I have been participating in the Free Motion Quilting Challenge at Sew Cal Gal (http://www.sewcalgal.blogspot.com) Each month a well-known machine quilter is featured. They do a tutorial about machine quilting that is full of their own tips and tricks. The tutorial is followed by some exercises that are done to incorporate the new information that has been presented by the featured quilter. These exercises are uploaded to the Sew Cal Gal website. Although this challenge has been going on since January, this is the first month that I have had it all together in time to submit. Eventually I will submit all twelve months but won't be able to win the monthly prizes for the late months but I will be eligible for the grand prize if I have all twelve exercises updated.
SO..... May's featured quilter is Leah Day, a sweet, down-to-earth quilter who had some great advice for us. Since I have been machine quilting for 15+ years I have the basics down but there are always new products and products I haven't thought I needed to use.
One of the products that I actually had on hand but had never used because it is kind of cumbersome, is the Supreme Slider. The Supreme Slider is a Teflon sheet that sits on top of the sewing machine bed and has a slightly tacky underside to keep it in place. It creates a very smooth surface which assists with moving your quilt around under the needle while you are quilting. I pulled my Super Slider out of my closet and tried it - the jury is out... maybe I already had a smooth surface so I didn't need it as much as other machines. I mentioned cumbersome, it makes it inconvenient to change your top-loading bobbin out since you must remove the slider to get access to your bobbin case. I will probably keep using it until I get tired of it being in the way....
Another new product Leah talked about is Bobbin Washers. They are wafer-thin Teflon circles that go under your bobbin, inside the bobbin case. Because they are Teflon they help the bobbin spin freely and will help eliminate backlash and birdsnests from the backside of your quilt. Haven't tried them because I haven't found the correct size for my machine PLUS they are rather pricey - about a dollar each for a wafer thin circle of Teflon!
One last product that Leah mentioned that I was interested in was a brand of polyester thread called Isacord. I have never heard of this thread before and couldn't find it at the quilt show I just attended so I guessI will have to wait to try it out. Leah uses this thread exclusively. I looked at the prices on her website and it looks to be about the price of Superior threads - $6/1,000 yds for solids and $9.95/ 1,000 yds for varigated thread. It would be worth trying.
Leah had a great idea to help with machine quilting "practice". She has you make up at least 12 "layer cakes", or "sandwiches" as I call them, and keep them near your sewing machine. I like to make large layer cakes (at least 10" square) so that by the time I have completed the practice session, I really can remember the motions that were required to make this pattern. I will try to practice a quilting pattern as often as I possibly can - it can be a new pattern that I saw and liked or it can be one I have already practiced and had a hard time with and so I still need the practice. When I know that I will be using a particular set of quilting patterns on an upcoming project, I will practice them for a few days before I use them. This improves the "muscle memory" for these patterns. There really is a "memory" of sorts in your hand and finger muscles -I have definitely felt this to be true when I am making small circles or pebbles - the first circle I think about but the second circle just happens because my muscles remembered the motions of the first one. IT'S TRUE!! Another reason Leah has for practicing often is because we may go for months and months and not quilt anything and this keeps our machine quilting fresh in our minds.
I really liked the tip that Leah had for hiding dangling threads - although my thread cutter cuts off the thread so close to the fabric it is hard to make this work on my machine but I could use it on the beginning threads. First you pull up the bottom thread so that you now have two threads in hand. Thread a self-threading needle with those two threads and then take those threads between the layers of the quilt to hide them. I thought this was a nifty way to do this!
The exercises that Leah had us do were two "overall" patterns that she said she used a lot. The first one is called Double Stippling (below on right) and the second one is called Railroad Tracks Stippling (below on left - basically Double Stippling with a twist). They are double stippling because you lay down a stretched-out stippling line and then stipple across it - thus, double stippling.
My samples are below. If you would like to participate in the Free Motion Quilting Challenge, just click on the icon in the upper right hand corner of my blog.
Thanks for reading and Happy Quilting!!