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Monday, August 30, 2010

A Milestone

Wizard quality free motion machine quilting - by Diane Gaudynski
It is funny how random events change the course of your life. Two years ago I was preparing to go out and shop for a nice longarm machine and frame. Unfortunately, the recession hit, and our income stream vanished overnight. So much for a big hobby purchase like a longarm! That would have to wait for better times.

I was at the point in my quilting journey where piecing was coming together and I was beginning to make things I actually wanted to quilt up and keep...but that was the problem! How was I to do the quilting?

I had hand quilted when I was younger, before babies arrived and the sewing was put away. But even then, bouts of quilting gave me instant tendonitis in my right forearm. And hand quilting was slo-oooo---ow going. I am not content to wait months to finish any given piece.

The easiest option was to send my quilts out to be quilted by a pro. But the artist in me objected: I wanted to control the quilt creation process from beginning to end. For better or worse!

I could also use my walking foot and quilt in straight lines. While there are times I do like straight line quilting, I would feel too limited if it were the only kind of quilting I could do.

I could learn to free motion. I had already taken one workshop and I wasn't half bad for a raw beginner. But I could see that learning to free motion well was going to take a long time and a lot of practice. At one trunk show, the speaker mentioned that it took her about 300 hours of practice before she felt she was in control of her free motion quilting. Wow. Even if an hour a day practice allowed me to learn to free motion quilt as well as she could, that was going to take me a year!

by Cassandra Williams - she must have practiced more than a year!

At first I thought I would just put the quilting on hold for a while. I went back to work on my piecing and design skills, which can always stand a little refining. But with the tops beginning to pile up, I realized I had to change my attitude about free motion quilting. I was deeply reluctant to accept that for a long time, my free motion quilting was going to be herky-jerky and wobbly. I have always hated to hand in less than stellar work, and those high standards applied to my quilting along with all my other endeavours. But those high standards were now getting in my way.

I had to accept my own journey along the learning curve in order to progress in my craft.

I looked at the lap quilt top I had just finished. I loved it! And I really wanted it quilted up so I could use it as fall descended. It was time to learn to free motion. I went out to the discount fabric store and bought 10 metres of high quality, discount priced quilting cotton. It was ugly, but it would do. I made up a stack of 24" square practice quilt sandwiches. I set up my D1 on a home made quilting table setup.  And went to work.

I was surprised at how quickly I progressed on simple meandering. After a week of daily practice sessions, I felt that I was ready enough. My meanders are a bit wonky, to be sure, and there are plenty of bobbles where I have not yet mastered the art of stopping, repositioning quilt and hands, and continuing on. And my stitch length varies too much. I get excited or panicky and put the pedal to the metal...not so good for nice, regular stitch length! And I often keep trying to quilt when my hands are totally out of position...that makes for really long stitches as I strain for quickly vanishing control.

Here is my lap quilt all quilted up...what a great feeling it was to take it off the quilting table! Is it perfect? No! Did I improve as I went along? Yes! And was it fun? Totally! Will it be lovely to snuggle under my new lap quilt on winter evenings? Oh, yeah!

Next project up is this adorable doll quilt. The sashing and border strips are only 1" wide finished, and I realized I have to have much more control to free motion quilt those creditably than is necessary for large scale meandering. Onward!