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