Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 is the year I learn to free-motion quilt

When I started quilting, I thought "quilting" meant sewing the pieces of fabric together.  The intricacies of doing all that decorative stitching just didn't cross my mind!  Then I started making my first quilt for my granddaughter.  It was a wholecloth map of the United States.  What a snap!  Just make the quilt sandwich and stitch around the state boundaries -- voila!  Well, Wyoming went pretty well, but as I worked my way out from the center, the rivers started to appear.  Three broken needles on the Mississippi alone.  And then there were the coasts.  Ah, yes, another Lesson Learned.

I thought if I could do Puget Sound, I could do anything.  I failed to notice the Aleutian Islands.  And never mind Chesapeake Bay!
I'd never even heard of free-motion quilting, and I really didn't want to commit to quilting it by hand, so I sewed the whole thing by lifting the presser foot and turning the fabric every 2 or 3 stitches.  Arghh!  I generalized where I could, but I think an obsessive personality must be part of loving quilting.  This quilt actually came out pretty well, considering, but I knew there had to be a better way (the other quilts I made last year were stitch-in-the-ditch or stitching at a 45-degree angle to the patches).

I took a class a few months ago and bought a few books.  I've watched a ton of videos on the web and have become a devoted follower of Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project.  Now I have to practice, practice, practice.  Today I worked on stippling leftover strips from the sashing on one of my current projects.  This gave me a chance to work within the constrained width of the sashing --  not as fluid as working in a larger space.

I found that I was making the wiggles rather small, resulting in a stiffer quilt that I wanted.  It will take some more time to get the size right and feel comfortable.  I also wanted to try different colors of thread.  The stippling was more even when I used the darker thread -- it was easier to see where I'd been as I moved the test piece around (note the loops and crossed stitching lines with the lighter thread).  But I think I'll use the lighter thread on the actual quilt, to keep the stitch quality as invisible as possible!

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