Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dr. Quiltlove: Or How I'm Learning to Stop Worrying and Love Free Motion Quilting: Day 3

Welcome to my Dr. Quiltlove series, where I'm rambling waxing poetic on how you might overcome some fear and machine quilt some of those tops you have sitting around your house. In case you've missed the past couple of days, here's a quick recap:
Day 1: 10 minutes
Day 2: Getting to know you

Kim left a great comment last week about free motion quilting - that free motion quilting is a matter of practice (see tip #1), but you have to be brave enough to start. Y'all that is the heart truth of it.

1974 quilt! 

Practice is great and all, but if you don't have anything you're willing to practice on, there's little motivation to get started. Maybe you're afraid to "mess up" that quilt top that took so long to finish with your newbie-style machine quilting. I totally felt that way about the pinwheel quilt pictured above.

In the beginning, I don't know that I necessarily had this problem. I didn't even know about Google Reader, so I wasn't really following any blogs, I hadn't joined any of the local guilds, and everyone in my family who quilted actually quilted their own quilts. I knew that there were people out there who were a lot better than I at machine quilting, but I just didn't realize how many of them there were. I also had no idea that I even had the option to send my quilts out to be quilted. Had I known, maybe things would have ended differently. But alas, ignorance forced me to practice my machine quilting. I just started quilting my tops with the only design Mom initially taught me - stippling. My first EIGHT quilts - all stippled in one form or another.

Nine-Patch Nirvana in Sonnet fabric 

I was pretty smug about this 9-patch nirvana sampler quilt (pictured above) at the time because I stippled in the blocks AND stitched in the ditch around the blocks and their sashing AND did a straight line of echo stitching around the inner orange border. (Watch out Houston Quilt Show, here I come! {sarcasm})

If you're reading this blog, you're probably not living in the same hole in the same boat I was 5-6 years ago. So here are a few ideas:

1. As unsexy as it sounds, make a muslin sandwich. Muslin is cheap, so you're not investing a lot of money in it upfront.

Disappearing Nine-Patch 

2. Maybe you have tops that you don't care about as much as you did when you made them. You know how it goes, right? You make a top, thinking this will be the crowning glory of your house, then you get distracted by a new fabric collection that comes out, and then there's the baby quilt you have to make, and next thing you know, it's 5 years later, and you're in a new house, and the quilt top no longer matches any of your decor. Tops like that - they're PERFECT for practicing free motion quilting. Since you're actually working with a top that has seams and shapes, you get a feel for what it's like to quilt through multiple layers of fabric on the seams, and you can see how curvy stippling softens the sharp angles of a quilt block, etc. Here's one of those tops I'm saving for practicing free motion feathers. I made it to go at the foot of my bed when the Disappearing 9 Patches were HUGE a few years ago. Now I'm thinking about repainting the bedroom a different color (surprise, Husbatron!), and this quilt might or might not have a starring role. Sounds like a perfect top to practice free motion feathers, don't you think?

Gunther breaking it in

3. Other options include making a quilt for your dog, or use the uglies in your stash (c'mon, I know you have them) for someone else's dog by donating it to the pet shelter. My dog loves a good quilt (exhibit A above). He would probably die of unadulterated bliss if I made a quilt specifically for him to wallow on.


4. Another idea is to try quilting small projects - mini-quilts, table runners, doll quilts, etc. When I did the Year of Schnibbles project a few years ago, I tried a variety of new (to me) patterns. I learned what designs quilted up super-quickly (loopy stippling) and what took a lot more time (micro-stippling backgrounds).

So tip #3: Pick or make something - ANYTHING - and quilt it.


  1. It was difficult for me to start quilting my tops. Had to work up the courage to try, start. I was encouraged to start with lap quilts. It worked. I do mainly straight lines, in the ditch, wavy lines, diagonal straight lines, free motion stippling and loop de loops.

  2. I know some days are better than others, but I get tired of picking it out! I did conquer pebbles this summer, but can every quilt have pebbles? Lol

  3. Love all the pictures! Great advice!

  4. Again, great advice - ya gotta go with the flow!

  5. As a matter of fact, I DO have a quilt top that I don't love so much. It's been hanging in my sewing room for almost ten years. Guess I know what's going to happen to that!

  6. First things first-your pooch is adorable! You MUST make him his own quilt! And second, I agree, you just have to keep practicing, and using up something that is not your favorite thing to practice on is a great idea:)

  7. I agree your dog is a cutesie and you should make him his very own quilt. I love your blog 'cause you make me laugh as well as enlightening me on quilt matters.

  8. I've also found that quilting lots and lots of charity quilts will really improve your skills! It's not fancy quilting, but I certainly am not afraid of trying new things now - and believe me, the people that get these quilts are not concerned with how perfect the quilting is - they understand the love that went into the quilt and only see the comfort it brings them!! We've never had one sent back because it wasn't quilted well enough!!