beginner quilting 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 – Getting Loopy

Back for more free-motion quilting this week! It’s time to try our hand at loops. I think that loopy designs are the most forgiving and the easiest to quilt. Often times with other shapes we have to try really hard to make the shapes uniform in size and proportion in order to make the quilting look its best. With loops, even if they are different sizes and some are round and some are tall and skinny, they still look good. Unlike a stipple, where you cannot cross lines, with loops you have to cross the lines! The motion to create loops is very smooth and easy-going. So let’s just dive right in and get loopy.

Loopy Meander

This is the easiest free-motion design to quilt in my book. Just start making loops. Make them go in all different directions. Fill up any space with loops.

loopy meander quilting design

Notice how they are pointing in all different directions and some are large and some are smaller and some are round and fat and some are more oval shaped? Easy! Oh, but there is one thing you do need to pay attention to when you quilt a loopy meander. To make your quilts look their best, no matter what design you are quilting, you want an even distribution of texture.

Even distribution of texture

What does that even mean?!!

It means you want the quilting lines in the design to be approximately, evenly spaced apart. In other words, you don’t want a bunch of loops really close together and then a big space and then some more loops.

If I fill the same space as the first example with loops like this, it will not look good on a quilt. The tightly spaced loops in the upper left will make the quilt flatten out. There will be poofy-ness in the big open space where there are no loops. This will cause the quilt to be lumpy. Lumpiness is never attractive. You don’t want lumpy gravy, you don’t want lumpy thighs and you don’t want lumpy quilts.

Achieve even distribution of texture by spacing your loops approximately the same distance apart and don’t leave any large gaps where there are no loops. How do you do that? Use The Secret. Remember the secret? Look ahead. And plan where you will go next. Practice this every day (15 minutes!). Draw a shape (square, rectangle, triangle) on your fabric and fill it with loops. Draw another and fill it with loops. The more you do it, the better you will get at looking ahead, planning your next move and filling the shape without any gaps and getting an even distribution of texture.

Advanced practice: draw a shape and then draw another shape within the first one. Like a heart within a square. Quilt around the inside shape but not over it.

This example is a stipple, but you get the idea. We will get to stipple quilting soon.

Simple loopy border design

You can quilt loops all in a row for a very fast and easy border design.

It works great for smaller borders and for sashings. You see I alternated the direction of the loops, mostly, but every now and then I threw in two loops in the same direction. I’m going to say I did this on purpose, to create interest. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉

Well, just maybe, I got distracted when I was quilting that loopy border and forgot to alternate direction. So I fixed my mistake by doing it again every so often to make it look like it was intentional.

Pro-tip: If you make a mistake, do it 3 more times and then it becomes a design choice.

Mantras

That brings me to the topic of mantras.

Mantra is defined by dictionary.com as a word or phrase chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer; or an often repeated word, formula, or phrase.

In quilting, I use mantras when I am quilting a pattern that repeats regularly to help me keep the pattern going. Like the loopy border design.

One loop goes up

and one goes down

So if I am quilting a loopy border horizontally I will say, out loud, “Up….Down…..Up…..Down…..”

If I’m quilting the side borders vertically I will say, out loud,

“Right…..Left…..Right…..Left”

It keeps me in the pattern. Otherwise, if I don’t say the mantra, my mind starts to wander and I’m thinking about what to have for dinner or how many yards of backing fabric I need to buy for the top I just finished or…., well you get the picture. And when my mind wanders, I end up with 3 or 5 UP loops and no DOWN loops. 🙁

Notice that I say the mantra out loud. If I only think the mantra, saying it in my head, I will still wander off.

Thinking it might work for you. You’ll have to try it and see. That way, your friends and family will not think you are weird when you are shouting, “up..down..up..”

L’s and E’s

Moving on to a little more challenging loopy design know as L’s and E’s. It’s a simple design that is just like writing cursive lower case l’s and e’s. It is a go-to design that you’ll find yourself using over and over.

Simple loops all going in the same direction. One loop is tall (the L) and one loop is shorter (the E). Sounds easy, right? This is a design that I really need to sing a mantra for.

