch your quilting skills. These educational videos are free for all. It’s like classes, that you can watch over and over, any time you’d like.

You’ll also want to grab the opportunity to register for the new  HQ Learn at Home classes premiering Dec 3. Sign up here.

We are kicking off this series of premium online classes with some fantastic Pro-Stitcher offerings with 3 outstanding Handi Quilter educators. If you participated in the HQ Academy sneak peak, you have an idea how it works. The classes are live on Dec 3, 2020 and your ticket will give you access to view the classes again as many times as you’d like.  Learn more details here.

Susan Manry –  Cropping A – Z

Gina Siembieda – Your New BFF’s – Mark, Move & Record

Amy Domke – Everything Borders

P.S. NON-Pro-Stitcher people!  Never fear, there will be many more in this series of Learn at Home classes with various topics. We’ve got you!


Show special pricing on machines!

Another fun part of attending a quilt show is shopping the vendors and getting some fantastic deals. The Cyber Quilt Show is no different.


If you have been waiting for a show to take advantage of show pricing to get the longarm (or Pro-Stitcher) of your dreams, now’s your chance. You can save thousands!

These special prices will also be available from participating local retailers. Find one close to you here.

Hope to see you at the Cyber Week quilt show!

by Mary Beth Krapil


2020-11-27T11:41:33-07:00November 28th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

A Time-Saving Tip

We all want to use our quilting time efficiently. Sometimes a time-saving tip is just the thing that will give you a few extra minutes in your day.

I needed to quilt 3 baby quilts that were approximately the same size. Rather than load the backing fabric for each quilt, I sewed the 3 backings together end-to-end. Then pinned one end to my backing leader and the other end to my take-up leader. I treated the entire thing as one extra-long backing.  Here’s how it works:

Time-saving tip

Carefully measure each quilt and make notes of the measurements.  Measure all your backing fabric and make sure you have enough for each quilt.

Sew the backings together

You’ll want to have the widest backing at the end (quilted last) and the narrowest backing at the beginning (quilted first). That is so you will have even tension on your backing fabrics all the way through the job. Place them in order and make sure they are oriented correctly if there is a directional fabric. One of my fabrics had Paddington Bear with numbers. I had to make sure he was going to be head up, feet down, and the numbers were right side up, in the finished quilt.

Set your machine for a long basting stitch. I set my stitch length to 5 on my HQ Stitch 510 machine (my favorite piecing machine, it sews oh so straight!).

Pin the fabrics right sides together and stitch.

You’ll end up with a really LONG backing fabric.

Load the backing

Just like you would any other backing, rolling on the belly bar and smoothing as you go.

Prepare the batting

I had a piece of batting that would be enough for the first 2 quilts. I did not cut it, I just loaded it as is and trimmed after quilting the first quilt. Then I cut another piece of batting for the 3rd quilt.

Float your top

I usually do not float my quilt tops. I like to have uber control of my fabrics whilst quilting, and loading the top to the top pole helps me have that control.  But when doing multiple quilts like this, I do float. Floating means you will not pin the bottom edge of the quilt top to the top leader. Instead you just lay the quilt top over the batting and let the bottom edge hang free. These are small baby quilts, so I feel I can still control my fabric enough to get good results.

I stitched a plumb line across my batting and backing at the top and lined up the first top with that plumb line. Be sure you know the order that you will quilt the tops so that they match up with the right backing!


Quilt the first quilt however you decide, free-motion, ruler-work, or Pro-Stitcher. Of course I used Pro-Stitcher on my HQ Infinity!

Trim the batting from the bottom of the quilt. I love using my HQ batting scissors, the blunt tip lets me cut close to the completed quilt without cutting the backing.

Prepare to quilt #2

You will see the basted seam between backing #1 and backing #2. Advance the quilt so that you can place the batting at the top of backing #2 and stitch another plumb line. Place quilt top #2 on the batting, lining up to the plumb line. And quilt.

And so on and so forth, until you have completed all your quilts.

Remove your quilts from the leaders and separate them where they are basted together.

Ta-da! Load once, quilt 2 or 3 or 4 at a time.

Now you have some extra time to work on the piecing project you have going. This works even better when all the quilts will use the same fabric for backing.

I hope you give this time-saving tip a try. Let us know in the comments how it worked for you.




2020-11-07T17:22:27-07:00November 8th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|3 Comments

Vintage Zigzag

Our friend, Diane Harris, has been busy finishing UFO’s during her time at home. Her most recent finish is this vintage zigzag quilt.

vintage zigzag

It’s from the Fons and Porter Love of Quilting magazine May/June 2007 issue.

