improv quilting

Simple. Handmade. Everyday. Podcast Episode 2 Show Notes

In this episode I talk about my love of tea, some free motion quilting adventures, my second sock nightmare, my current favorite binge-worthy show, and how I get my kids in the kitchen.

Here are the links of things I talk about in the show:

(Disclosure: Some of these are affiliate links)

Harney & Sons Earl Gray Tea

Teavana Perfectea Maker

The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting by Angela Walters and Christa Watson

Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

Free-Motion Meandering by Angela Walters

My Free-Motion Meandering blog posts:

Sew Illustrated by Minki Kim and Kristin Esser

HollyAnne of String & Story

Steam-a-Seam fusible web

Hermione’s Everyday Socks (free pattern on Ravelry)

Void Shawl

Selbu Mittens

Save Our Stitches Craftsy class

Yarn on First yarn shop in Napa, CA

Quince & Co. Lark yarn

Victoria show on PBS

improv quilting

Free Motion Meandering :: Paisley and Leafy Meanders

Welcome back to week 3 of the Free-Motion Meandering blog hop. I’m continuing to practice my free motion quilting skills by working my way through Angela Walters new book, Free-Motion Meandering. I haven’t been able to practice as much as I would have liked to this week (who knew February was going to be so busy?). But even so, I am constantly surprised and delighted how much progress you can make with a little practice.

I really enjoyed this week’s designs: Paisley and Leafy Meanders

Paisley Meander

This is a design that I love and I practiced it quite a lot over the summer. Since I was pressed for time this week, I warmed up with it a bit, but I didn’t spend too much time, since I kind of worked it to death over the summer.

Lady of the Lake table topper at

Lady of the Lake table topper at

The Leafy Meander

A variation of the Paisley Meander is a pointier version called the Leafy Meander. I find this motif a bit harder, due to making sure that you get that little point at the top. So, I practiced a bit on paper first, and then checked back to Angela’s step-by-step drawings. It was then that I realized that I had been doing it, well, if not wrong, then…differently. For both the paisley and the leafy designs, I was going back to the base of the design every time that I echoed it. This is fine, but can really cause a build-up of thread near the base.

After following along with Anglea’s drawings, I realized that she just echoed the design, keeping a consistent distance between the lines at all times. This turned out to be a lot easier, and frankly, it covers more territory quicker. And I love a design that stitches out quickly.

Leafy Meander quilting from Free Motion Meandering

Leafy Meander quilting from Free Motion Meandering

I filled up my light blue swath of fabric with this meander, and was feeling like it was just starting to click, so I just kept on stitching. Like many meandering designs, you have to really pay attention that the leaves don’t all point the same way. I realized at one point that a bunch of mine looked like they were starting to lay on top of each other, so I made an effort to echo back and change direction.

Leafy Meander quilting from Free Motion Meandering

Sometimes getting that leaf shape is easy, and sometimes…not so much. I eventually realized that I need to pause at the point of the leaf, or else they tend to round out. I definitely need more practice, but this design is a lot of fun and builds quickly.

I also want to go back and practice my paislies in this more spaced-out way.

Next week we will wrap this blog hop up with Flower Meander and some Improv Quilting. I’m a little nervous about these designs, so I need to be more diligent about carving out time to practice. Just 15 minutes a day should do it! And I can always find 15 minutes, right?

If you are joining in on machine quilting practice let me know–and if you would like a copy of Free-Motion Meanders, there will be a giveaway next week!

You have three chances to win a copy of the book. C&T Publishing has given Vicki, Jen, and I each a copy to giveaway. So, stay tuned for that next week!

improv quilting

Free Motion Meandering :: Swirls

Here we are on week 2 of the Free Motion Meandering blog hop with fellow quilters and bloggers Jen and Vicki. You can check out the first week here. We would love it if you grabbed a copy of the book and spent just 15 minutes a day building up your free motion quilting skills. I am finding that even 15 minutes really builds skill, and let’s face it, it often ends up being quite a bit more than 15 minutes once I get going.

This week we are tackling Swirls and Swirl Hooks. I’ll be honest, I was nervous.


Free-Motion Meanders swirl quilting

I’m just going to say it: I hate swirls. They are not my thing. And they are deceptively hard! Let’s back up here. Angela does a wonderful job of showing you how to form them in a very step-by-step way. So that was awesome. I practiced on paper, and this is not my first time around the block with swirls. But they just don’t get any easier for me. The number one tip that I have heard from Angela Walters on quilting swirls (and quilting in general) is to keep the spaces between the lines consistent. This consistency becomes texture in an overall quilt design. And texture hides a multitude of quilting missteps.

