echo plumes machine quilting

fun interview with christa and angela

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In honor of our Machining Quilting Blog Hop, HollyAnne over at String & Story did a super fun, joint interview with Christa Watson and Angela Walters, authors of The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting. They reveal some tips, advice, and the motif that drives them up a wall. Pop over here to read it.

echo plumes machine quilting

machine quilting blog hop {week 4}

We are back for Week 4 of the Machine Quilting Blog Hop! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I explain it here and links to the other weeks are at the end of this post. But the short form is that some friends and I are blogging and quilting our way through The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting in an effort to improve our machine quilting skills.

If you happen to be following along–we are going to throw you a bit of a curve ball this week because we are skipping the next chapter, called Swirling Butterflies. It is a whole cloth design and I felt that it seemed more like a Master’s Degree in Quilting rather than Quilting 101, so we all agreed that we will leave that one for Week 10 (and frankly I am making no promises about that week either).

So we all happily moved on to the chapter called Fractured Squares. In many ways, the quilt designed for this chapter covers different ways of handling borders–which I always find challenging. The most common way that I handle this is actually to leave borders off of quilt–but that’s just me 🙂 But recently I sewed up two quilts with borders and I used one of the motifs (wavy lines) on both of them and now wish that I had tried out a few others from this chapter.

The good news (for me) is that that this chapter is all about the walking foot! This was a welcome relief to me–those pebbles from Week 2 are still tormenting me.

Enough with the chit chat! What did I practice this week? I know I told you it was all borders, but there is also a center motif that I enjoyed stitching. It is a really fun way to fill up a block. You can do this with a quilting ruler–but I just totally winged it with my walking foot with no marking (except for the outer rectangle) and I love the way it came out. There is obviously a lot of turning with this design–but if the quilt isn’t huge–it’s totally doable.

domestic machine quilting

domestic machine quilting

Next came the border designs. I actually have some examples of some of these on real quilts, not just practice pieces. First up is the wavy stitch motif–done with a decorative stitch. On my Babylock, I stretch the default setting for this stitch out to 7.0/3.0 and I use it all the time. It give such a great texture to the quilt and is very relaxing to quilt. I usually quilt the lines about 1″ apart.

domestic machine quilting

And I really love the way they look when they overlap in the corners.

domestic machine quilting

Next is a cross hatch. This is pretty zen to quilt as well. There are a few ways to mark the lines for this–but my favorite is a hera marker. It leaves a crease easy enough to sew on, but eventually relaxes out and leaves no mark.

domestic machine quilting

The last border design is clever in its simplicity. It is just doing straight line quilting with different spacing between the lines. No picture really needed for this. Christa is very clever in how she shows you to do this with no marking.  Really this book is so packed with instructions and tips–I’m so glad to be going through it in depth to really absorb all the information. What we are showing you here on the blog hop is just the tip of the iceberg.

Truthfully, I’ve not be as diligent as I’d hoped about putting in my 20 a day practicing quilting this week. Since this week was walking foot designs–that turned out okay–but I hope to get some more practice pieces prepped (so. many practice. pieces.) and sit down each night after dinner and practice. But I thought I would leave you this week with what what one of my practice pieces looks like before I retire it. It is well used.

domestic machine quilting

I found a great YouTube channel to check out called Man Sewing. He has a whole playlist of Free Motion Tips and Tutorials. You might want to check that out.

A quick reminder that–The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting is on sale all month long over on the Martingale website. It’s a great time to grab a copy! Don’t forget to share on Instagram: #machinequiltingbloghop.

Machine Quilting Blog Hop series:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

See how the others handled this weeks designs:

HollyAnne at String and Story

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

Or just click the image below to get all the links.

 

echo plumes machine quilting

machine quilting blog hop {week 3}

Welcome to the Machine Quilting Blog Hop Week 3! Or, as I like to call it “Quilting with Friends”. It’s so good to hear from people in the comments, on Instagram, or on my Facebook page that are following along both in practice and in spirit. And I have loved reading about Jen, Vicki, and HollyAnne’s experiences along the way.

