quilting fun Archives - Handi Quilter

Free Motion for Beginners – More Leaves

More leaves are falling here in North Carolina and the air is crisp and clear. Since leaves are such a popular quilting motif, I thought we might explore some more designs, using more leaves.

Vines

photo of green leafy vines

photo by nothing ahead on pexels

 

Meandering leafy vines make great edge-to-edge designs, or a fill design for any shape on your quilt.

You can use the familiar leaf shape, simply attaching them to a vine as you meander and fill your quilt. Alternate adding leaves to both sides of your meandering vine.

Try it with just single leaves attached to the vine.

line drawing of a meandering leafy vine

Pro Tip: Mark your meandering vine with a removable marker. Then stitch along the vine adding leaves as you go.

 

Or two together might be twice the fun:

line drawing of a meandering vine with 2 leaves

 

My favorite is a cluster of three together:

line drawing of a meandering vine with groups of 3 leaves attached

 

Make it fancy by adding in swirls here and there:

line drawing of vine with leaves and spirals

 

Ferns

photo of lush green ferns

Photo by Carolina Gusmund from Pexels

 

We can use the S shape to create lush ferns on our quilts. The creation of a fern-like leaf is a bit different from the leaves we have been stitching. Rather than stitching the S for one side of the leaf, then stitching a mirror image S to form the other side of the leaf, to create a fern leaf stitch an S shape then echo that same S for the 2nd side.

Let’s dive right in and stitch a fern frond.

First stitch your spine from top to bottom. It is a long and lazy S shape!

Pro Tip: When first getting started with any new design, it is a good idea to draw the design first. So substitute the word “draw” for the word “stitch” in these directions.

 

Then start adding in the leaves. Stitch a lazy S away from the spine and then echo that same S as you stitch back toward the spine.

fern leaves stitching path

 

Add more leaves up one side of the spine. At the top I like to make a little swirl or curl. You can get creative here and make any shape you like to make the transition to the other side of the spine. A tear drop or a leaf would work well.

stitching path for multiple fern leaves

 

Next start stitching leaves down the 2nd side.

 

And continue to add more leaves until you reach the bottom.

 

You don’t have to have the same number of leaves on both sides. Just fill the space and don’t worry about lining them up side to side.

Once again, you can get fancy and add in some swirls.

 

Pro Tip: When filling an area on your quilt with a fern frond extend the leaves as you need to, so that the space is filled. There are many shapes of ferns in nature so it will look fantastic no matter what shape results.

 

quilt by Mary Beth Krapil with quilted fern leaves

Daffodils by Mary Beth Krapil

Challenge

Can you come up with a way to use more leaves? We would all love to see your drawings or stitching in the comments! How about some leaf wreaths?

 

by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator

Free Motion for Beginners – Leaves

We are going to stick with our S shape again and keep creating new designs with it. It’s the perfect shape for quilting leaves. We all love to quilt organic designs on our quilts, flowers, leaves, etc.  Organic images are very forgiving. No two leaves in nature are exactly alike. So you don’t have to worry too much about making these designs uniform. Another walk in the park! Or maybe this week will be a walk in the forest, amongst the leaves?

path through the forest surrounded by leaves

Photo by Fstopper from Pexels

 

You can create a leaf shape with simple curves.

line drawing of leaf

 

It works, and looks even more like a leaf when you add a vein down the center.

line drawing of a leaf with a vein

 

But when you add the subtle curve of an S shape in place of the simple curves, it really says, “LEAF.”

line drawing of leaf with curvy sides and vein

 

Practice quilting leaves in all different orientations. Then you can start putting them together into usable quilting designs. One of my favorites is a border or sashing design where the leaves alternate pointing up and pointing down as they scamper across the border.

Stitch path for alternating leaves

Let’s break down the stitching path of this design. Start at the bottom of the first leaf and stitch up the right side with a lazy S.

beginning of stitchpath for leaves

Pause at the top to create a sharp point then stitch a mirror image lazy S down the left side of the leaf.

Stitch the vein up the center. You can make this a lazy S or a simple curve. Both those shapes look great as the vein. Stitch up and then backtrack back down to the bottom of the leaf. It doesn’t matter if your backtracking is not perfect. However this is a good opportunity to try to improve your backtracking skills. 😉

To connect to the next leaf stitch a lazy S that scoops under the leaf you just stitched and goes up and over. The mantra I use here is “under and over.”

