HQ Stitch Archives - Handi Quilter

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

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Longarm Quilting

It’s been a while since we checked in on Diane Harris and her adventures in longarm quilting on her HQ Capri. She’s getting nice and comfortable using her Capri now. With that relaxation about the mechanics, comes an opportunity to notice finer nuances about her quilting that give her ideas to make the task easier and faster, or fine tune her technique to make her designs sharper.

Let’s take a look at her recent blog post, Hugs and Kisses: What I Learned.  (Kinda sounds like a dating advice blog? Haha! Just kidding! It’s about quilting, I promise.)

Her lessons:

1. Plan your route

So important! When free motion quilting we want to have as few stops and starts as possible. Not only will it save time, it also saves having to secure your thread tails. Be sure to go over to Diane’s blog and watch her video, it’s an excellent demonstration of how planning can help. Really, go watch it, click here. I’ll wait here.

She came up with a brilliant way to move through the block with her design. I have one tip. When she fills most of the block and she gets here:

She continues on to fill the bottom right corner, the way she did the two top corners, and then goes back to finish in the center, as she had been doing. If she had filled the bottom right of the blue 4 patch in the center, then did her two circles and then the bottom right corner, she would have finished at the outside corner, where she could move on to the next block.

Tip: Think globally

Think about how to travel through the block. But also think about how to travel from block to block continuously, as well.

2. Varied motifs are easier than matched motifs

Absolutely! If you choose a motif that has a regular repeat and uniform size, such as the finger like shapes Diane chose, you need to be confident about quilting them all the same.

A viewer’s eye can easily pick out the finger that’s not the same width or the same height as all the others. But if you vary them in some way, it’s much more forgiving and many times more interesting.

I’m a lover of symmetry though, so I practice a motif that needs to be uniform until I get really good at it. If you are too, it’s worth the effort. Often times you need a place for the eyes to rest and symmetrical designs, like cross hatch for example, create that place of rest.

Tip: Varied motifs fool the eye, but symmetry relaxes the eye.

3. Give yourself targets

Diane chose to quilt loops in her border. Great choice! It’s a classic design element and is fairly easy to quilt. Until you realize, that it is one of those designs that look best when they are uniform. That brings in a degree of difficulty. Diane came up with a shrewd way to help her make them more uniform. She gave herself targets, small tick marks made using a ruler for spacing.

              

When I want evenly spaced, even sized design elements I use line or grid stencils. They are available from many companies and in many sizes and configurations, even circles. Some have angle lines to help align diagonal designs. I use my pounce pad or water soluble markers to mark my quilts. Always test whatever product you choose to make sure it will come out when you want it to. Diane could have saved time and increased accuracy by using a line stencil. One swipe of the pounce pad and you’re done! For loops like Diane was quilting it not only helps with spacing, it also helps you keep the loops standing up nice and straight. (Although Diane did a great job of that all on her own.)

Tip: Use the tools you have available to make the job easier.

Bonus tip: Buy the tools you need to make the job easier.

Diane’s well on her way to becoming the quilter she wants to be! It just all takes time. Remember to give yourself the time to play and learn. Diane has been doing that and it has paid off. Be easy on yourself with your beginnings and know that in time you will get to where you want to be.

Tip: Practice, practice, play

Ha! you thought that 3rd word would be practice didn’t you? Quilting is something we love to do. If it wasn’t you would not be reading this. So our practice time is really play. Have your own adventures in longarm quilting. Diane has really enjoyed her practice time. She has been quilting actual quilts and has been very lenient with herself. She only pulled out the seam ripper a few times. Diane says,

“Unless you’re entering your quilt in a judged show, those who view it will not criticize it and will likely think it’s beautiful. Out in the wide, wide world, there aren’t many people who can make a quilt, so others will admire the colors, the shapes and the sheer skill it took you to create such a wonder. ”

And I agree 100%.

We will continue to follow Diane’s adventures in longarm quilting. There were a couple lessons in Diane’s post I didn’t speak to yet. Stay tuned.

 

 

Target Practice

Diane has been busy quilting away on her HQ Capri. She shared a tip on her HQ Stitch blog about target practice.

There are many times when you need to know exactly where the needle of your sewing machine is going to enter the fabric. It’s true with a domestic machine like HQ Stitch and it’s true with a longarm quilting machine. These times call for target practice!