This week was fun! It started with some straight line quilting–which I was doing on a quilt anyway–so “check!” I really enjoy straight line quilting, or as I like to say, “straightish line” quilting. This design is one that I find myself cringing when I see the wobbles as I’m quilting–but when I stand back and look–those wobbles pretty much disappear. It is so easy to be critical when you are close-up, so stand back and give yourself a break.  I was truly in my happy place quilting line after line, listening to the soundtrack from Les Miserable.

domestic machine quilting

Then it was on to a similar design, but using a decorative stitch. This is one that I do all the time right now: the elongated wavy stitch.

domestic machine quilting

I had never done it in a triangle shape before, so that was a bit challenging. You want to switch from the wavy stitch to a straight stitch to travel to the next starting point, so that you don’t have to keep breaking thread. I found it very inconvenient to keep switching stitches like that–especially because I need to modify the wavy stitch on my machine. I make it longer and wider than the default setting. This was a lot to mess with every time I switched back to the straight stitch to travel. So I actually dug out my sewing machine manual and looked up how to save stitches in memory. I saved the wavy stitch with the settings that I like, and I also saved the straight stitch. Then it was just a couple button clicks to move back and forth between the stitches. I felt like a genius!

domestic machine quilting

Next was irregular zig zags and then came irregular chevron shapes. The chevrons were so fun and easy to do! I love the way they came out. This is going to be a very useful design, I can already tell. I switched over to a bending thread, but I actually like the one with the high contrast thread better. The stitch length is all over the place–but I’m finding my rhythm. I could really use one of those Bernina stitch regulators–and the Bernina to go with it 🙂

domestic machine quilting

I am so glad that my new free motion foot finally come in from my dealer! (Queue angels singing!) I Iove this thing! I can see! I can finally see! Having this foot really made a difference in being able to see where I am, where I have been, and most importantly, where I am going.  (I talked about my issues with my other darning foot last week. ) I practiced those darn pebbles again–and it is a lot easier–but they still need work.

open toe darning foot

Then on to small scale stippling. Stippling is the one free motion design that I feel I have the most experience with. When I was a new quilter I joined a guild that has a huge charity group. I used to take home 2-3 quilts each month just to practice stippling. But, I had never done it on such a small scale before. The stipples may not actually be micro-stipples, but they are pretty small for me.

domestic machine quilting

Lastly, was a fun triangle spiral–which I did once across the practice piece and then when back and filled in all the remaining spaces with more triangle spirals. I’m still working on keeping my stitch length consistent, but this was a fun design.

domestic machine quilting

After last week’s pebbling challenge, I felt that this week was pretty fun and easy–a good confidence booster. And it is a mix of both walking foot and free motion designs, which is a nice change up. I’m still practicing those pebbles though…

Don’t forget–The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting is on sale all month long over on the Martingale website. It’s a great time to grab a copy!

Are you seeing progress with your own stitches? We’d love to see! Don’t forget to share on Instagram: #machinequiltingbloghop

Check out what the others are doing:

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

HollyAnne at String and Story

Or just click the image below to get all the links.

 

echo plumes machine quilting

machine quilting blog hop {week 2}

Here we are again for Week 2 of the Machine Quilting Blog Hop. To recap–a few blogging friends and I are quilting our way through The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting in an effort to improve our machine quilting skills. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m already seeing progress! Click here to start at the beginning.

I made about a million more quilt sandwiches to practice on this week.. No piece of ugly fabric is safe from me anymore! I’m actually regretting donating a bunch of fabric that I didn’t love to charity last fall. I could really use it now.

This week the focus was on two new designs–pebbles and a wood grain motif. Now, I know a lot of people do pebbles, and they act like it’s no big deal–but (ahem) I beg to differ. Pebbles are hard! I’ve been training for this for months, doodling pebbles while in boring meetings. But still . The struggle is real.

the ultimate guide to machine quilting

The first night, I filled up a full fat quarter with pebbles. And I have to say–I actually saw progress from the beginning of the night to the end. The part that I find the hardest is traveling back over the original line to start the next pebble. I’m often all over the place and it just looks…sloppy. I learned pretty quickly that I just need to Slow. Down. This is the story of my life–trying to do things too fast. Going slower gives you more control–when will I learn this?  I also started making the pebbles a little bigger, which helped. I found this interesting, because last week I found that making spirals smaller made it easier for me. Go figure.

