quilting 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 – the Secret to Curves

There’s a secret to curves. Well, the secret really applies to all quilting shapes, but it works especially well on curves. Curves make up 97.35% of the best quilting designs. Take a look at any collection of quilts and pay close attention to the quilting. You will see curves on almost every quilt.

Curves

C-shapes, arcs, circles. These shapes are curves. They can be put together into a myriad of designs. It’s the most important shape for you to learn to quilt well. You have been doing your practice (15 minutes every day) on solid fabrics so that you can see your stitching easily.

Supplies

For this week’s practice you’re going to have to dig into your stash, or (yay!), make a trip to the quilt shop and get some specific fabric. It should look something like this:

Covered with round objects that touch each other. Baseballs, basketballs, oranges, anything that is nice and round.

not like this:

They don’t touch.

nor this:

 

Not touching, and the dots are too small.

The circles have to touch and should be at least an inch across.

You will use this as training wheels to develop your muscle memory for quilting nice smooth round curves. Purchase about a yard. Or if you get a yard and a half, when you are finished you can bind it and give it to a little baseball or basketball (or orange?) fan. They will love it! And take my word for it, they won’t notice the quilting at all. They will only see the game they love and know you made something just for them. Multitasking! you get practice and a warm hug for someone you love.

Practice

You will spend your 15 minutes a day stitching around each of the round objects. Stitch right on the edge of each baseball. Go all the way around each one. Then transition to the baseball that is touching the one you just stitched. This practice will teach you many things! Do 15 minutes a day. Outline the the rounds on the entire piece of fabric

At first you will wobble and bobble.

But as you do more, you will get better and better.

Soon you’ll be stitching nice round circles right on the edge of the baseballs.

You won’t be perfect, but it will look pretty good and the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

What you’ll learn

  1. Quilting smooth round curves and circles. The best muscle memory to have!
  2. Transitioning from one curve to the next.
  3. How to overstitch accurately.
  4. The secret.  Yes! the secret.

Smooth curves

Like I said, curves make up most of all quilting designs. If you’re good at curves, you’re going to be good at many designs. You’ve got a huge head start!

Transitioning

Once you go around the circle, you have to figure out how best to get to the next one. Sometimes you will keep going in the same direction, sometimes you might be better off to reverse directions. You want to minimize overstitching whenever possible. If over stitching is needed you want to choose a path that makes the overstitching as short as possible.

You have to think ahead, to know which way you plan to go.

Pro Tip: plan your path before you start stitching. Use your finger to move along and map out your stitching path.

 

Pro Tip: Your machine has an off switch. Use it when you get overwhelmed. If you don’t know where to go next, stop the machine and make a plan.

Overstitching

Definition: overstitching is when you stitch over a line that you already stitched in order to get where you need to go.

Try your best to make the overstitching directly on top of the original stitches.  Slow down and take your time.  I try to minimize the amount of overstitching if at all possible. It’s fussy work. It’s also a good skill to have because you’ll use it often. You will get better with practice.

The Secret

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. The secret to being a good free motion quilter. The one secret, that if you know it, will make you into Super Quilter!

Look ahead.

That’s it. The secret. Look ahead.

Don’t look at the needle. Look ahead. Look at your goal.

Let’s take some simple arcs as an example.

With your needle at the Start point, your goal is the top of that arc. There is a gentle curve between those 2 points. Your brain knows you are quilting a curve and you have the muscle memory to do it. If you watch the needle as you stitch, you’ll wobble. Trust your muscle memory to make that curve, and keep your eye on your goal. Don’t watch the needle.

Once you reach your goal, move your eye to your next goal. Keep your eye on that goal and let your muscle memory do the job of creating a nice smooth curve.

Simple. Right? I promise it works. It just takes……..you guessed it, Practice.

So off you go to the quilt shop to get your round objects fabric. You may as well get a few things for your stash while you’re there. 😉 And you might have to go to 2 or 3 shops before you find what you are looking for. You’re welcome.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Muscle

I hope you had some fun trying out those straight line designs from last week. They will become some of your favorite go-to’s when you’re deciding how to quilt lots of tops. As you practice you are developing muscle.

photo by Alora Griffiths

No, not that kind of muscle!  Muscle memory.