That lazy S sets you up for stitching smoothly down the right side of the leaf that points down.

Once again pause in the point. If you need to remind yourself to pause, add it into your mantra. “Under and over, pause in the point …” Then stitch up the left side of the leaf.

Stitch the vein, in and out.

Another lazy S connects to the next leaf but this time you go over and under.

stitching path of leaves

Now just repeat as many times as you need to fill your border!

Pro Tip:   The stitching starts on the right side of every leaf. It doesn’t matter if it’s pointing up or down. Always go right. The S shape connectors set you up for a smooth transition into the next leaf if you go to the right.

This is the perfect design for fall quilts! Doesn’t this put you in the mood for some leaf peeping? Come to North Carolina for some spectacular views!

by valiphotos on pexels

pexels-by-kelly-lacy

by Mary Beth Krapil

Free Motion Quilting For Beginners – Backtrack Spiral

Last week we got started with the spiral, hook or swirl shape. This week we will talk about another kind of spiral. I call it the backtrack spiral. Instead of spiraling in, and then splitting the path you created to spiral out, you will backtrack spiral back out. Or in other words, you will stitch directly on top of the stitching you just did, only in the opposite direction. They look like this:

You start on the left and spiral in.

Then backtrack to spiral back out.

As you are backtracking, you can leave this spiral and start a new spiral.

The new spiral can swirl in the same direction.

Or it can swirl in the opposite direction.

Here’s an example where I took off from the backtracking in a different place.

I find this backtrack spiral to be easier to quilt than the spiral we did last week.

Wait, what?

woman questioning

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

I know, right?  Backtracking is not easy. But with these backtrack spirals, if you don’t backtrack perfectly, they still look great.

Sometimes, when you change direction at the end of your spiraling in, you’ll get a little loop. I think that looks cute!

And you might not hit your backtracking at all.

As long as you are close, it still looks good. You can use these backtrack spirals as an opportunity to practice your backtracking skills.

All over or edge-to-edge quilting

all over backtrack spiral

 

Notice it’s not perfect but it still looks great quilted! The great thing about these spirals is that it is super easy to fill in any space on the quilt. You can start a new spiral wherever you need and you can make them different sizes. Not only does that make it easy to fill in spaces, it also adds interest to the design.

Borders

All in one direction.

If you look close you see the next spiral starts at about 5 o’clock. (red dots)

Keeping that in mind helps to keep the spirals consistent.

 

Or alternate direction of the swirls

 

alternating spiral border

For alternating spirals I like to try to start the next spiral at 3 o’clock-ish. (red dots)

Remember mantras? This is a good design to use a mantra to help keep the alternation going.

My mantra is: “up and over, down and around.”  I start with stitching up and over the top of the first spiral. Then I backtrack  to 3 o’clock and reverse direction, to go down and around the next spiral. Backtrack to 3 o’clock and go up and over. Rinse and repeat. (don’t rinse, just repeat).

If you have been keeping up with your 15 minutes of practice each day, you deserve a sticker!

free motion fabulous sticker

Happy quilting!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Spirals

Moving on in our series on free motion quilting this week to our next shape, spirals (or hooks). We can really have some fun with this shape. It works for so many quilts. Like a meander, depending on the scale you choose, it can create a fabulous all over edge-to-edge quilting design or a fantastic background fill. Spirals can be used in blocks and borders too. And they are great combined with other shapes to create gorgeous designs.

 

swirl line drawing

Looking good

Let’s think about what makes a spiral look good. That way, we will know what to strive for when we quilt them.

Round

When you look at this shape can you see why it was so important to practice stitching those circles? Spirals really look best when they are round.

Pro tip: If it has been a while since you quilted circles or round shapes, you can always go back to that practice fabric.

fabric with baseballs

Do your 15 minutes today quilting around the circle shapes to refresh your muscle memory. Be like the major league baseball pitcher and warm up in the bull pen.

baseball pitcher

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Consistent gaps

Spirals look really good when the gaps between the stitching lines are consistent.

Don’t get discouraged looking at these images. We are doing free motion quilting, not computerized quilting. What you stitch won’t ever be flawlessly perfect. And that’s perfectly OK.

That’s all you have to remember when stitching spirals. Round and consistent gaps. That’s it.

Getting started with spirals

Lets take it step by step.

Stitch a hook.

line drawing of hook with directional arrows

Continue on spiraling in a little.