L ….. E ….. L ….. E ….. L ….. E

It’s so easy to get distracted quilting this pattern because it is so easy to quilt. And it doesn’t look that good with 3 L’s in a row.  So use the mantra and you’ll do fine.

Here are a few hints to make the design look more professional.

Pitfall: slanted loopy letters

Because this is so similar to cursive writing, we all have a tendency to slant the letters just like we were taught to do when writing.

But for quilting, the design looks best when the L’s and E’s are straight up and down.

So a trick you can use is to quilt over a grid.

You can mark the grid on your quilt with a ruler and removable marker or use a grid stencil. The vertical grid lines help to keep my letters straight up and down.

Pitfall: different sizes of L’s and E’s

If your L’s are not all close to the same size and your E’s are not shorter than your L’s it blurs the beauty of the design.

The grid helps with this as well.

The horizontal grid lines help to keep my tall L’s all the same height and my short E’s all the same. I just touch the tops of the loops to the appropriate horizontal grid line.

Pitfall: Uneven spacing

I like to stitch my letters on the grid lines. (Another way is to stitch your letters in the grid spaces.) If I put a letter on each line, my letters stay evenly spaced. I achieve an even distribution of texture!  That makes me happy and my quilt beautiful!

When I’m done quilting I remove the grid markings and my design looks great!

Advanced practice: Stitch a line of L’s and E’s and then under it stitch another line that is flipped. Like this:

Isn’t that pretty?

 

That’s plenty for you to practice this week. We will certainly learn more loopy designs in the future.

Have fun quilting!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Putting it Together – Straight

So, you’ve been practicing quilting those five basic shapes in all different orientations. Now it’s time to start putting it together into free motion designs, basic ones that are fun to use on quilts. We will start with straight lines.

Putting it together – Straight lines

Modern quilters love straight line quilting. So do traditional quilters. You really can’t go wrong with straight lines. Here are some super useful straight line design ideas you’ll use over and over again.

Piano Keys

Piano keys is probably the #1 most useful quilting design ever. I use it on almost every quilt somewhere.

Piano keys are most often used in long narrow sections of a quilt such as borders or sashings. There are a gazillion variations of piano key designs. If you don’t believe me, just Google it or search on Pinterest.

When quilting piano keys, the straight line quilting usually goes perpendicular to the edge of the border and the lines are, usually, evenly spaced apart.

Pro tip: An advantage to the piano key design is that it takes up fullness in a border.

The basic piano key looks like this:

and is stitched like this:

 

You can vary the spacing like this:

This design is sometimes referred to as Beadboard.

And you can double or even triple stitch your straight lines. Like this:

Or you can even try slanted straight lines, like this narrow border at the top and on the left:

Keeping straight

You might notice that my straight line quilting is very straight. That’s because I use a longarm quilting ruler to guide my hopping foot as I quilt. It’s kind of like using a ruler and a pencil to draw a straight line on paper. The pencil is my needle. My ruler keeps my lines straight.

Another way of achieving straight lines is to use channel locks for straight horizontal and straight vertical lines. There are two options for channel locks, Electromagnetic Channel locks and wheel-lock type channel locks. Both work great!

We will delve into ruler work quilting in future blog posts. For now, just know that you can accomplish these straight lines with simple free motion. They will be straight-ish. And that’s OK!

Pro Tip: Give yourself guidelines to keep your piano keys spaced the way you want them. A simple way to do that is to use a ruler and chalk to mark the intervals. For example: put a little dot of chalk every 1/2 inch along the edge of the border. Then stitch a straight line at each mark. Travel along the edge of the border, don’t break thread in between. You might even mark the piano keys with chalk. That will help keep you going straight and keep your keys standing up straight like soldiers.

Bricks

Bricks is a fun design that’s easy to quilt. And it quilts fast!

(Note: the green circle is the start and the red circle is the end in all the examples.)

Start at the left side of the first row of bricks. Stitch the bricks in rows. I stitched up – right – down – up -right – down- up -right etc. When you’re ready, start the next row and stitch it right to left. Be sure to alternate the spaces between the bricks in subsequent rows, so it looks like real bricks. Keep going in rows til your space is filled.