I love sewing machines and I own more than one. On the machines I know well, I’m confident that I can get a bullseye where that needle is concerned. But on a machine that I haven’t been using for long, target practice makes me a better “shooter” and I’m happier with the results of my sewing.

Diane goes on to show a nice method of target practice so that you get better at knowing where your needle will drop. You can read her entire post at the HQ Stitch blog. I want to share something that longarm machine quilters can use to know exactly where the needle will drop.

Target Practice no more

This is a necessary skill for longarm quilting! And there’s no need for target practice. We have a tool that we can use, the Pinpoint Needle Laser is standard on the Infinity, the Forte and the Amara. If you have an older machine, an Avante, a Fusion, a Sweet Sixteen, or an HQ Capri you can use this great tool too, because it’s available to be added to any machine.

 

The laser creates a pinpoint of light on the surface of the quilt telling you exactly where the needle will penetrate the fabric. Target bullseye!

The laser light is adjustable for precise alignment with the machine needle. Compatible with most longarm machines with USB ports at the front of the machine. If no port is available at the front of the machine, this accessory can also be installed on other longarm or domestic machines with the addition of a USB 2.0 wall charger and USB 2.0 Type-A male to female extender cable (not included).

Yes, you can even add it to a domestic machine! No more target anxiety and no need for target practice. Just get quilting and finish more quilts!

Handi Quilter has the best tools to finish the best quilts.

by Mary Beth Krapil

Get It Done

Last week we saw Diane’s Vintage Zigzag quilt and I made some suggestions about how she might quilt it. She made some choices and she is having a great time using her Capri to get it done.  Whenever you are repeating a motif in several places on a quilt it’s really nice to have them look similar. It’s almost impossible with free-motion quilting to make the motifs identical but some consistency is a good thing. So I like to use some tricks and some tools to help me get it done, the way I want it done.

vintage zigzag

One of the suggestions I made was a flower motif for alternate blocks.

For a design like this, I like the flowers to all be nearly the same size. I like for them all to have the same size center. If some have small centers with big petals and some have large centers with small petals, that can really draw the eye (not in a good way).

Get It Done

Here is what I do. I mark the size of my block on Golden Threads Quilting paper.

get it done

Notice, I place a piece of white paper under the Golden Threads paper. This helps me to see when I draw with pencil on my dark cutting board.

Next I draw my design, keeping my pencil down on the paper so that I create a continuous line without stops and starts. Try thinking as if you were quilting the design. Where would you start to be able to make it through the entire design without stopping? When creating a block design it’s best to fill as much of the block as you can. Use a pencil with an eraser so you can make adjustments as you go.

I know some of you may be thinking, “But Mary Beth, I can’t draw!”. No worries! Find a design you like in a book or magazine or trace a flower on your fabric. Golden Threads Paper is easy to see through for tracing. This quality also makes it possible to place your drawing on top of your quilt top to audition what the design will look like on the quilt.  You’ll know before you stitch!

Make it the right size

If you choose to trace a design, it might not be the right size for your block. Again, no worries! The Quilter’s Assistant Proportional Scale is my go-to tool for this task.

get it done

Measure your design. Line up the measurement of the design on the inner ring with the new size measurement (I usually use 1/2 inch smaller than my block) on the outside ring. The percentage of increase or reduction will appear in the window opening under the arrow. Resize on copy machine or scanner. Easy Peasy.

Once you have the print out of the right-sized design trace it on to your Golden Threads paper. When I am happy with the design I go over it with a bolder marker. I indicate the start point with a dot and the end point with a square.

During this process, I have drawn over this several times so I developed muscle memory for the design. It’s going to be easy for me to quilt! I need to mark this on each of the blocks on the quilt where I want to stitch it. A stencil of the design would be the perfect tool!

Making a stencil

I take my GT paper drawing to my machine. You can do this on your longarm or your domestic machine. My HQ Stitch 710 is perfect for this, I can drop the feed dogs and free motion quilt easily. I take the thread out of my needle and I stitch along my lines just like I would quilt it. This needle punches the paper.

Now I can take my needle-punched paper to my quilt top and mark the blocks for quilting. I use it just like I would use a stencil.

The chalk creates a nice line that I can follow while I quilt.

I don’t worry if I’m not stitching exactly on the lines, but each of my flowers will be just about the same size and very similar in appearance because I have my stenciled guide. Just what I needed to get it done!

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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