Diane says, “I had all of the printed units with yellow bits made when it became a UFO. Why did I put it away when the bulk of the work was behind me? I made myself stick with it. I knew if I put it away again I would never EVER finish it. There was a lot of easing and pinning and even some swearing because of the miles and miles of bias edges, but I love the finished product and I even have an idea for quilting it. Wouldn’t it be fun to fill each of those green squares with a different quilting design? I must talk to my machine quilting coach Mary Beth Krapil, to see if she thinks that would work. Mary Beth is a Handi Quilter National Educator and a longarm whiz with years of experience in machine quilting, and I count on her to guide me.”

Quilting Ideas

The first thing I thought when I heard Diane’s quilting plan was, how many green squares is that, exactly? So I counted, and there are 33 squares. That’s a lot of designs to come up with and it totals 53 if you want to include the green triangles!  It makes me tired just thinking about it.

That could be because I’m quilting a Jacqueline de Jonge Dream Flight quilt for a friend and I am trying to do different designs in the “moons”.  I’m challenged to come up with lots of variety that will work to create good texture. I’m just getting started.

I also think different designs in all the green squares will just be too busy. But that is my aesthetic showing. I like symmetry and cohesiveness; I like to tie things together with repetition. Diane is a lot more free spirited  than I am when it comes to her quilts. On the other hand I don’t want to discourage her from doing all those designs because, what great practice that would be for someone new to longarm machine quilting! If you haven’t read previous posts, Diane just recently got a HQ Capri stationary longarm machine and is having a blast quilting up her UFO’s and learning about longarm quilting.

So, how about a compromise? Quilt the same design in every other block and in the alternate blocks quilt different designs. I think the same design in alternating blocks would unify the quilt but still give the opportunity for fun, creativity, and Practice.


This vintage zigzag is really neither feminine or masculine. But we can sway it with the quilting.
Something on the feminine side:
or something a little more geometric:
With the geometric choice you will get plenty of ruler work practice! And if you do the other blocks in curvy free form quilting it will add contrast, which adds interest.

Some things to keep in mind

  • When adding your varied designs try to keep the density of quilting as close as possible to the other blocks. This will help keep the quilt flat.
  • The busy colorful zigzags only need something simple because the quilting will not show as much. I’m thinking some free form squiggly lines. That will be quick to quilt and make up for all the time spent on the blocks.
  • If you want a place to practice feathers, these zigzags are ideal! They won’t show your bobbles much.
  • Decide how confident you are with what you quilt in the green squares. If you are feeling bold then go with a contrasting thread so that the quilting will really show! Perhaps feeling a little more timid? Choose a matching thread.
I can’t wait to see what you choose, Diane! Of course I will share the finish here so we can all admire Diane’s work on this vintage zigzag. Stay tuned! And follow Diane’s blog over on the HQ Stitch site.

Adventures in Learning to Longarm Quilt

It has been a few weeks since we visited with Diane and the HQ Stitch blog. We are following my friend, Diane’s adventures in learning to longarm quilt on her new HQ Capri. If you haven’t read the prior posts you can catch up here. Look on the right side and you will see Previous Blog Posts. We started back on April 11, 2020 with the post titled Getting Started with Longarm Quilting.

Diane has come along way in her quest. She overcame her fear and she has experimented with many types of quilting. She’s gotten familiar with her seam ripper, but learned to either stop before the point of no return if what you are quilting doesn’t look right, or Let It Go. In other words, accept the minor imperfections and know that you will get better the more you quilt. She has adopted the slogan:

Finished is Better than Perfect

So here is what Diane has to say a few months into her adventure:

DH: I’m in the habit of keeping something always going on the HQ Capri, so that when I have a few minutes here or there, I can sit down and quilt! Of course the InSight table can be adjusted for standing, but recently I’ve been sitting.

Adventures in longarm Capri

MBK: Yeah Diane! The absolute BEST way to improve at anything (quilting) is to do a little bit every day. You will build your skills and not lose progress like you would if you only quilted once in whenever. Out of all the things I say when I teach a class, this is probably the MOST important thing and probably the statement that is most ignored. Big sigh.

DH: I was on a roll when I finished the peachy-pink, green and gray baby quilt, so I put another similar baby quilt under the needle next. See Diane’s post about the pink baby quilt here.