You can use Bricks as an all-over design, as a background filler, even as a border. It just depends on the size you make your bricks.

Stars

Stars can be used in blocks or connected by loops or a meander for an all-over design.

Two kinds of stars are pretty easy to stitch.

Teacher’s Stars

Remember back in grade school your teacher would put a big star on your paper if you did a good job? These are the easiest stars to draw and stitch. Here is the path you take:

Remember to pause in the points (go back here and read the Pro tip) to get nice sharp star points.

This star has quilting lines in its center. If you prefer an

Open Star

it’s a little harder to draw and quilt. But I have some tips for you to make it easier.

Start with a Witch’s Hat like this:

That’s not too hard. Then imagine another Witch’s Hat that overlaps the first. Like this:

Then you only have to stitch the V-shape (circled)

Visualizing the witch’s hat helps to get the correct angle on the lines so that your star comes out looking nice. Note that the left and right “brims” are on the same plane. They form a straight line and the “peak” of the hat is an upside down V-shape right in the middle.

Then just add 2 more star points using the witch’s hat visualization trick and you’ve got a beautiful open star!

This open star is a design you might want to practice drawing on paper until it becomes natural for you. Then go to the machine to quilt it.

Here are a couple more straight line designs that you can practice this week. I know you can figure out the path pretty easily.

Pro tip:  When quilting designs like these, they look best when the spacing between the quilting lines is similar. They don’t have to be exact, but similar. It helps to create nice even texture on your quilt. Use the edge of your hopping foot to give 1/4 inch spacing. Ride the edge of the hopping foot along the previously quilted line.

Greek Key

Squared Spiral

Have fun giving these designs a try! How’s that 15 minutes a day working for you? Are you being faithful? I’m watching you!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners, Theory

Now that you’re ready, we can delve a bit into the theory. Wait, you’re not ready? Be sure to read Part 1 and prepare to have some fun learning free motion quilting.

Theory

Theory sounds boring, right? But I’m a big believer that the more you know, the more you can do. And this is not rocket surgery or even brain science. Just a little deeper thought into what forms free motion designs.

All the designs we can ever quilt or even think of quilting are made up of 5 basic shapes.

5 Basic Shapes

Take a look at any quilt or photo of a quilt where you can see the quilting. See if you can pick out these shapes in the quilting designs.

Straight line

straight line quilting

 

Curve

curve quilting

Curves are all over quilting. You’ll find them everywhere you look!

 

 

Loop

loop quilting

 

S-curve

 

Hook (or spiral)

hook quilting

You already know these

They are basic shapes and you are quite familiar in drawing them. I know you know this, because they are the same shapes you use in cursive writing. You know how to sign your name, you know these shapes!

Remember back in school when you were learning to write? Your teacher had you practice over and over again to perfect the shapes you were forming. Sound familiar?

And you got better and better.

If you are thinking, “my handwriting is not so good, maybe I’m not cut out for doing free motion quilting.”  Do not despair!

Quilting is much more forgiving than penmanship! In writing, the letters all need to be the same size and slant in the same direction and be spaced apart equally. Remember this?

Those lines on the paper were guidelines to help you keep your letters all the same size. And your words nice and straight.  In free motion quilting you don’t have to worry so much about that.

It’s OK to have different sizes. And it’s actually desirable to have the shapes going in different directions! It’s OK if some of your loops are fat and round and some are long and skinny.

Assignment

Here’s what to do this week in your 15 minutes a day, (that you signed the contract for).

Practice quilting each one of the shapes for 15 minutes. One per day.

Make the shape in all different directions and orientations, since that is what you will need to do when free motion quilting actual designs.

Pay close attention to how it feels to move the machine. Is it easier to move horizontally? Diagonally? Can I make the lines straight? or just straight-ish?

Pro Tip: When quilting points (as in the design above) pause in the points. Quilt the straight line, come to the end where you want to change directions and pause for as long as it takes you to say the word “pause”. If you are new to this, actually say the word out loud, until it becomes second nature to pause in the points. “Quilt, quilt, quilt, PAUSE, quilt, quilt, PAUSE…..”