Free-Motion Meanders swirl quilting

But that consistent spacing is my problem. I start out okay. I’m fully focused and (somewhat) relaxed and I’m swirling away when about four swirls in, I start to get a little bored, so I ever-so-slightly start to speed up and things quickly get sloppy (as you can see in the photo above). It’s a bit of a revelation to me actually, to figure this out. But it hasn’t stopped it from happening. I have finally figured out how to use the width of my open-toe free-motion foot to help me gauge a consistent space, but I’m still not really happy.

The book does a beautiful job of not only showing how to make a swirl, but how to build them into an all-over meander. And she tackles common issues, like not finishing the swirls, and how if you aren’t careful, then tend to stack on you, which is not as pleasing as a more random placement. I have this problem and reading that section was helpful.

Swirls will never be my favorite motif by themselves, but I can see mixing them into an improv quilting design–so I will keep practicing them. Can we please move on though?

Swirl Hook

Free-Motion Meanders swirl hook quilting

I confess that I was dreading this design. It just seemed like harder swirls. However, Swirl Hooks turned out to be my dark horse favorite! They were tricky to figure out at first, and I followed the drawings in the book step-by-step until I had it figured out. For me the hardest part is remembering which way to come back up after I create the hook. But once I had that down, it was a lot of fun! One thing that I found easier is that there was less “swirl” in this design. If I managed to come out of the “hook” part correctly, the motif was just about complete–and then on to the next one! I found the trouble shooting section useful here as well, because I had a tendency for all my “hooks” to line up, and trust me–you don’t want that!

I’m so glad to have this design in my repertoire! Who knows, maybe practicing this one will help my plain swirls over time as well.

How do you feel about swirls? Do you have a quilting motif that you just can’t seem to master? Tell me about it in the comments. And don’t forget to swing by Jen and Vicki’s blogs to see their beautiful swirls! (Am I the only one who can’t swirl?!)

improv quilting

Free Motion Meandering

Are you ready to do some free motion quilting? I know that I feel more confident in my machine quilting when I am practicing regularly. And I get inspired when new quilting books hit the stands. When I heard that everyone’s quilting hero, Angela Walters had a new book out, called Free-Motion Meandering: A Beginners Guide to Machine Quilting, I definitely wanted to check it out. So, I will be working my way through this book along with my quilting and blogging friends, Vicki and Jen.

Free-Motion Meandering by Angela Walters

I am not exactly a beginner, but I was intrigued by the step-by-step, photo tutorial style of this book. I’m a visual learner and this approach really appeals to me.  Another thing I liked about it is that while it contains all the information that an absolute beginner needs (sewing machine feet, needles, thread, batting, etc.), the motifs ramp up quickly and it ends with some designs that are quite impressive.

She really builds up the designs in a thoughtful way. As a matter of fact, you can get a preview of the motifs covered in the book and a FAQ from Angela herself here.  The book is filled with Angela’s fun personality and encouragement that you should never, ever pick out your quilting mistakes. My kind of girl!

Something else that I liked is that all the machine quilting motifs that she teaches you is perfect to meander across a whole quilt (thus the name). And that is my kind of quilting! I’m not sure I’ll ever be a custom quilter–the type that quilts each area of a quilt block differently. It’s beautiful, but it’s just not my thing right now. Just give me a doable design and let me quilt the whole quilt.

The Basic Meander

Basic meander qulting

We definitely start with the basics here. I’ve done hours of meandering, but it has actually been a while since I stitched out this motif. It turned out to be a great warm up. I had fun practicing it in different scales: large, medium and small enough to be considered stippling. If you are a brand-new quilter, Angela sketches this motif out for you and trouble-shoots common mistakes. I thought this troubleshooting aspect was very helpful. It was a perfect place to start, but I was quickly ready to move on.

The Loopy Meander

Loopy meander quilting

In a natural progression, Angela has you move onto a loopy meander. I actually love this motif and find it useful in so many places. It is fun, fast, and whimsical. With this design in your arsenal you can tackle a wide range of quilts. I practiced it with small circles, which is my usual way, and then changed it up to larger circles, which I found more challenging.

large loopy meander quilting

She shows you lots of ways to vary it, as well as how to use it in different areas of a quilt, like as a background filler or in borders. Lots of fun examples. Angela also tackles the most common mistakes that people make with each design and gives you tips on how to fix them.

Loopy Meander quilting

Here is my first longarm quilting project–I wanted it to be a success, so I did the whole thing with big loopy meanders. I was able to quilt the whole thing in about an hour and a half and it was pure bliss.

I love how this books starts out so easy and doable. I got more practiced and relaxed behind the sewing machine this week–so now I am ready to tackle next week’s designs–swirls. Even though I have tackled them a couple of times before, I never seem to quite get comfortable with them. Let’s see if a week of practice will help me get over my fear of swirls and even more daunting–hooked swirls.

Are you quilting along? Let me know! Let’s build these skills together! And make sure to pop over to  Vicki and Jen’s blogs to see their takes on the first couple motifs as well.