Then turn around

Now follow the yellow brick road.

Split the path you created to go back out.

Continue by echoing around what you already quilted.

And you’ve got a spiral!

Using spirals

Fill a space, whether a block or a whole quilt.

When you hit an obstacle, like a seam line or another spiral, do some stitch-in-the-ditch or over-stitching to travel to where you want your next line of stitching. Sometimes you will have to imagine the path of your spiral outside of your boundary so that you will know where to pick up and continue the spiraling.

This may be enough for you to practice in your 15 minutes a day this week. We’ll pick up from here next week to explore more ways to spiral out of control!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Free motion quilting for beginners – Start from the beginning

We have come a long way from the beginning of this series about free motion quilting. I sure hope you have learned a thing or two along the way. Are you keeping up with your everyday quilting play? I hope that it becomes a life-long habit.

Previous Posts

I’ve heard from several folks who have joined us along the way and missed out on the earlier posts. The list of previous blog posts, shown on the right side of the page, only goes back 5 posts. So I’m going to post some links to previous posts in the series in case you’d like to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). Bonus points if you are singing the song now. Let me know in the comments.

Here they are. You’ll find the first post at the very bottom.

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Stipple

click here

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – For Real

click here

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Getting Loopy

click here

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Curvy Designs

click here

big flower design

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – the Secret to Curves

click here

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Muscle

click here

photo of tracing a quilting design

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Putting it Together – Straight

https://handiquilter.com/free-motion-putting-it-together/

click here

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners, Theory

click here

curve quilting

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Part 1 (this one is the beginning)

click here

woman making a promise

Check them out! If for nothing else than to see what that picture has to do with quilting.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

Quilt Show Inspiration

Quilt shows are an awesome place to get inspiration for all sorts of quilty topics. Color combinations, piecing, applique, borders, new techniques, and my favorite: quilting designs.

Quilt show inspiration for you

I was working in the Handi Quilter booth at the Original Sewing and Quilting Expo in Raleigh, NC at the beginning of August.

quilt show booth

It was wonderful to be at a quilt show again! I was able to snap some photos of quilts to share here, just so you could get some quilt show inspiration too. Click on any photo to see the full size image of any of the quilts.

Aloft

The show had a special exhibit, called Aloft. It is a collection of quilts from SAQA, Studio Art Quilt Associates.

The sign says:

See the world from a new perspective! Birds, insects, and even some mammals are able to fly and soar. Plant seeds and kites are carried on the breeze, and the perfect pass can float through the air. Humankind has dreamt of ways to fly from Icarus’ attempt to create his own wings to the advent of airplanes, satellites, and space exploration. This exhibit provides new perspectives through which to see our world.”

I found it genuinely fascinating to see the unique perspective each of these artists chose. These quilts are delightful, so let’s just jump in.

Squirrel Aloft

Squirrel Aloft
by Carla A White
South Burlington, VT

Raw-edge appliqued, hand dyed, thread painted. Cotton and felt.

 

Hong Kong Taxi

Hong Kong Taxi
by Jean Renli Jurgenson
Walnut Creek CA

Painted, machine paper pieced, machine and hand appliqued, inked, machine quilted. Cotton upholstery fabric, paint, ink.

 

On the Wing

On the Wing
by Betty Busby
Albuquerque, NM

Digitally cut, machine stitched, fused applique. Silk, non-wovens.

This is a close up view of a cicada wing!

 

Take Off

Take Off
by Jan Soules
Elk Grove, CA

Fused, machine pieced, machine quilted. Commercial and hand dyed cotton.

The view from an airplane window during takeoff.

 

Flight from Portland

Flight from Portland
by Lisa M Thorpe
Healdsburg, CA

Digitally designed, free motion stitched. Cotton sateen.

 

Ekko

Ekko
by Sara Bradshaw
Spencer, TN

Fused fabric collage, machine quilted. Cotton.

Ekko, the dog, is totally focused on that treat that’s flying through the air.

 

Mapforms #7

Mapforms #7
by Michele Hardy
Silverthorne, CO

Dyed, painted, drawn, screen printed, machine stitched. Cotton and silk, fiber reactive dyes, acrylic paints, markers, paint sticks, assorted thread.

 

Steampunk Selfie

Steampunk Selfie
by Kestrel Michaud
West Melbourne, FL

Free motion quilted, fused applique, digitally printed. Cotton, ink, liquid sealant, glue sealant.

