I have been very busy at the kids' school this week. But I did manage to finish quilting my log cabin quilt. It still needs binding but I went ahead and took some pictures.
Here are several close-ups of the quilting. I did a kind of messy stipple/meandering quilting because I like the way it makes the quilt all 'crinkly' after it's washed and because it is much faster that straight line quilting using a walking foot. The kind of quilting I did is called free motion quilting because it's done with the feed dogs lowered on the machine which allows the quilt to move around freely under the needle. With the feed dogs down you will also be controlling the direction and length of the stitches. The machine will move the needle up and down and you will move the quilt back, forth and side to side. It's kind of like drawing with the needle - only the machine is the pencil and you are moving the paper (quilt). It sounds complicated but it's not once you get the hang of it.
Often the only thing stopping people from attempting free motion quilting is fear. I know because I too had fear. And then one day I made myself a dozen 12X12 inch quilt sandwiches (just squares of batting and fabric pictured below) and practiced, practiced, practiced. So:
1. put in a free motion quilting or darning foot. (This foot has a spring in its shank that lets it "hop" out of the way as you are moving your quilt around)
2. lower the feed dogs on the machine (there's usually a switch in the back of the machine - read the manual)
3. Put in a new quilting needle.
4. adjust the needle stop in the DOWN position. (this way each time you stop sewing the needle will remain down in the fabric, allowing you to continue from the same stitch) Watch Crazy Mom Quilts' video to see how this works during actual quilting.
5. Thread the machine. Remember that in order to thread the machine properly you'll need to release the needle tension while you are threading and engage the tension right before you take the thread through the needle. This ensures that the thread is going through the tension disks properly. (this is not specific to free motion - you should already be doing this each time you thread your machine. But if you don't thread the machine properly for free motion you'll see loops of thread bunching up on the back of your quilt)
6. Begin practicing on your 12 inch quilt 'sandwiches.' Move a square under the needle, placing a hand on each side, and move the quilt under the needle to form the stippling design.
There are some great tutorials in blog land on free motion quilting. Alissa of Handmade by Alissa has a great tutorial here. Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts has a super informative video on free motion quilting. And this photo of Kathy of Pink Chalk Studio with her quilt over her shoulder is one good way to maneuver a large quilt. Kathy also writes about the importance of using a sharp quilting needle. Personally, I do not like to wear gloves while I quilt but you can try it and do what works for you.
TEN Very Important Things to Keep In Mind:
1. Don't worry about consistent stitch length at first - that will come with practice. The varied stitch length is the mark of a real person (you) moving the quilt around with you hands, and not a machine.
2. The hardest part of free motion quilting is coordinating your machine's speed with the speed with which you move your quilt. Find the machine speed (controlled by the foot pedal) that is comfortable for you and keep it consistent. My machine has a slider bar that allows you to adjust machine speed - I like to set it on 'medium fast' which lets me floor the pedal without going crazy fast. Then I move the quilt under the needle at 'medium' speed.
3. Try to look just ahead of the needle at all times to see where your stitching is headed (kinda like looking ahead while driving)
4. If your stitches are too long, increase the speed of your machine and slow down the movement of your hands.
5. If the stitches are too small and bunched together, decrease the machine speed and increase the movement of your hands.
6. First start the machine running slowly. Don't move your hands (quilt) until you have taken a stitch or two. Then move you hands slowly as you increase the machine speed.
7. Problem solving tip: If there are long loops of thread on the back side of the quilt, only two things could have caused this problem. (1) you forgot to lower the presser foot before beginning to stitch or (2) you forgot to raise the presser foot when you threaded the machine. To solve this: carefully rethread the machine and start over.
8. To train your brain, practice drawing the design on a piece of paper before you stitch.
9. Any imperfect section will be hidden once the whole quilt is quilted. It's the effect of the whole quilt that matters. Remember that the recipient of the quilt does not know the effect you were trying to achieve.
10. This is truly lots of fun. So grab a glass of wine, a comfy chair, turn the music up loud (the machine makes lots of noise) and quilt!
I will answer any questions in the comments - so ask away.
Question of the day: What are the fabrics above, combined with...
...these fabrics...amazing quilt. Several weeks ago Leslie of A Friend to Knit With was generous enough to give me permission to write up and share a pattern of my version of her gorgeous quilt with you. It took me a while to figure out how to piece it correctly without having to cut up hundreds of tiny squares - which is probably how Leslie's was constructed because it is hand pieced. Pattern coming soon so stock up on purple nail polish and search out the cutest embroidered jeans ever! (just kidding) And if you were wondering why the lower left hand corner of my sketch is conspicuously covered by fabric it's because I totally screwed up while watching episodes of Project Runway. But I promise that my math skills are far more accurate than my drawing skills. Really.
Have a great weekend everyone!