Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another Machine Quilting Tip . . .

Well, here is "Wild Girl," another lovely new design by Toni Whitney for Bigfork Bay Cotton Company.  I just completed quilting two of these designs for trunk shows.

One of the supplies I use when machine quilting are a pair of garden gloves, the ones with rubber nubs on them.  The gloves allow me to keep a grip on the fabric while pushing it under the needle.  While I used to wear both, I found that I needed to use my bare hands to perform some tasks and would have to take my gloves off.  My solution to the issue of having to stop and take the gloves on and off is to keep my left glove off (I am left-handed) and keep the right glove on.  Having one glove on provides just enough grip for quilting.  Having one glove off allows me to have the freedom of having my bare fingers available for tasks needed, i.e., threading the needle, cutting thread, etc.  There are various types of gloves out there for the quilting industry.  I have used a few.  I enjoy the garden gloves because they are just loose enough to keep my hand from sweating.  Machine quilting takes practice but can be quite enjoyable.  Be open to trying different techniques and supplies while you are coming up with your style of quilting.  Some things will work and some won't but eventually you'll find your own way.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Smooth as Silk. . .

Have you ever quilted on silk?  I have quilted on painted silk a few times now.  Here is the latest project I quilted for the Bigfork Museum of Art and History's raffle quilt in their celebration of Glacier National Park's 100th Anniversary.
The tricky thing about quilting on silk is that once a hole is made it is difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of.  So boo-boos are a no-no.  I quilted this on my Janome 6500 which has a 9-inch throat.  It is the largest quilt I have done on this machine.  The needle size used was a 75/11 quilting needle and, for the most part, 40 wt. Aurifil thread.

I find that the most difficult part of quilting larger quilts is dealing with the weight of the quilt, keeping it moving under the needle without getting any drag.  One of the ways I deal with the drag issue is to use a product known as "Grip-n-Press" available through Bigfork Bay Cotton Company and other retailers.  This product's non-stick surface allows the quilted item to slide easily on the sewing machine surface while its tacky back keeps the product in its place.  This product can also be used for pressing with fusible web to keep the web off of your ironing board.  Here is its set-up on my machine.
When purchased, drop your feed dogs, place the product on your machine bed where it will be positioned, and drop your needle to put a hole in it.  Remove it from the bed and use a small hole punch to make the hole larger.
With my "Grip-n-Press," I made the hole large enough to use with my feed dogs up as shown here.  I use this product when I am machine appliqueing as I am able to keep my stitching smoother because the fabric moves freely as I stitch circles and curves.  Using my "Grip-n-Press" assists me in keeping my free-motion quilting stitches even.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this product for making my quilting experience enjoyable.  Fighting with the quilt's drag gets tiring and frustrating, especially once you get your stitching rhythm going.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Are you seeing Spots?

I recently completed quilting Toni Whitney's Zirafah for Bigfork Bay Cotton Company.  This is a beautifully designed quilt and the 4th one I have quilted.

All of the quilts from Bigfork Bay Cotton Company's pattern company are quilted using free-motion quilting and matching the thread color to the fabric.  When I began this type of quilting, I was hesitant and unpracticed.  I had often used my open-toe foot with the feed dogs up using decorative stitches to quilt.  This technique worked well and looked good but was not the accepted technique for Bigfork Bay Cotton Company.  I took the challenge and began quilting with my free-motion foot and the feed dogs down and a new love bloomed.  My quilting has greatly improved with practice and I enjoy the rhythm I fall into when quilting.

When teaching students how to machine quilt, I begin by helping them to understand the importance of rhythm.  We all have a rhythm whether it be fast, slow, or in-between.  Finding your rhythm is the key.  Listen to the sound of your sewing machine. Don't let the sound scare you into quilting with it.  Instead, listen for the sound that occurs when your hands and the needle move together comfortably to produce a stitch length you like.  That sound can then lull you into the rhythm that's appropriate for you.  Be mindful that you will generally have more success quilting faster than you think you can handle.  If your quilting is too slow, the jerkiness of stop and go will not let you create a rhythm to find.  Give it a try. What's your rhythm?

If you are new to learning to free motion quilt, I strongly recommend that you practice making your stitches on the small side.  Once your small stitch length becomes consistent, it is easier to drop the stitches even smaller as was necessary for Zirafah's spots and still have them look good.  It is always easier to increase your stitch length rather than decrease your stitch length once you become comfortable with large stitches. Consistent stitch length is the important result necessary for successful quilting.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Meadow Breeze is moving along!

Here is an update of my Pat Sloan Meadow Breeze mystery quilt.  I have now completed Parts 1 and 2 with Part 3 well on its way.  Wow!  I am actually staying caught up.  Pat just posted Part 4 patsloan.com.  I love the way it looks and can't wait to get started on it.
Part 1

Part 1 Close Up

Part 2

Part 3
Still needs to be stitched.
Be sure to visit Pat's flickr site at patsloan.com to view other versions of this fun mystery.