So, after practicing them for a while, I decided to try them on a practice piece with more of a blending thread–which is a lot more forgiving. Not forgiving enough, I’m afraid. They still need work, but that’s what this challenge is all about! In fact, I plan to continue practicing each motif each week–and I’m excited to see what my pebbles look like at Week 10.

pebble quilting

Next, onto the wood grain motif. I’ll admit–I was intimidated by this one. So much so, that I also watched Christa’s Craftsy class, where she demonstrates this motif (actually most of the motifs in the book are covered in her class–it is a treasured resource for me!). The first thing I did was practice on paper to start to figure the design out and start to establish the muscle memory. Here’s what that looked like:

domestic machine quilting

Then I hit the machine. I found this motif so much fun! I actually tried quilting the design horizontally at first, but eventually found that it was much easier for me to quilt it vertically. So much of machine quilting is finding what works for you–so I was pleased to figure that out. I can totally picture myself using this motif in the future! It looks much harder than it is and creates such a cool look.

the ultimate guide to machine quilting

Here is the other thing that that I found out this week–I want to try an open toe free-motion foot. I feel that the foot I have makes it hard to see what is happening (pictured below). Leah Day has a video on how to modify a foot like this for better visibility. But I was a bit hesitate to do that in case I actually broke the whole foot. Instead, I have a metal, open-toe free motion foot on order at my local sewing machine dealer. I suspect I will like that one better, and I will then try the modification that Leah suggests on my existing foot. I will let you know what I think of the new foot once I have a chance to play with it.

darning foot

Some good news if you would like to follow along–The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting is on sale all month long over on the Martingale website. It’s a great time to grab a copy!

So, how did you do this week? Did pebbles kick your butt too? Let me know and don’t for get to share your work in Instagram #machinequiltingbloghop.

Don’t forget to visit the other bloggers who are quilting along!

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

HollyAnne at String and Story

echo plumes machine quilting

machine quilting blog hop {week 1}

I’m so excited to get this Machine Quilting Blog Hop started! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this. I’ll wait 🙂

The first thing I did was to assemble the basics: The book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting, a Supreme Slider (optional, but oh so helpful), Machingers quilting gloves (sorry they are so dirty!), the darning foot for my machine, and my favorite thread–Aurifil 2311.

Ultimate guide to machine quilting book

I should confess right now that I don’t have an ideal quilting set up. Like many of you, I’m sure, I sew at the dining room table. I have a Sew Steady extension table for my Baby Lock sewing machine and I actually sit on a yoga bolster to get to a comfortable height when I quilt. So, there is no high-end sewing machine sunk into a custom-fit cabinet for this girl (maybe someday?).

This first week is all about filling horizontal or vertical spaces with quilting. I created a couple of practice pieces with some stash fabric and just spray basted them. I used black fabric because 1. I have a lot of it and 2. the stitching would show up well on it. I probably won’t do that again because boy, it does not photograph well! So please excuse all the lint on these pieces that I did not actually see in real life. Also–one last tip: wind a whole bunch of bobbins!

Ultimate guide to machine quilting book

I drew some long lines with a chalk pencil on the fabric to create different sized channels to quilt in.

Ultimate guide to machine quilting book

First up was a simple, curved switchback motif–not too hard, even for me.

Ultimate guide to machine quilting book

We then moved onto a freehand zig zag. I’m still holding my own, in my opinion. I’m thinking, “I can do this–I’m not actually that bad.”

Ultimate guide to machine quilting book

Ultimate guide to machine quilting book

Then I moved onto square chains. Hmmmm. These were not as hard as I expected–and if I had done this with a blending thread, it could still be passable.  I practiced these for a while using two different techniques. But you will have to get the book to find out what they are 🙂 You can see them a bit in the photo below.

