Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Machine Quilting

There is the right way to machine quilt and then there is my way. For the right way refer to Sue Nickels book or Caryl Fallert's website/dvd's or the other multitudes of authors and prize winning quilters out there.

For my way (and I'll try to be nice here, having the reputation of Quilt Nazi, as my students will attest) make a quilt sandwich from muslin and batting and load your machine with contrasting thread in the needle and the bobbin, pour yourself a stiff drink, and have a seat (higher than usual) at your machine.

Drop your feed dogs, attach your darning foot and start by just doodling.
Don't try and make a design, and beginning in the middle of the sandwich,
holding the fabric with one hand and guiding with the other, it doesn't matter which hand does what.

When you have made a jumbled mess of stitching, then start writing your name, larger at first, then again in a medium size and then very teeny.
You are on your way to gaining control and confidence. Wasn't that easy? Have another slurp of your drink.
At first you need to feel at ease, or at one with your machine.
Lower your expectations.
All you need to do is make a line, in any direction. Don't expect to travel that far with that line, and don't expect it to be long, since short bursts will be smoother and easier to make. Recognize that a curving line is more natural than a ramrod straight line. Go back and forth and side to side, or diagonally back and forth. Notice the size of the stitching...
Slide the fabric by grasping it in one hand, with your palm resting on the machine base and guide the fabric with your other hand, close to the needle.

Here are some questions from yesterday's comments:
All of us that can't free motion are green with envy. I would so love to be able to do that and if you were a true friend you would get in your car, come to my house and not leave until I have mastered it. So there!!!!

See the above directions.
Someday, it will all come!! But, i guess i have to start by practing? :)Does anyone know of a good quilt frame to attach to your sewing machine? Instead of investing in a longarm? I'm actually thinking of ordering one today... any thoughts?

Please please do not go for any contraption that you think will make this easier than it already is.
You only need your hands and your machine. BELIEVE ME. No gloves, no finger tips things, no rods or steering wheels are necessary. JUST PRACTICE. There is really no shortcut or substitute for just sitting at the machine and getting loose.

I have a technical question. When you say that you have feed dogs up for stitching in the ditch, are you also using the free motion/darning foot, or do you switch from a walking foot or standard foot too? I've always assumed feed dogs up=walking foot and feed dogs down=free motion foot. Then again, we all know what happens when one assumes!

Good questions...I don't use a walking foot, because my quilt top is fused to the batting. I know not all of you make quilts this way (yet) but this means that my top and batting are stable and I don't need to baste or anything and the walking foot is just too big and clunky and makes it much more difficult to maneuver the fabric precisely (moi?) where I want it to go.

To stitch in the ditch (feed dogs up) I use the regular standard foot and then I switch to the darning foot for free motion (dogs down).

I may remove the stitching in the ditch if it turns out that I get a bubble like this.

This requires careful quilting. It is not for the faint of heart. I will quilt the bubble flat by carefully guiding the excess fabric as I stitch. I know it looks bad but it will all work itself out in the quilting. It's a miracle.

And then there are problems I cause myself as a result of not paying attention or not recognizing a pouffy area before I get right to it. I will have to unquilt this whole area. Yes, I mean take out the quilting and redo it. It will drive me nutso until it is done right.
I am not a perfectionist! Sacre bleu!

A word about thread and needles. I use thicker thread, like 30wt (with an 80 needle) cotton or rayon and the hard to find Sulky cotton size 12 (with a 90 needle). I use machine quilting needles or machine embroidery needles. Both have sharp points and sturdy shafts.
I drink a dry red wine.