quilting tips Archives - Handi Quilter

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, 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

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 Facing on the Longarm

In this, yet another, installment of the series on finishing the edges of your quilts while still on the frame, I’ll explain how to apply facing on the longarm. You can get up to speed by reading Apply Binding on the Longarm and Extra Tips – Binding.

What is Facing?

There are times when you don’t want any binding to show on the front of the quilt, but you want the durability and security of an actual binding. Facing is the answer. Facing strips are sewn to the front of the quilt and then turned to the back, rolling the seam, so that none of the facing is visible on the front of the quilt. Then the facing is hand stitched in place on the back of the quilt. It makes for a clean, non-stop visual as the eye travels to the edges of the quilt.

faced quilt with sunflowers

 

Making it easy

It really makes a lot of sense to apply facing on the longarm. The large quilt is stretched out in front of you and held smooth and secure by your leaders. What could possibly go wrong? Well, there are a few things you need to be aware of when facing a quilt this way. But no worries! I’ll clue you in.

Prepare your facing

Before you loaded your quilt on the frame for quilting you measured, right? And you wrote down those measurements, right? You’re going to need them now.

You’ll need one facing strip for each edge of your quilt. I use 1 1/2 inch wide strips, with one edge pressed under 1/4 inch. You can decide how wide you would like your strips, but don’t go much more than 2 1/2 inches. If the facing is too wide it doesn’t lay flat on the back and you end up with puckers in the facing. No one likes a floppy facing!

cutting strips

pressing strips

Two strips should be the length of your quilt and 2 strips should be the width of your quilt. These measurements don’t need to be super exact. Just close. Your quilt will likely NOT be the same measurements as the quilt top was before quilting. Remember, quilting draws up fabric, so your finished quilt will be slightly smaller depending on the density of the quilting.

Pro Tip:

The first time you face a quilt, choose a fabric that is close in color to the edge of the quilt top. Rolling the seam to the back of the quilt is a skill that takes a little practice. If your facing fabric shows a bit on the front, it will be less noticeable. Once you get good at applying facing on the longarm you can use any fabric.

If you need to sew lengths of strips together for a larger quilt, sew strips together on an angle. This creates less bulk at the seams. Just like regular binding!

You will also need two 4 inch squares of your facing fabric. Cut these squares from corner to corner, forming 4 triangles. Press the long edge of each triangle under 1/4 inch.

strips and triangles pressed and ready

Ready to Apply Facing on the Longarm

I start at the bottom of the quilt since that’s where I finished the quilting. Place the triangles in the corners, right side down.

Lay a facing strip, right side down, with the raw edge of the strip at the edge of the quilt. Start about 1 inch away from the left corner. This will help cut down on the bulk of fabric layers in the corner, and the triangle will cover the raw ends of the facing strips once they are turned to the back.

Use care to not stretch the strip. You can add a few pins, if you wish, to hold it in place. Remove the pins as you stitch.

Pro Tip:

Don’t trim the right edge of your strip just yet. Leave the end and trim it when you get to the corner as you sew.

Sewing

My favorite foot for this job is the 1/4 inch Square Foot. (The smaller one)

 

square feet image

And I like to use a straight edge ruler with tabs on the ends, like the VersaTool or the HQ Ditch ruler.

The tabs help hold the facing in place so I need fewer (if any) pins.

Machine settings

Set your machine for regulated, cruise, 12 SPI, and needle-stop down.

Stitch

Start stitching on the left edge of the quilt top (stitch over the triangle and onto the facing strip), using the ruler to keep straight and 1/4 inch from the edge. The edge of the ruler and the edge of the square foot are both aligned at the raw edge of the quilt. That results in the perfect 1/4 inch seam.

If you didn’t trim the end of the strip yet, trim it right before you get to the corner, leaving about an inch from the right edge.

Sew all the way to the edge, over the triangle.

Take a side strip and repeat the steps for alignment and start sewing up as far as you can go in your throat space.

Secure threads with a couple of back stitches and break your threads.

With the other side strip and repeat on the other side of the quilt.

Pro Tip:

Before rolling your quilt, go back to each corner, and sew across the corner at an angle to help strengthen the corner for turning. Back stitch a few times back and forth.

Roll your quilt onto the belly bar to expose the next section in your throat space. Start with a few back stitches and stitch up the side within your throat space. Repeat on the other side. Continue in this manner until the top edge of the quilt is in your stitching area.

Place the other two triangles on the top corners, right side down. Finish stitching the side strips, remembering to trim the strip before you get to the top edge. Stitch all the way to the edge to secure the triangle.

Sew the top strip in the same manner that you sewed the bottom strip. Stitch the angle at the top corners for security.

Trim

Remove the quilt from the frame and trim the edges.

trimming the edges

 

 

Trim the corners:

Cut off the corners about 2 threads away from the diagonal stitching.

Press

Press all the facing strips to the outside of the quilt using a hot steam iron.

Turning the edges

Use the facing to pull the quilt edge around to the back. It’s OK to have about 1/16″ of an inch of quilt front showing on the back. Steam as you go. I like to use pins to hold it in place. Pins and steam (lots of steam) are the key here. Work little-by-little and take your time.

Flip the triangle to the back and use a blunt instrument like a chopstick or a point turning tool to help smooth out the corner. Don’t use scissors or anything sharp that could cut or punch a hole in the corner. Steam it in place and pin.

Stitch the facing to the back

of the quilt by hand. Make sure your stitches do NOT go through to the front of the quilt.

Finished!

It takes a lot of words and pictures to explain, but it really does go quickly. And doing it on the frame is way easier for larger quilts.

Hope you give it a try and let us know how you like facing on the longarm.