Onto the spirals! Hold the phone. These are not as easy as they look. I learned quite a few things with this design. First, I was doing them in a channel that was too big to start with. Smaller was definitely easier. Also, I realized that I was focused on the edge of the darning foot and not the needle as I was creating the spiral. This resulted in me not filling the entire space at first. Once I started focusing on where the needle was, I was able to fill the entire channel with quilting. I also realized that I wasn’t filling in the spiral enough at first. They started to look better when I filled them a little more densely. I still won’t win any quilting awards with this design, but I see definite improvement and again, if it had been done with a blending thread, I think it would create a lot of nice texture.

 machine quilting
my first attempt
domestic machine quilting
starting to improve–smaller and denser

I will admit, that putting my amateurish quilting out there is a bit out of my comfort zone–but I’m encouraged with my progress.  I really need to spend an evening creating a big pile of practice pieces so that I can spend just 10-15 minutes a day improving my skills.

So, how about you? Are you following along? If so, don’t forget to share on Instagram: #machinequiltingbloghop

Also–any advice? I’d love to hear it! Just leave it in the comments.

Lastly, don’t forget to visit the other bloggers who are quilting along!

HollyAnne at String and Story

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

Or just click the image below to get all the links.

 

echo plumes machine quilting

announcing the machine quilting blog hop!

Would you like to join me and some other bloggers as we  quilt our way through The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–piecing is my favorite part of the quilting process. And over the last couple of years, I’ve put in the effort and practice to become quite a bit more accurate. I smile every single time that I get some perfect points on my blocks. But the quilting part. That’s a different story.

machine quilting

walking foot quilting

I’ve simply just never practiced enough free motion quilting to feel confident and proficient at it. I’m sure I’m capable of it–I just need to put in the time. In the last year or so, I’ve kind of fallen in love with straight line/walking foot quilting. And I’ve finished at least a half a dozen quilts with various forms of walking foot quilting. But I want to have the skills to free motion decently when I think the quilt calls for it.

Enter the book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting by Angela Walters and Christa Watson–two of the reigning queens of machine quilting. As a sort of challenge to myself, I hatched this plan of working my way through the book practicing the free motions designs. In the book, Angela does longarm designs and Christa’s designs are for a sit-down domestic machine. So I will be following along with Christa. There are actual quilts in each chapter that are specifically designed to practice the motifs–but I will just be putting together practice pieces to work on. The real point of this is just to practice. I have a couple baby quilt tops sitting on a shelf, and I may try a couple of the designs to those to finish them up.

I fully expect the first few weeks to show how unskilled I actually am at free motion quilting–but at the end of ten weeks (ten chapters=ten weeks), I hope to see some significant progress in my skills.

And to add to the fun–three of my blogger friends are joinging in as well! Each Monday, we will each post our thoughts and adventures as we work our way through this wonderful resource.

HollyAnne at String and Story

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

We are kicking off on May 1 and would love it if you would like to pick up a copy of the book and join us! If you do–be sure to show us your work on Instagram with this hastag: #machinequiltingbloghop.

 

echo plumes machine quilting

these actually are your grandmother’s quilts

handmade antique quilts

The phrase, “Not your grandmother’s quilt” is so prevalent in articles about quilts these days–as if our grandmother’s quilts are somehow “less than” what we are creating today. I could not disagree more.

So today, I’d like to introduce you to three quilts made by my husband’s grandmother, Lettie Maude. As is the way it goes, his mother did not inherit the sewing gene and sadly had little information about them. But he remembers them on the beds in the house all throughout  his childhood. And then he brought them with him when we got married. Even though they were threadbare even then, we continued to use them for many years. I just noticed them in the linen cabinet recently and pulled them out to appreciate them with new eyes.

We don’t really know when they were made, but I’m guessing the 1930s and 40s. I’m no expert, but the fabrics seem consistent with that and it makes sense with her age as well. They are all utilitarian scrap quilts and my husband says that he actually remembers some of the fabrics coming from his grandmother’s dresses. Though the are meant for use and using up bits of old clothes and bits of fabric–each quilt has a unique design that prevents it from being to chaotic.

This little gem was on my daughter’s bed until she left for college last fall. And while it is clearly scrappy–I love how the light and dark purples really give it pattern and structure.

antique quilt

It is worn through in many places, but this didn’t actually stop us from using it until recently.