DH: This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when I made it I was just playing around with half-square triangles and using up stash fabric for the borders. I like the idea that all four sides of a border don’t have to be from the same fabric.

And I’m okay with making a weird quilt. I’d much rather make a weird quilt that’s a little off than make a boring or ho-hum quilt. So this one’s weirdness made it perfect for practice.

Perfect for practice

MBK: When first getting started it really takes the pressure off to quilt quilts that you are not heavily invested in. It’s good to quilt REAL quilts rather than practicing on a piece of muslin. You will try harder on a real quilt.  But don’t choose that quilt top that you spent 1000 hours piecing and you want to put on the bed in your guest room. You’ll be way to invested and it will add stress and make you hunch up your shoulders. No one can quilt well with hunched shoulders. Save that one for later when you’re more confident.

DH: I started off with the solid gray areas by quilting connected squares and rectangles with straight(ish) lines. I used a ruler for a few lines but decided I preferred the organic look with less perfection.

MBK: This is a really good call! Ruler work, although precise, is slow. When quilting we have to weigh a lot of choices. One of those is how much time do I want to invest in this quilt? Once you have an idea about that, you can choose designs accordingly.

DH: I slowed my hands down and focused on making straight lines. And guess what?! Before long, my straight lines got a little straighter. And with that my confidence grew. 

DH: One thing I noticed is that the scale of my squares and rectangles changed noticeably between my first gray area and my last. I’ll tuck that away for future quilts:

The scale for any one motif should be consistent from one area to another.

MBK: A tip for straight patterns with corners: pause in the points. To make things like boxes look good, always pause your hands for a second at the point where you are changing direction. Set your stitch regulator in cruise mode and the machine will take a stitch right in the point making a nice sharp transition.

Consistency in motif size is what makes for nice uniform texture. If some of your motifs are large and open the quilt will poof forward in that area. And if others are small and tight the quilt will be flattened there.

An example of consistency

Let’s say you are doing an all-over meander on a quilt. The spaces in a meander are kind of circular. Notice the red circles placed in the spaces.

adventures in longarm stipple

When I quilt a meander or stipple (name depends on size) I like to think of a round object that I know the size of, like a pea or a quarter or a golf ball. I keep that image in my brain while I quilt. I imagine going around those oranges with my quilting lines. This does 2 things for me.

1. It keeps my meander consistent so that I get uniform texture.

2. It keeps my meander nice and round and I like a nice round meander.

Here’s what happens: you start out quilting a orange sized meander on a quick project and you get bored or in a hurry. The next thing you know your meander is basketball sized! This won’t happen if you keep picturing an orange in your mind’s eye.

This trick works for other shapes as well, like squares! Think dice or diamond ring boxes. 🙂

I hope you are enjoying following Diane’s adventures in learning to longarm quilt along with tips and tricks to help her improve. What have you struggled with? Let me know in the comments.

by Mary Beth Krapil and Diane Harris



HQ Academy Virtual Sneak Peek

What is HQ Academy Virtual Sneak Peek?

That’s a great question!

Handi Quilter LOVES to provide the premium quilting education you need to get the most out of your longarm quilting machine. We want you to know and love your machine and, most of all, to be having fun finishing more quilts. There are many ways we accomplish that from

YouTube videos,

to in-store events,

 hands on classes all over the world,

Kim Brunner Academy

to retreats at the HQ headquarters.

But the premier event of the year is

HQ Academy

This year we had to postpone Academy from June til November.

We are sad that we will not see all your smiling faces this month, as we’re sure you are sad too. So we are hosting HQ Virtual Academy Sneak Peek.

It’s a one day (June 19, 2020) virtual event that features 4 classes to give you a taste of what HQ Academy is all about.

If you’ve never been to HQ Academy and wonder what kind of classes happen there, here’s your chance to find out. Classes will be 1 hour 45 minutes each. We will have a short 15-minute break between classes 1 & 2, a 1-hour break for lunch, then another 15-minute break between classes 3 & 4. Each class will include a live Question and Answer session with the teacher. When you register you will get access to a private Facebook group. Handouts will be available in the Facebook group to download and print out at your home.  If you can’t attend on June 19, you can watch the classes anytime after that day. In fact, you can watch the classes over and over again. The classes will be available for you to watch as long as Facebook supports the group.

Purchase a ticket.