It gives your body and brain time to re-set for the next line. Setting your machine in Cruise mode (if that’s possible on your machine) allows the machine to take a stitch right in the point. This results in a sharp point every time.

After you have done a day for each shape, use the other 2 days this week to combine shapes together. See what you can come up with.

Don’t stress over it, just let it flow. If you create something interesting, take a photo! And share in the comments.

Have fun this week!

by Mary Beth Krapil

Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners, Part 1

With so many new Moxie owners out there, I am going to start a series of tips on free-motion quilting for beginners. These tips will not only apply to those using movable machines on a frame, (like Moxie, Amara, Simply Sixteen, Forte, and Infinity) but also to stationary machine quilters. That means Capri and Sweet Sixteen owners, as well as domestic machine quilters, will benefit from the series as well. I hope you’ll all come along!

Getting Started

To prepare to really improve your skills will take a few steps. No worries, they are easy!

#1 – Make the commitment

I am a huge advocate of practice when it comes to quilting. The key is to practice EVERY DAY. Yes, you read that right, I said every day, (shouted it actually). I can hear you groaning. But do not despair.

I suggest you set aside 15 minutes in your day to devote to free motion quilting practice. That is not a huge time commitment. I think you can find 15 minutes in your day to do the thing you love to do and get better at it.

Don’t think of it as “practice” (like when your parents MADE you practice piano). Think of it as “Play”.

The reason behind doing it every day is that “muscle memory” thing. And building your skills little by little, consistently. There’s nothing worse than taking 2 steps forward but having to take one step back because you skipped days and forgot what you learned on the first day. So you have to go back and start over again.

So, raise your right hand and repeat after me……

“I (state your name) promise to devote 15 minutes in my day to play at what I love to do, free motion quilting, so that I can improve my skills and love quilting even more than I already do. I promise to do this every day without fail. Just like brushing my teeth, but better, because it will be fun.”

Preparation

This might take a bit of time. You’ll need to find your practice materials and get them ready, so you don’t waste any of that precious 15 minutes on anything but stitching.

Prepare your fabric

If you are a movable machine quilter, load your machine with practice fabric. If you are a stationary machine quilter make up a stack of quilt sandwiches, at least the size of a fat quarter or larger. Here are some ideas of what you can use:

  • inexpensive muslin
  • fabric from your stash. The ones that when you look at them you say to yourself “what was I thinking when I bought this?” are perfect for practice.
    • Tip: Load upside down so that you are stitching on the wrong side of the fabric. You will be able to see your stitching much better that way.
    • Warning: this will take way longer than you might think. You will be looking at all your fabric, which can be super distracting. You might want to devote an afternoon, or an entire day or two, depending on the size of your stash and how easily you get distracted.
  • Old sheets or sheets purchased at the thrift store

Batting

You know those strips of batting that you cut off after you finish quilting a quilt? SAVE them!

They work great for practice. You don’t have to worry about sewing them together. It’s just practice! Simply lay them next to each other on top of your backing fabric. No worries if there are gaps. It’s practice! Errr, I mean PLAY!

Here is my bag of saved strips (chair included for size):

bag of batting strips for free motion quilting practice

I also use these strips on my Swiffer!

swiffer sweeper

Strips laid out on top of a fat quarter:

I don’t worry about the gaps or the wrinkles. It’s practice folks!

Thread

Get out that old thread from your Grandma’s sewing basket. You probably wouldn’t want to use it in a real project, but as long as it doesn’t break every 2 minutes, it’s fine for practice/play.

The orange thread had a price of 50 cents marked on it! That’s OLD!

If you don’t have any old thread then purchase something inexpensive. Save the good stuff for your real quilts!

Assignment

That’s your assignment for this week. Gather your materials and load up your frame or make up your quilt sandwiches. Next week we’ll get to stitching.

