by Mary Beth Krapil

This is the season of New Year’s resolutions and self-help advice. The time when we take stock and resolve to improve some area of our lives. The first step is to eliminate habits that are holding you back and quilting is no different. We can sometimes fall into bad habits that steal our success and joy in our quilting endeavors.

Here’s a fast 5 things to avoid while quilting, to improve your results and your quilting happiness.

No.1 – Looking at the needle when free motion quilting. You will get much smoother quilting lines and prettier designs if you look ahead to your goal rather than looking at the needle. It’s learning where to look that takes some thought and practice. Here’s some ideas to get you started. If you are quilting a zig zag design like this:

You start your line of stitching at 1, right away your eye should be on 2. When you reach 2, your eye goes to 3 etc……..

Or quilting clamshells.

Same thing. You start your line of stitching at 1, right away your eye should be on 2, the top of your clam, your goal. Your brain knows you are quilting a curve and you will quilt a nice smooth curve. If you look at the needle you try too hard and you will end up with wiggles. When you reach 2, your eye goes to 3 etc…….. To apply this to any design, break the design down into basic shapes, straight line, curve, S-shape, etc. Start at one end of that shape and the other end will be your goal.  Keep your eye on the goal!

No.2 – Putting items (scissors, marking tools, rulers, chocolate….) on the quilt. Or on the little area between the top pole and the belly bar (backing pole). This will distort your quilt. This is especially bad if you are a Pro-Stitcher user. Placing items on the little shelf between the top bar and the belly bar can be very dangerous! Those things can be forgotten and will slip between the layers of the quilt when you advance your fabric. It’s not fun to hit a pair of small scissors that are hidden beneath the top fabric. Or, as once happened to me, I managed to miss hitting the scissors only to discover them while applying the binding to the quilt! Get a tool tray to keep all those things handy, but off the quilt!

N0.3 – Using the wrong thread for the project at hand. There are so many threads to choose from. Why not take advantage of the one that will make your quilting be its best? The best tool for the job, as they say. For instance, stitch in the ditch on a quilt with high contrast between the fabrics.

Think, if you will, of a black and white checker board. What color thread would you choose to make your stitch in the ditch sink into the ditch? White will show on the black fabric, and black will show on the white fabric. Gray will show on both black and white. Give monofilament thread a try, it’s nearly invisible (which you will find when you try to thread your needle) (Small tip: take a sharpie marker and color the end of the thread, then you will be able to see it when you are threading the needle.)

That’s just one example. Take a bit of time to visit the Superior Threads website. There is a ton of information for you to learn about thread and you can see all the yummy thread possibilities. I’m sure you will get some ideas for your next project.

No.4 – Leaning on the poles while using Pro-Stitcher. When you lean against the poles of your frame you distort the fabric. So when you are creating an area for positioning your design or when you are doing your stitch-out, stay away from the poles. That slight movement of fabric can cause designs to not line up as perfectly as they should. Teach your family to never touch the frame while they watch your Pro-Stitcher at work too!

No.5 – Being overly critical of your work. We are all at different places in our quilting journey, beginner to advanced. When you finish a quilt, you can take a good look at your quilting and decide where you want to improve. Once you have set that goal, celebrate that you made the time to quilt (something you enjoy). Celebrate that the quilt is finished! Congratulate your self on small improvements.

Happy New Year!