Bungee jumping off the side of a steampunk airship with pet owl!

 

Night Owl

Night Owl
by Judith Roderick
Placitas, NM

Hand painted, waxed, dyed, machine quilted, embellished. Silk, beads, buttons.

 

Icarus II

Icarus II
by Victoria Carley
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Cut, assembled, overstitched. Fashion and upholstery fabrics, embroidery floss.

The story of Icarus is the mythological story of man’s first flight with wings made from wax and feathers.

 

Dezi’s Joy

Dezi’s Joy
by Julie A. Bohnsack
Carbondale, IL

Fused applique, thread painted.  Variety of fabric, denim, cork.

This little boy is “aloft” in more ways than one.

 

Milkweed and Hummingbirds

Milkweed and Hummingbirds
by Sara Sharp
Austin, TX

Fused raw edge, machine applique, thread painted, digitally printed, free motion machine embroidered, quilted, inked.  Cotton prints and batiks, inks, inkjet printed cotton.

 

A Perch Above

A Perch Above
by Sue Colozzi
Reading, MA

Raw edge fused applique, thread sketched, free motion stitched. Printed cotton, interfacings, upholstery fabric, fleece, tulle, dupioni silk, acetate, cording, colored pencils, fabric markers, fabric paint, matte medium, fusibles.

 

The Wind Beneath His Wings

The Wind Beneath His Wings
by Diane Powers-Harris
Ocala, FL

Fused raw edge applique, turned edge applique, digitally printed, image transferred, painted, machine quilted, machine couched.  Commercial and hand dyed cotton, cheesecloth, textured glitzy and sheer fabrics, bubble crepe, satin, clear vinyl, transfer paper, paint, gloss coating, gel medium.

It was a fun collection full of inspiration with just the materials used alone. Have you been to a quilt show recently?

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Advanced Meander

Last time we talked about the ubiquitous stipple. I said if the stipple is larger, we often call it a meander. Meander works for quilting entire quilts, edge-to-edge style. It creates good texture, holds the 3 layers together well and is fast and easy. On some quilts it is the perfect choice because the fabrics or piecing carry the design. Like this adorable license plate quilt made by my good friend, Jean Chapman. Jean quilted it on her HQ Sweet Sixteen, stationary machine with an edge-to-edge meander.

License plate quilt by Jean Chapman of North Carolina

detail of license plate quilt

But it can be boring.

When I first started longarm quilting, I started doing an all-over meander on my quilts. I was self-taught and I thought that was where everyone started. I soon became bored and wanted to branch out and do some other designs I had seen. (the truth is, I showed my friends yet another quilt I had finished and they all said in unison,” You NEED to learn a new design.”) The problem was, I didn’t have the skill I needed yet.

Now that you have some experience with meander, I want to share some ideas about how you can stretch and do some designs that look more special on your quilt. But these don’t take a heap more skill than a simple meander takes. So you will be very successful!

Ribbon

Start with a meander.

As far as size goes, think about how dense you want the quilting to be. If it’s a quilt that will be used on a bed or snuggled with on the couch, choose a loose density. For example a softball sized meander. For Ribbon quilting I start with a meander a little larger than I would normally choose, because I’m going to add more stitching.  Stitch this meander (as  much as you can  within the exposed throat space).

When you get to the end, reverse direction and echo your original stitched line, crossing over every now and then. Like this red line:

When you’re done it looks like a floating ribbon that’s swirling, twisting and turning.

Pro Tip: I find that it looks best when you try to cross over on the “sides” rather than at the top of the hill or bottom of the valley. Crossovers are shown in the yellow circles:

 

Get creative

Now just let your imagination take over and let’s come up with some new designs. What if we quilt a meander, then reverse and quilt a simple shape just next to it on the way back?

 

Here’s one with simple C shapes.

You could also reverse again and put C shapes on the other side of the meander too! Or try stitching the C’s in the opposite orientation.

Change it up and use straight lines that cross over your meander.

What if you just mark the meander with a removable marker and stitch the zig-zag?

Looks complicated doesn’t it? Shhh! Don’t tell anyone how easy it was!

Play time

What can you come up with? A good starting point for ideas are those 5 basic shapes.

Remember L’s and E’s?

Many of the designs in this post were inspired by phenomenal quilter and Handi Quilter educator, Megan Best. For more inspiration check out her book, Spinal Twist.  You can find it in digital format on her website.

