Sunday, September 29, 2013

Machine Quilting 101 - an intro for beginners

I've been asked by a few people how to get started or improve their machine quilting skills, whether it be by longarm or just your standard domestic machine.

All I can say is practice, practice practice.  PPP.

 It really is like handwriting -  remember in grade 3 when your teacher taught you handwriting?   Did he/she give you the entire alphabet all at once?   No!  You practiced a couple of letters each day - with similar shapes at a time.  That is exactly how I work on my machine quilting skills.

lower case e's and l's are really good practice for loops in machine quilting!

Another thing to note -  you will never have the exact same swirls as Angela Walters or feathers as Claudia Pfeil.   They all have their distinct 'flavour' in their stitching, just as we all have our own distinct handwriting.   The goal is to get those shapes consistently looking nice and gaining confidence to try new ones!   

There are some basic shapes in machine quilting -   curves/arcs,  S shapes, hooks, straight lines, and loops.   From these basic shapes you can spring into more complicated ones.

I practice mostly using a whiteboard on my lap - while I'm watching TV, but I do use a notebook/sketchbook to practice as well.   Once I have the shape reasonably comfortable in my practice, then I move to the machine and practice there.


When I practice,  I focus on one particular shape or design that I am trying to master, until I get it into memory - or muscle memory as they call it.   Think of when you JUST learned how to form that letter 'a' in handwriting,  you really had to think of the steps of how to make that 'a'....and now years later (many many many many for me ) you don't even think of how to form it now.   That is muscle memory.   Luckily, your teacher had you mastering that 'a' within a few days or weeks, right?   It will happen in quilting for you, too.

So, I have listed a few easy machine patterns that I do to practice some of the easier shapes.  The easier the shape, the more I focus on things like changing size; travelling across the quilt without getting stuck in a corner; and filling the spaces evenly.   Believe it or not, I STILL go back and practice a plain ole meander once in awhile!

Curves and Arcs

The very first thing to do would be some simple S curves and arcs -  that would be the basic meander!
all of the names I call these practices are made up by me - there could be an actual name for them, but this is what I call them.

The Meander
Poor ole meander, it does not get enough credit.  This is the foundation of quilting - this is how we start out!   Practice making your curves nicely rounded (left of photo), and fill up your space evenly, without getting 'trapped' in a corner.  You can also try some variations such as one I call the finger like meander - the curves are longer and less round, the fingering meander has more stretched out peninsula like shapes

I'll continue with a few more in my next post...

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