About the quilt: this was a piece I painted in a virtual class with Helen Godden from Australia,  then quilted on my HQ Infinity. I free motion quilted the sunflowers and the tiny matchstick quilting was done with a ruler. The background was done with Pro-Stitcher. I really prefer facings on art quilts like this.

By Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra Tips – Binding

Last week’s post explained how to stitch binding to the front of the quilt while the quilt is still loaded on the frame. You can read it here.  This week, I’d like to add a few extra tips when it comes to binding on the longarm frame.

Finish the last few inches at your domestic machine

Most of the time, I do not overlap the ends of the binding strip, the way I explained last week. I stop stitching about 12 inches before I get to the place where I started. I have tails of binding both at the beginning and at the end. I take the quilt and finish that last 12 inches at my HQ Stitch 510 machine. I prefer to machine stitch the ends of the binding together and then stitch the joined binding to the quilt. This results in less handwork.

HQ Stitch 510 sewing machine

IF you like a wider binding

I find I prefer a slightly winder binding than 1/4 inch. So I use my HQ Echo feet, specifically, the 3/8 inch foot (the one in the middle). It gives me the look I’m going for and keeps my binding size consistent. Win-win! Experiment with the other sizes of Echo Feet and the 1/2 inch size Square Foot.

HQ Echo Feet

Be sure to make the decision about the size of the binding while you are piecing the top! It helps to allow the extra fabric on the quilt top edges to accommodate the extra-wide binding. You can still do a wider binding at the last minute but it is a little more challenging to get it nice and straight.

Faux piped binding

I love the look of piped binding

quilt with couched binding

Friendship Fanfare by Mary Beth Krapil

But I don’t like the extra work involved in creating the real thing. That’s why this quilt doesn’t have piped binding. It has yarn couched in the ditch between the quilt and the binding!

I use my HQ Couching Feet set.

HQ couching feet set

The size I choose depends on the yarn I am using for the piping. I mostly use a smaller yarn and the small couching foot for piped bindings.

Once the binding has been stitched to the front of the quilt on the frame, I pull the binding aside (away from the quilt). You can even pin it back if you wish. Then I couch the yarn right in the ditch, working my way all the way around the quilt.

Pro tip:

Take a couple of extra stitches in the corners to make it secure.

Slightly, no more than 1/2 inch, overlap the ends of the yarn. Trim the tails right at the surface of the quilt.

Super fast and easy and looks like the real thing! Don’t tell anyone how easy this is. Let’s keep it our little secret!

quilt with couched binding

Friendship Fanfare by Mary Beth Krapil

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

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

Creating Texture

Every time you quilt you are creating texture. The very nature of what makes up a quilt, three layers, with the center being a compressible fiber, means that when you stitch the three layers together you will compress that inner layer with your stitches and create texture. The location of the stitches will be lower than what surrounds them. The contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt. That variation is the definition of texture. (See last week’s blog post to refresh your memory of that definition.)

Seeing texture

Sometimes you look at a quilt and swoon over the gorgeous texture of the quilting. With other quilts, you might hardly notice the quilting. Why? If you look at a variety of quilts, (Pinterest is a good place to do that), notice where you can really see the quilting and you’ll come to realize that quilting shows up best on solid, lighter color fabrics. This quilted bag has a ton of quilting on the black background surrounding the mandala. But you can hardly see it.

Mandala tote by Mary Beth Krapil

This quilt has a lot of texture too. It is hardly noticeable on the colorful, busy and darker fabrics. You can see a bit of the texture in the light blue areas. This quilt is 12″ x 12″.

Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

But look at the texture you can see on the back of the quilt!

Back of Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasizing texture

What can we do to emphasize the texture? Here’s some tips you can use:

Pick the right place

Choose the lighter, solid fabric areas of the quilt to create the most interesting textures. [Don’t neglect the other areas with busier, darker fabrics though! If you want your quilts to lie flat, you want an even distribution of texture.]

And always remember, in the right lighting, even texture on darker fabrics can be seen.

back of Mandala bag by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasize the contrast

Remember the contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt, creating texture. So if you stitch some tighter quilting next to an area you want to emphasize, the tighter quilting will flatten out and allow the area next to it to pouf forward.

Mary Beth Krapil

The daffodils pop forward because there is tighter (or smaller) quilting next to them.

We usually refer to the tight quilting as background quilting.

Rule of thumb: The background quilting motif must be at least 1/3 or less the size of the motif you are trying to emphasize.

Choose the right batting

When you are trying to achieve texture choose a batting with a higher loft. There has to be something to fill up the unquilted areas to make them pop forward.  Avoid very flat batts.

100% cotton is an example of a flat batting. Wool is an example of a batting with loft. You can also use a polyester batting, just choose one with a higher loft or thickness.

When I want to emphasize texture I usually use two batts. A layer of 100% cotton or 80/20 on the bottom and a layer of wool on top.

But this was a faux leather pouch that I quilted with upholstery foam instead of traditional batting. It had super-defined texture!

creating texture

Faux leather bag
by Mary Beth Krapil

Choose the right thread

Both weight and color are important here. Matching the thread color exactly to the fabric results in seeing pure texture. The thread disappears.

micro-fill sampler
by Mary Beth Krapil

A fine thread also tends to disappear and leave the viewer seeing only texture.

Mary Beth Krapil

There are no hard and fast rules about thread though. Just like anything else in quilting, experiment and see what happens when you change things up. A contrasting thread can add to the texture!

Grid Sampler
Mary Beth Krapil

You’ve heard the saying, “Quilting makes the quilt”?  Well I think that’s true because quilting makes the texture.

What do you think?

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

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