Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Machine Quilting 101:Introduction
The purpose of this series is to help YOU become confident in quilting your own quilts....on your own home sewing machine. Not to sound too much like a commercial, but it CAN be done! Over the next several weeks we will talk about prepping your quilt top, thread, needles, batting, basting, quilting, choosing a quilting design, choosing a thread color, and so much more. I plan to post once a week (or sometimes every other week, depending on how busy things get over here) and cover one subject at a time. Even if you are already quilting your own quilts, I hope I can offer you a few tips/tricks to help you become an even better quilter. I must state-and I can not stress this point enough-I'm still a work in progress myself.
Today, as an introduction, I want to share with you my machine quilting journey.
When I made my first quilt back in the summer of 2000, I finished it by tying it with perle cotton. I made several more quilts and tied them as well. In early 2003 I ventured into the land of machine quilting. The first several I quilted with a walking foot because I knew I could get fairly good results sewing a (somewhat) straight line. It wasn't long before I felt very limited only quilting straight lines- I wanted to do more.
I took a machine quilting class at my LQS (perhaps in 2003 or 2004) and ventured into the world of free motion quilting. I still have the very first quilt that I free motion quilted and let me tell you, it's special! (I'll have to work up the nerve to show you photos of it....it's really bad!) For a few more years I machine quilted my quilts. I got better at free motion quilting and I even became fairly proficient at stippling, but I was getting so discouraged because no matter what, I would end up with huge puckers in the backs of my quilts. These weren't little puckers or bubbles that would shrink up in the wash. Some of the puckers could have doubled as pockets! I don't have any of those quilts in my possession as evidence....I gave them all as gifts. (Cringe, cringe!) Well, my husband, who is always so helpful, told me that if I kept using the same methods (I was spray basting my quilts at that time), I couldn't expect different results. I told him that I couldn't argue with him if he was going to be reasonable and then I proceeded to huff out of the room. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. That didn't help my pride (AT ALL) but eventually I settled down and came to terms with it.
In 2007, right before I moved from Michigan to Wisconsin, I met Michelle. She owned a little quilt shop out in the country and she machine quilted for other people on her domestic machine. That totally blew me away. I bluntly asked her when she was going to buy a long arm. (At this point I just assumed that anyone who was going to finish a quilt respectably needed a long arm to do so. I hadn't experienced anything different.) She told me that she had no aspirations of buying a long arm...she liked/preferred quilting on her domestic. I was in complete shock....I could hardly believe it! But, it gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I could quilt my own quilts without spending $20,000 on a machine that would take up an entire room of my home.
The final turning point was when Michelle helped me pin baste a KING size quilt. We clamped half of it down on her work table, pin basted that first half, moved it, clamp it down again and then pin basted the other half. I was quite certain that it would result in one gigantic pucker right down the middle of the quilt back. Do you know what? I quilted it on my JUKI without a single pucker! A KING SIZE quilt!!! (It was this one.) I can not express to you how excited I was. Needless to say, I was sold on pin basting. I have been pin basting my quilts ever since and puckers are a rarity now. I certainly haven't had any pocket-sized ones since. Hurray!!!!
So, my husband was right. You can't expect different results if you don't change your methods. I am so very thankful that Michelle helped me get down to the bottom of my basting issues. If it wasn't for her, my guess is that I would have given up on quilting altogether.
That's my story. I feel a little bit exposed now, but I hope that if you are frustrated with machine quilting (I still remember that feeling very well) that it gives you hope that it CAN get better!
To wrap things up today, I would like to ask you where your sticking point is in machine quilting (if you have one). Or, if you have had an "ah-ha" moment like I did, I'd love to hear about that, too.