The cost is only $99. Ticket sales end June 17, 2020, so book in now! Go HERE to see the class descriptions and purchase your ticket to HQ Virtual Academy Sneak Peek.

by Mary Beth Krapil


2020-06-11T04:23:27-06:00June 11th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Words We Need

The QuiltCon Charity Challenge is one of the Modern Quilt Guild‘s largest-scale charity projects. Guilds and individual member groups create quilts according to challenge guidelines and after they are displayed at QuiltCon they are donated to the group’s charity of choice. For the 2020 show, groups were challenged to create quilts using text with a palette of grayscale. The vast majority of the quilts incorporated words of encouragement, hope and inspiration. Words we need right now. So I will share these quilts with you in the hopes they will lift you up, bring a smile, and remind you that our world is full of sunshine (even though these quilts are gray).

The Charity Quilts from QuiltCon 2020

Be The Good

Words Quilts from QuiltCon

Be The Good
by Angelina Payton, Paula Pike, Jenny Armour, Carolina Oneto Tapia, Michelle Ramsay, Velda Roy

This quilt was made by an international group from the US, Australia, Brazil and Canada. They were hoping to spark the “good” in everyone. Quilters sure are a powerful community, who will find each other from the far corners of the earth to encourage and help others.


Hugs All Around

words quilts QuiltCon

Hugs All Around
by the Brisbane Modern Quilt Guild

Hugs All Around was made to support a charity that helps people who have experienced domestic violence.  More than 30 members made blocks with the word “hug” in many languages. The circle (symbol for hug) is also symbolic of how a quilt is like a warm hug.



Words quilts QuiltCon

by the Orange County Modern Quilt Guild

Hashtags have become an integral part of social media to identify messages on a specific topic. Hashtags cover the background of this quilt! We have so much information coming at us these days, I think the message of the words is super important. We have to find balance, a place where we can be peaceful and yet stay informed.


Embrace the Detours

Words quilts QuiltCon

Embrace the Detours
by the Washington DC Modern Quilt Guild

We have many detours in our lives right now and the best way to handle them is to follow Kevin Charbonneau’s advice. Thirty members of the Washington DC Modern Quilt Guild created the arrows and letters.

It can be scary but what if  we do embrace the detours…..


What if You Fly?

words quilts QuiltCon

What If You Fly?
by the West End Modern Quilt Guild

The quote “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” is from a poem by a young Australian woman, Erin Hansen, known as the Poetic Underground. Pretty powerful words to keep us going in spite of our insecurities.

If we do keep going, maybe we will….



by the Lincoln Modern Quilt Guild

I love the luminescence of the background! It shows our world really is full of sunshine. Share your words on your quilts. They might just be the words we need.

Keep smiling, keep quilting!

By Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator






Turned a corner?

I hope you’ve been following along with the blog posts chronicling Diane Harris’s adventures in machine quilting. If not, be sure to scroll back and read some of the previous posts. This week, Diane posted on the HQ Stitch blog,”Houston, We’ve Turned a Corner.” Diane says, “I quilted another UFO and for the first time I do not feel like I totally messed it up. I think I have turned a corner. ” Aren’t those happy words?!!

turned a corner Diane Harris

If you’d like to know about the quilt Diane was working on and how it came together, you can read about it here on the original post.

Here is what Diane had to say about her corner-turning experience:

I’ve been practicing machine quilting a lot recently. I have the HQ Capri stationary longarm. Companies used to call them “sit-down” machines, but the Capri can be used while sitting or standing, so “stationary” is an apt description because the machine does not move on a carriage like we think of longarms doing.

turned a corner Capri

It sits still on its Insight table (with stitch regulation!) and you move the quilt freely in its 18″ of throat space. Heavenly.

I may not need a therapist after all (see previous post) because this time I had a plan! Tomorrow I’ll show you how I decided to quilt this UFO.

I’m so Happy that it’s not a UFO anymore!

MB: Can’t you just hear the joy and excitement in her words? That is what finishing your own quilts does; it fills your heart with joy. Turning the corner after a few initial struggles and some practice time, and getting to a place where you feel you really can do it yourself, fills you up with pride. A genuine sense of accomplishment! Yay Diane!

She followed up with another post about how her plan came together:

Turning the Corner, Part 2

I kept the quilting simple, but that’s because Mary Beth Krapil, my tutor in all things machine quilting, has taught me to ask an important question.

How will the Quilt be used?

You don’t need to put heirloom-level quilting on a piece that will be dragged through mud puddles by a toddler.

A giving or community quilt (more appropriate descriptions than “charity” quilt, I think) can be something on which you try a new technique or explore a quilting idea. As they say, “The babies won’t care.”