One more thing

A couple of things you might want to have on hand, but are not a necessity:

  • A white board and dry erase markers
  • plastic page protector
  • HQ Super clamps for your movable machine frame. Be sure to get correct the size for your frame, they come in 3 sizes for the Gallery frame, the Studio frame, or the Loft frame. (I’ll explain how I use these next week)

Till then….. have fun in your stash! 🙂

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Thread Break Sensor

Many Handi Quilter machines are equipped with a thread break sensor. The sensor lets you know with an audible alarm that your thread is broken. This can be especially useful to Pro-Stitcher users. The sensor will sound the alarm and in the case of Pro-Stitcher, stop the machine. I’ve had some questions lately about how it works and why it sometimes gives a false alarm. The alarm is telling me the thread is broken, but the thread is just fine. So let me explain a bit.

How the Thread Break Sensor Works

The thread break sensor is the round device located just above and to the left of the tension knob.

thread break sensor

It works by sensing the movement of the check spring. Take a few stitches and watch the check spring go up and down, past the sensor.

If the check spring doesn’t pass by the sensor because the thread has broken and is no longer pulling on the check spring, the thread break alarm will sound.

But My Thread Isn’t Broken!

Tension on the thread will affect the movement of the check spring. For delicate threads like monofilament or metallic or holographic mylar thread, we adjust our tension much lower to achieve a balanced stitch. A very loose tension may mean the check spring doesn’t come down past the sensor at all. On the other hand, a very tight tension might keep the check spring permanently below the sensor. Or if the check spring isn’t oriented correctly, (not installed at the right angle), it may never pass by the sensor. Any of these situations will cause the thread break sensor to sound the alarm.

Common causes and solutions for false thread break alarms

Cause 1: The check spring is not properly threaded. If the thread is not over the check spring it will not move at all and not pass the sensor. You’ll likely notice bad stitch formation too!
Solution 1: Make sure the thread comes up and over the check spring after it exits the tension disks and prior to going under the stirrup guide.

Cause 2: Tension is set too loose. Sometimes fragile threads require us to loosen tension to the point that the check spring is no longer springing back and forth during the stitch cycle or just barely moving.
Solution 2: The thread break sensor should be turned off. We really need the loose tension for some threads and increasing the tension is not an option. So go into settings and turn it off.

Cause 3: The thin check spring has been flexed out, away from the sensor. Since we thread and unthread our machines a lot, it is common for this spring to get bent a small amount, which can effect the sensor. It must be just the right distance from the sensor to get a good reading.

Solution 3:Because the spring is hardened spring steel, it is not easy to bend it back toward the sensor. Instead, the sensor should be adjusted outward, to be as close to the spring as possible without touching the spring. Customer instructions for adjusting the thread break sensor can be found on the website here. Your local retailer would be happy to help with this if you feel like you need help.

Hope this helps you understand your machine a little better!

Happy quilting!

Avatar by Kim Brunner

 

 

 

Apply binding on the longarm

I’m willing to bet 9 out of 10 of you bought your longarm machine because you were not happy wrestling that large quilt through your domestic machine to do the quilting. Am I right? We solved one problem. But, then what do we do? We finish the beautiful quilting on our longarm, then take the quilt off the frame and wrestle that large quilt through our domestic machine to apply the binding. Let me ask, does that make any sense? I am going to share a little tutorial on how to apply binding on the longarm. Sewing the binding to the front of the quilt, while the quilt is still on the frame. It is quick and easy! The only tool you will need is a straight longarm ruler. I also use my HQ Square foot which makes the whole process much easier.

Apply binding on the longarm

Along the way I am going to mention some different options you have for doing some of the steps. I suggest you try them all and see what works best for you.

Prepare your binding

Prepare your double fold binding as you normally would, at the width that you prefer, whether you use bias binding or straight grain binding. The binding needs to be at least 12-18 inches longer than the perimeter of the quilt top.
Tip: use a bit of spray starch, applying the starch to the wrong side of the binding as you press it in half, it acts like a glue that keeps the two sides of the binding firmly together and prevents the sides from shifting or separating during the application process.
Now you need to choose whether you will complete the entire binding on the frame or whether you will leave the last 10 or so inches to complete on your domestic machine.
  • complete the entire binding on the frame
    • open one end of the binding and cut on a 45 degree angle
    • press in a quarter inch fold on the end you just cut
    • press the binding back in half
    • Open binding and cut at a 45 degree angle
    • press in 1/4 inch fold
    • re-press in half
    • complete the binding on the domestic
      • no special prep required

    Applying binding after all quilting is complete.