Is muscle memory a thing?

You bet it is! When you practice a new skill over and over, your brain (not really your muscles) learns to perform the task without really thinking. There is a bit of muscle component too, but it’s mostly brain.

photo by Fakurian Design

How do I get muscle memory?

Some of the best advice I received as a new quilter was to pick a couple of designs and get really good at them. Then you will have a way to quilt any quilt with confidence. By now, I think you know the way to get really good at something. Practice. And practice EVERYDAY. It’s what will develop that all-important muscle memory.

Remember your promise?

But here’s something to think about: you want to develop good muscle memory, not mediocre muscle memory, and certainly not poor muscle memory. By that I mean you want to train your brain and muscles to execute a really excellent version of the design you are learning.

An Olympic track athlete doesn’t train by slowly strolling around the track. They run fast. They train the way they want to perform in the real race.  And they pay attention to every nuance of their body and movements. They discover what makes them faster and what slows them down through experimenting with different techniques.

Training with the good stuff

You want to quilt like an Olympian. So you need to learn the design the way you want it to look on your show-stopping quilt!

All you need is a really good example of the design you want to learn. You might find it in a book of quilting designs.

Books of quilting designs

page from Quilting Dot to Dot by Cheryl Barnes

Or on a quilt you see at a show or a sample in a quilt shop. Take a photo. Get a close-up of the quilting design!

If you take a class, often times the teacher will provide handout notes with drawings of designs. Score!

You might find a design you like in a magazine.

from Quiltmaker Magazine Nov/Dec ’10

You’ll need a plastic page protector or piece of clear plastic that you can write on with a dry erase marker. If you are using a design from a book, place the plastic over the design.

Then trace the design with your dry erase marker.

Pro Tip:

Keep your elbow up off the table to help with the muscle memory development.

Erase and trace again. And again.

Pro Tip

Use a small scrap of batting to erase the marker. Paper towel will cause dry erase ink to “flake” off.  If those flakes get on your clothing or upholstery it will leave a permanent mark. The batting absorbs the ink with no flaking.

Another method is to make a copy of the design and slip that copy inside your plastic page protector.

Once you feel confident with the path of the design, remove the image and try drawing the design on your own. If you’re happy with the results, move on to your machine and practice fabric to try stitching.  If you don’t quite have the hang of it yet, keep tracing.

Notice the details

Just like the Olympian track star, pay attention to the small things. Like how the curves of your design are really very round. Or how the angles come to a sharp point over there. Or how the space between the lines is about 1/2 inch here, but only a 1/4 inch there.

Basic shapes

And pick out those basic shapes to make it easy.

You already know how to quilt all of the shapes. You just need practice in putting them together in different ways.

Next week we will explore designs made with curves.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Putting it Together – Straight

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

Putting it together – Straight lines

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

Piano Keys

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

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

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

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

The basic piano key looks like this:

and is stitched like this:

 

You can vary the spacing like this:

This design is sometimes referred to as Beadboard.

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

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

Keeping straight

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

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

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

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

Bricks

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

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

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

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

Stars

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

Two kinds of stars are pretty easy to stitch.

Teacher’s Stars

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

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

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

Open Star

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

Start with a Witch’s Hat like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greek Key

Squared Spiral

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

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Quilting for Healing

Warning: this blog post contains profanity and discusses serious topics such as death by shooting and mental health crises. Please read at your own discretion.

Marilyn Farquhar, from Ontario, Canada, is a member of the HQ Quilt Your Desire Inspiration Squad. Sadly, in late 2019 and early 2020  Marilyn lost her husband and father to cancer, then her brother, in a tragic shooting by police during a mental health crisis. In August 2020 Marilyn commenced a series of grief quilts, using quilting for healing to help her through the grieving process.

Quilting can be therapy in many ways and many quilters use quilting as a way to cope with difficult times in their lives. In August 2020 Marilyn commenced a series of grief quilts entitled Kairos – An Opportune Time for Action.  She has completed 3 quilts.