MB: Quilting giving or community quilts is an excellent way to practice. It is quilting with a purpose. The quilt is actually going to be used, not wadded up and tossed in the corner or used for an animal shelter quilt. Since it will be given to someone, you try harder. You try to make those straight lines straight and those curved lines just the right amount of curvy. It’s quilting “for real”. If you belong to a guild that makes quilts for those in the community that need a bit of comfort, be sure to sign up to quilt a few. The quilt police won’t show up if you cross over on your stipple and that baby in the hospital won’t care a bit!

I used the Handi Quilter Skinny 2″ x 10″ ruler to quilt about 1/4″ outside the daisy petals. I did the same 1/4″ inside and outside the flower centers. It felt like enough.

I used a medium pink Superior Threads Omni and it looked great on all the colors in the quilt.

I used to want to hide my quilting at all costs because I thought it was horrible. But I’ve learned that practice and some help from an experienced pro have made all the difference. I’m starting to dream about the day I will want my quilting to show!

Yes, Diane, you have definitely turned the corner and I am standing on the corner jumping up and down and waving pom-poms!

by Mary Beth Krapil




2020-05-31T20:30:17-06:00May 29th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

And I Quilt celebrity Sandra Mitchell

She’s a trail rider, a wife and she quilts! Sandra Mitchell is our featured And I Quilt celebrity and has a wonderful touching story. Be sure to watch her full length video. And, lucky for us, she has agreed to be a guest here on the blog.
sandra mitchell and horse
Take it away Sandra…..
I am so excited to share with you about some new tools in my “HQ tool box” that I love, Love, LOVE!

HQ Black Light

HQ Black light sandra Mitchell
I used this while making a baby quilt.  It was a panel printed on Minkee.  It was very hard to see my stitching so I clamped the Black Light on the handle bar and the difference was amazing!  I could see my stitching!  I like that the clamp holds securely and it plugs into a USB port on the machine so no cords to get in the way.  Also, the neck is flexible yet stays in place so the light is right where you need it.

Handi Feet Micro Foot

micro foot
I have used it multiple times already.  So you all know, if you are micro quilting you most likely are using 2 layers of batting or in this most recent quilt wool batting and Minkee backing.  In any case the Handi Micro Foot glides effortlessly across the quilt while allowing you to see your entire stitching area.  And yes, you can use the Black Light and Micro Foot together for a win-win!  I can’t say enough about this little guy.  If you like to micro quilt this is a game changer for sure!

HQ Curvy Ruler

(note: this ruler is one from the Ruler of the Month Club 6, available to club members only at this time  – it will be available to everyone at the end of this club session, in September 2020)

ROM 6 Curvy
The Curvy ruler will definitely be my go to ruler for Continuous Curve from now on! This ruler has the perfect arc on each side so no more searching for a ruler that fits the block or triangle I am working on.  I have used this one a few times already and each time it has fit the space perfectly.  I also like that I can stitch a double line all with the same ruler.  It is easy to hold and I can quickly turn and re-align it.  I love my rulers and this one is a winner!
Thanks HQ for continuing to come up with new ideas to inspire and improve our quilting journey!
I hope all of you are healthy and finding and sharing inspiration through quilting and sewing!
I’m a Trail Rider, a Wife and I QUILT!
Sandra Mitchell
Thanks Sandra for joining us and for your inspiring story! We are so glad you enjoy all the fun tools we have for our longarm quilters. You and your fellow And I Quilt inspiration squad members are examples of who Handi Quilter is all about, quilters who want to finish more quilts to add beauty and comfort to their lives and their families. We strive to provide the best tools, education, and inspiration so you can do that.
If you haven’t seen the other And I Quilt stories you can see them here. And there are more to come! Don’t forget to take advantage of Sandra’s limited time savings on HQ Electromagnetic Channel Locks.
Keep finishing more quilts!
2020-05-01T16:08:19-06:00May 16th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Machine Quilting and Muscle Memory

Diane Harris has been sharing her adventures as a new stationary longarm machine owner. She is making friends with her HQ Capri. I came across this vintage blog post from Diane over at the HQ Stitch page. Diane wrote this in September 2018. It’s all about machine quilting and muscle memory. I thought I would share it here because it is so spot on! Have you all been doing your 15-minute-a-day machine quilting play time? It’s so important to build your skills, but sometimes you just can’t be near your machine. In that case, pull out that pencil and paper and get to drawing!