Add your photos to the comments on this post to share with our Free Motion community. The more the merrier!

Who knew that simple meander could be so much fun?

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Stipple

The time has come to talk about stipple. You see it all over the place on quilts. What is a stipple, anyway?

Dictionary.com says:

Stipple History

Dots, small spots, small touches. In the quilting world stipple began with hand quilters. They placed single stitches randomly in the background of an applique or embroidery or a larger quilted motif. These stitches mimicked the small dots of paint used by artists who use the stipple technique. VanGogh’s self portrait is an example.

The stipple stitches did the job of flattening the surrounding area, letting the focus motif come forward and become even more prominent.

Machine quilting stipple

Machine quilting cannot produce these random individual stitches easily, so quilters came up with a continuous line way of achieving the same effect.

Remember the definition of stipple is small dots. When this continuous design is quilted, the negative space, or un-quilted area, created by the stitched line is like dots. Like these red circles:

Look what you see when I take away the stitch line:

Pro Tip: If you use a thread that blends or matches with your fabric color you won’t see the thread or stitches, you’ll just see the dots.

Figure it out

So now that you know why it’s called stipple, let’s examine the pattern and talk about how to quilt it.

Going back to our five basic shapes

We can see that stipple is made up of simple curves ( C-shapes) going in different directions. The quilting path does not cross over like it does with loops.

As a matter of fact, if you are stippling and your lines cross, the quilt police will show up at your door!

Not really, but I want you to try really hard not to cross the lines. Because that’s the design. If you do cross, no one will notice or care.  Don’t stress over it, but do try your best.

Remember last week we talked about even distribution of texture? Every time you quilt you should strive for it and stipple is no different.  To achieve the

even distribution

you should strive to make the spaces (those red circles) approximately the same size and nice and rounded. It sounds hard, but of course I’ve got a trick you can use.

Last week we learned about using mantras to keep our patterns going. Quilting a good stipple requires something a little different.

Mental Image

Sometimes it is helpful to keep a picture in your mind’s eye of an object or a shape. In the case of a stipple we want those curves to be nice and round and all about the same size. The mental image I use for stipple is a round object that I know the size of. Something I can easily picture in my mind. In other words something so familiar to me that I could come very close to the actual size if asked to draw it.

I think about a quarter, or a dime, or a ping pong ball, or a baseball, or the head of a pin, or a pencil eraser. The size of all those items is very familiar to me. Which I choose depends on the density of quilting I’m trying to do.

I imagine those dimes laying on the surface of my quilt and I stitch around them, clockwise then counterclockwise, clockwise and counterclockwise.

 Practice Stipple

Remember back when you used baseball fabric to practice and get good at quilting nice smooth curves? Well you can use the same trick for practicing stippling. You’ll want fabric with randomly scattered objects. like this:

star fabric for practice purposes

Pick a star (or whatever) and stitch around it part way. As you are stitching use the secret of looking ahead and pick your next star. Keep going, always picking your next star as you stitch, clockwise then counterclockwise, clockwise and counterclockwise.

Fill up a yard of this fabric and you will be an EXPERT stippler!

Examples

Here are some examples with a quarter in the photo for size reference.

The stipple makes the letters and flowers stand out.

This is a lattice design with a stipple in the background. The squares are about 1 and 1/4 inches. So the stipple mental image I used was the head of those yellow quilting pins. You know the ones.

yellow quilting pins for size compairison

Once again those triangles really stand out thanks to the stipple. The triangles get all the glory while the stipple does all the work.

This is a thread sampler to show the look of different weight threads. The stipple is larger because it’s not in the background of anything. It’s just a meandering line of stitches. Larger stipple is often referred to as Meander.

I call this tiny stipple a sand stipple. It looks like sand once you’re done stitching. The smaller your major motif is, the smaller your stipple needs to be. My mental image for this one was the head of a silk pin.

Even though I’m stitching so very small I still try to “go around” my mental image. There are crossed lines in sand stipple. It’s impossible to avoid it. But I still try not to cross. I find the effort gives me the best even distribution of texture. 😉

Pro Tip: when stitching this small, be sure to shorten your stitch length and use a very fine thread. You want to see texture not gobs of thread.

Go to the quilt shop now! Get that practice fabric and have some fun.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

Handi Quilter National Educator

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

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