His Call For Help

Quilt titled His Cry for Help

His Call for Help – representing despair
Photo Credit The Abbotsford News

Marilyn’s artist statement:

On September 10, 2019, Barry shared his despair with me.  We sat on my back deck—he wore my pink jacket and smoked a joint while crying shamelessly.  He asked for his miracle—he pleaded for his miracle!  He stated “I’m such a piece of shit.”  “I’ve only caused heartache and sorrow.”  “The pain in my brain is unacceptable.”  I heard him, but I did not hear him!  I believed my strong brother would navigate his way through his struggles—I was wrong!  I am sharing this very personal story in the hopes that others, faced with this situation, will be able to recognize despair in loved ones during their darkest hours. Then find a way to get them help.

One Bullet

One Bullet – representing grief and loss Photo Credit Praveenraju909

Marilyn’s artist statement:

He asked to be shot six times—it only took one bullet to end his life.  There are many victims—not just Barry.  His friends, family, colleagues, and society have all been impacted by the loss of Barry.  Barry was a well known advocate for the homeless and marginalized.  The transformative effect of his work to change laws that impact the homeless will continue to be felt in the City of Abbotsford, BC, as well as across Canada.  Survivors left behind, despair at his loss, as much for a vital life cut short, as for the unnecessary circumstances of his death.

May Your Spirit Soar

May Your Spirit Soar – representing hope
Photo Credit Praveenraju909

Marilyn’s artist statement:

Barry’s spirit is now released from his earthly body—free to soar like the eagles.  My wish for all those impacted by poor mental health, grief, and the excessive use of force by police is that they will find within themselves the freedom to soar. May all the officers involved in this incident find peace.  If we are to be considered a civilized society, we need to find a better way of helping our fellow man.  This is the only way to pave the way to a more promising future we all deserve. 

Quilting for Healing

Marilyn’s goal in creating these quilts was not only to grieve her brother’s death and to heal herself, but also to make Barry’s life meaningful. She hopes these quilts will cause people pause and consider, and to talk about mental health, grief and changes in policing.

There is a documentary showing some of Marilyn’s process of making these quilts as well as more of the tragic story of her brother’s death.

When the Ontario and British Columbia travel restrictions are lifted, Marilyn will be taking the quilts across Canada. Her quilts will be on exhibit at various venues.

 

 

Please note: the series on free-motion quilting will resume next week.

 

 

Free Motion Quilting for Beginners, Theory

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

Theory

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

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

5 Basic Shapes

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

Straight line

straight line quilting

 

Curve

curve quilting

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

 

 

Loop

loop quilting

 

S-curve

 

Hook (or spiral)

hook quilting

You already know these

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

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

And you got better and better.

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

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

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

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

Assignment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun this week!

by Mary Beth Krapil

Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners, Part 1

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

Getting Started

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

#1 – Make the commitment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparation

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

Prepare your fabric

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

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

Batting

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

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

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

bag of batting strips for free motion quilting practice

I also use these strips on my Swiffer!

swiffer sweeper

Strips laid out on top of a fat quarter:

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

Thread

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

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

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

Assignment

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

One more thing

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

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

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

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Thread Break Sensor

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

How the Thread Break Sensor Works

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

thread break sensor

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

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

But My Thread Isn’t Broken!

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

Common causes and solutions for false thread break alarms

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

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

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

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

Hope this helps you understand your machine a little better!

Happy quilting!

Avatar by Kim Brunner

 

 

 

Art or Math?

There is a whole bunch of math that goes into creating a quilt. Geometry too. Those are scary words to a lot of quilters. Some think MATH is a four-letter word. Others will go screaming from the room at the mention of the “M” word. So the question is: Is a quilt Art or Math?

Quilts are made for beauty. But it takes a lot of math to get to the artistry. Spaces are divided into smaller geometric patterns that interlock. Tessellations. Angles. Measurements. Formulas. Calculations. Ratios.

     

But, when all those little pieces come together, a quilt is much more than the sum of all those little pieces. All the fabrics that were painstakingly chosen, precisely measured and cut and sewn. That’s where ART takes over. That’s when emotion enters. Magically, art transforms those angles and measurements and geometry into something much more. Something that speaks to the heart and soul. And it matters not if it is perfect. Every quilt has that special quality, that harmony. Beauty.

The math is still there. Much of what the human eye / brain perceives as beautiful is based on some interesting math concepts. Just ask Mr Fibonacci.

So never fear the math, because it will take you to the art, if you let it.

Happy Quilting!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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