Machine Quilting and Muscle Memory

by Diane Harris, HQ Stitch Brand Ambassador

comments by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator

A while back, my friend LeeAnn Meduna gave a guild program on her machine quilting journey. She started out quilting on a domestic sewing machine, and later she got a longarm. Her quilts were beautiful and inspiring, but one thing she said really stood out for me.Leann Meduna Muscle memory quilter

LeeAnn brought along her sketchbook, in which she had spent hours and hours drawing quilting ideas with a pencil. She said it was the most important part of learning to machine quilt. I thought about that for a long time. Really?! The most important part! Who knew?

muscle memory sketchbook

You may have heard the term “muscle memory.” I did some research into what that really means. I like this explanation from lifehacker.com:

Muscle memory is not a memory stored in your muscles, of course, but memories stored in your brain that are much like a cache of frequently enacted tasks for your muscles. It’s a form of procedural memory that can help you become very good at something through repetition…

Think of tying your shoes or signing your name. You’ve done those things so many times that the procedure is stored in your brain. You don’t even have to think about it.

Have you ever watched a child who is just learning to tie his shoes? You can almost see the wheels turning in his little mind. He thinks about each step in sequence, and about how to complete each one. Eventually he will become like you, having built muscle memory so that he doesn’t think about the process at all. He just does it.

muscle memory quilting

Machine quilting is like that. It doesn’t matter if you’re quilting on a domestic like HQ Stitch or a longarm like Handi Quilter. It’s tremendously helpful if you have the shapes engraved on your brain, so to speak, so that you can just quilt them without thinking too hard.

You’ll have smoother shapes. You’ll have a better idea of how the shapes fill up the spaces, where to go next and how best to get there.

MB: I have to pipe in here with a few thoughts and a tip. Although the definition Diane quoted claims that muscle memory is mostly brain memory, there really is a muscle component. True, you train your brain to execute the path of a design and create the memory of where to start and where to go next and which shape comes next. But you also train your muscles and the nerve endings connected to those muscles with a certain sequence. Think about dance, if you will. You can memorize the sequence of the moves and remember them without ever moving your body. But when you actually move to the music and use repetition (practice) your moves become smoother and more elegant. Quilting is no different!

Tip #1

When you draw to practice your quilting, you should raise your elbow up off the desk. This way you are using the muscles you actually use when quilting. Whether you move the quilt, or move the machine, the muscles you use are your shoulder muscles and your upper arm muscles.  If you keep your elbow down when you draw, just like you normally would when you write, the muscles you use are your wrist and finger muscles. (Try it.) But when you raise your elbow up, it brings the shoulder and upper arm muscles into play. (give it a try!) Train the right muscles.

Tip #2

Never lift your pencil from the paper. Quilting is, ideally, continuous, so that we don’t have to make knots to secure our thread ends, stops and starts. More continuous = fewer stops and starts = fewer knots = more beautiful quilting. Draw like a quilting machine, continuously.

DH: I love Handi Quilter’s Minute Motifs for this purpose. Each one lasts about a minute, so it doesn’t take up much of your day.

Handi Quilter Minute Motifs

Each Minute Motif video focuses on a single quilting design. It shows a quilter’s finger tracing the design so you can see exactly how it’s done. Select the full-screen icon at the bottom right of the screen to get the best view. It’s the one on the far right.

The full-screen icon is the one on the far right.

Click it to make the video fill up your computer screen.


After you’ve watched the video a couple of times, download the free pdf which is listed with every Minute Motif video. Print it and then trace it over and over with your finger. Each repetition helps build your muscle memory of that motif.

MB: Here’s a tip: Slip the printout into a plastic page protector and use a dry erase marker to trace it over and over.

DH: Get out your sketchbook (any notebook will do, it doesn’t need to be fancy) and pencil and draw it yourself a couple of times or until you feel comfortable and the motif looks good. Repeat this process daily for several days, and then layer up a practice sandwich and give it a try on your sewing machine or your longarm.

If you cultivate your muscle memory in regard to machine quilting on a regular basis, you’ll improve greatly. As LeeAnn said in her program, drawing in your sketchbook may be the most important part of learning how to machine quilt, no matter what kind of machine you’re using.

MB: So Diane, I guess you knew all along that daily practice makes perfect. 🙂 Machine quilting and muscle memory go hand in hand.



2020-05-01T15:12:51-06:00May 2nd, 2020|Categories: Capri, Education, Uncategorized|0 Comments
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