Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I had a lecture at the store a couple of nights ago - my 10 top tips for being a better quilter. What struck me about the audience was that they all wanted to learn to do their own quilting, but didn't want to put a lot of time into the practice and learning process. Just get it done. I got a bit like a mother, but I think it started to sink in by the end of the evening. Let me review some of the points that I want you to think about.....

1) Quilting is a skill very different from piecing. Piecing is pretty quick to come along and get under your belt. Quilting is a skill that not only takes time and practice, but involves a multitude of other subjects that are very foreign and unknown to most new quilters. Marking tools, batting choices, size of the quilt choices, threads, and on and on.

2) It takes at least 20 minutes to warm up before free motion quilting is comfortable and your muscles get the hang of the motion. Way too often, we just jump in and start to see improvement - on the quilt - after 20 minutes or more of quilting. Warm up off the quilt until you are comfortable, then go to the quilt. Work on stitch length, tension issues, and thread choices on the warm up piece. My warm up pieces are about 45" x 30".

3) Make sure you test your marking products to be sure they are easily removed from the quilt top after quilting, or don't rub off during the quilting process. Pouncing chalk is very easy to mark with, but rubs off very easily with all the movement of the quilt while quilting. Yellow has sulfur in it, so avoid using yellow or test it thoroughly. For more information, refer to the marking chapter in Heirloom Machine Quilting.

4) Start to learn about the battings available. Your batting choice can really affect the end product, as well as your experience quilting the quilt. Although cottons are thinner, if they are heavily needlepunched and/or have a scrim binder added, they can become very stiff as you quilt them, making it difficult to manage in the machine. If you have never used Mountain Mist products, look into them. You can get a batting pack of samples from my web site with Mountain Mist samples in it to play with and test. Also Cotton Classic. This is not needlepunched and is very flexible. Most quilters choose their battings by the feel of the batt, not the construction. Bamboo is an example of this. It feels very soft, but bamboo batts are needlepunched and most often have a scrim, making them no different after the quilt is quilted than a cotton like Quilters Dream, at a whole lot higher price tag! If you make the batting samples, you will see how they feel to quilt them, as well as what they look like after washing, before committing a quilt to a particular batt you know nothing about.

5) For those of you going through the Quilters Academy book, I would strongly suggest that if you are learning to quilt at the same time you are learning to piece, that you stick with the quilting suggestion we offer at the end of the book. We choose these designs based on Carries quilting ability, which was beginner when we wrote that book. She is now quilting the quilts for book 3 and is into feathers and harder stencils. You need to be patient and learn to stay on lines and keep your stitches even before getting into harder quilting designs. You might think that some of the quilting designs are boring, but we are letting you learn to manhandle the bulk of the quilt with easy quilting before you have to worry about staying on a line AND manhandle the bulk. I know everyone is very impatient with this process, but respect quilting for the skill it is. Take your time and work within your abilities so that all your new quilt tops reflect your skill at the time.

Happy quilting



I am hoping that this is a place where my students and others can get information and problems solved. My passion for the last 34 years has been machine quilting. As the person that put machine quilting in front of a very small quilt world in 1979 here in Colorado, and nationally in 1981, I have an abundance of knowledge about the subject. I have been teaching machine quilting to beginners with great success for over 30 years, nationally and internationally for 27 years. Heirloom Machine Quilting has been in continuous print since 1987. Pretty good track record.
Please feel free to contact me through this blog with any problems, and especially my students
successes. Posting photos would be great!