    Quilt as you normally would, but do not remove the quilt from the frame. Be sure to baste the bottom edge of the quilt and remove from the leader if you had it attached.

    You will start on the right side about 10 inches up from the bottom corner (or as much as your throat space allows). Leave a 6-8 inch tail loose. If you are finishing completely on the frame start with the end you cut at an angle. Place the binding so that the raw edge of the binding lines up with the raw edge of the quilt. There are a few methods you can choose from:

    Using a Ruler

    • I like to use a ruler with tabs like the HQ Ditch Ruler or the HQ Mini Scallop ruler. The straight side of the HQ Versa Tool ruler works as well, although it is shorter than the other two. This holds the binding in place as you sew along the ruler edge.
      • Align the ruler at the raw edge of the quilt.  Place HQ Square foot against the ruler.
      • Make a few locking stitches and stitch ¼ inch away from the edge of the quilt along the ruler.
      • When you come to the lower right corner, position the ruler so that the inside of the tab is at the raw edge on the bottom of the quilt. Stop stitching ¼ inch from the bottom edge, or when the foot touches the ruler tab. Do a few locking stitches.
      • Do The Fold
      • – fold the binding to the right at a 90 degree angle to the right side of the quilt, aligning the raw edge of the binding with the bottom edge of the quilt. Finger press the mitered fold. Then fold the binding back on it self to the left, with the fold lined up with the right edge of the quilt. Align the raw edge of the binding with the raw edge of the bottom of the quilt.
      • Position your needle just off the fold, ¼ inch away from the bottom edge of the quilt. Make a few locking stitches and continue to stitch across the bottom of the quilt. When you come to ¼ inch from the left side of the quilt, tie off with locking stitches and repeat the fold. These photos show “Doing the Fold” at the bottom left corner and the top left corner of the quilt.
      • Ruler in place at the lower left edge. Note the placement of the tab.

         

        First fold at lower left corner

         

        Second fold at lower left corner

         

        Positioning foot

         

        Staring to stitch up left side

         

        First fold at top left corner

         

        Second fold at top left corner

         

      • Proceed in this manor stitching up the left side and across the top and down the right side. As you stitch up (or down) the sides, when you need to roll, leave the needle down in the quilt and very carefully and slowly roll the quilt. That way you can stitch a continuous seam.
      • As you stitch down the right side of the quilt, stop your stitching line approx 10 inches away from where you began, leaving the ends of the binding to be finished.
      • Remove the quilt from the frame and finish the binding on your domestic machine, attaching the ends of the binding with your favorite method.
      • Trim away excess backing and batting and the binding is now ready to be turned to the back side and stitched down either by hand or by machine, whatever is your preference.
    • If you prefer to finish the entire binding on the frame:
      • when you come close to where you started on the right side, smooth the beginning binding strip up in place and cut the ending binding about 1 inch past the miter on the beginning strip.
      • Tuck the raw end inside the mitered beginning strip. Then complete the stitching. The turned under edge on the binding will have to be hand stitched to keep the binding joined.
      • Now you can remove the quilt and trim the excess backing and batting. You are ready to turn the binding to the back and stitch.

    Free Motion

    • Just stitch down the binding keeping the edge of the hopping foot at the edge of the quilt. Be sure the binding stays smooth and be careful not to stretch the binding as you work. Hold the binding in place with one hand as you move your machine with the other hand. This is the best method for not-so-straight-or-square quilts where you will have to make adjustments and follow the edge of the quilt.

    Channel Lock

    • Channel lock really works well if the quilt is straight and square. Use the channel locks in place of the ruler. Once again, use one hand to hold binding in place and other hand to move the machine.

    I love to apply binding on the longarm! Wasn’t it easy?

    by Mary Beth Krapil

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