All three quilts are all machine quilted, but the stitch length on the piecing leads me to believe that these were all hand pieced. The quilter definitely wasn’t worried about points either!

This totally cracks me up. Three of the four corners are curved, but that fourth one is totally squared off as if to say, “I’m done with this already!” This one is machine bound with a crazy zig-zag stitch–another sign that this quilt was meant to be used.

This next one is a very simple scrappy Nine Patch. The design is calmed down by a couple of factors. One is the white snowball block that alternates with the nine patches. But the other I found really interesting. Every nine patch has either green or yellow patches in the corners and center square. This provides a unifying color scheme. Now, our quilter did not arrange these green and yellow blocks in any order–they are totally random–which I find totally charming, but not at all anything I could ever do. And, do you see that hole?

This one is also machine quilted and the design is so uniform that for a moment I wondered if it was computer generated–but obviously not! I guess the quilter just had made these designs so many times that they are amazingly uniform.  And I know I said that every block was either green or yellow–but can you spot that rogue yellow square in what was supposed to be a green block? A humility block, perhaps? Or ore likely, she just ran out of green fabric.

It’s fun to look at the quilting pattern–I remember asking my mother-in-law how they were done. I was not a quilter yet and had no idea about free motion quilting. Achieving this shape on a domestic sewing machine seemed impossible to me. All she said was, “She sent them away to be quilted.” So, I have no idea if they were done on a longarm or a domestic machine–but the designs seem to be in long columns, so I’m thinking a longarm–which was called a “quilting machine” in those days.

Here is the last one. While also a scrap quilt, the design really unifies the scrappiness..

I actually love the way that fabric on this one is just literally wearing away in a swiss cheese fashion.

And there is that same quilting pattern!

antique quilt pattern

All three of these quilts have been retired from active use and are now happily folded on a bench in our family room to appreciate in a new way. I would like to think that Lettie Maude would be happy to know that these labors of love have been in use for the last 80 or so years. And we continue to appreciate them to this day.

I am actually thinking about remaking one of them in contemporary fabrics–but I haven’t decided which one yet. Which one would you choose?

echo plumes machine quilting

fifteen minutes of creativity a day

What can you accomplish in fifteen minutes a day?

In the spirit of “little things add up to big things”, a piece of wisdom imparted by my best friend in college, I’ve been participating in something called Marchalong this month. All this means is that you to commit to setting aside fifteen minutes a day for creativity. That’s it. Fifteen minutes. But if you do it–how many hours of creativity does that add up to by the end of the month? Actually, I’m terrible at math, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot.

I’ve tried this “fifteen minutes a day” idea before with cleaning and decluttering–and honestly, it has never stuck for the whole month. But doing something fun and creative? I think I can make that happen for fifteen minutes a day.

So, how have I been spending my few minutes of creativity so far? First, I finished up my February hand sewing project that I am doing along with the Fat Quarter Shop. I am really loving hand piecing these blocks–I’m almost sorry when I’ve finished the six for the month. But the March blocks will be coming out soon, so I don’t have long to wait. I’ve been stitching away on these in the evenings while we watch Grace and Frankie and This is Us. I’m all caught up now with This is Us and it is agony to wait a week between episodes. I clearly need to find a new British drama to become obsessed with–any suggestions?

patchwork quiltalong, fat quarter shop, hand pieced quilt blocks

In the meantime, I cast on some shorty socks. I got a little obsessed with knitting socks over the summer, but have not cast on a pair in months.  It was clearly time to do so. I cast these on while listening to The Off-Kilter Quilt podcast–which is my favorite quilty podcast. Frances is charming and chatty and just plain entertaining. It’s a great way to spend your fifteen minutes.

knitting, knit picks, knitting project bags, podcasts, tea

Don’t you love this knitting project bag? My friend Minki made it for my birthday last year and I smile every time I reach for it.  People went a little nuts over it on Instagram the other day, but I can’t take any credit for it, except for the little pink knitted patch on the front.

I’m also working on a new quilt design–and honestly the jury is still out on how I feel about this one. I am in absolute love with the fabric line, Sundrops by Cory Yoder. That fact is not in doubt. However, I have rearranged the blocks in a million different ways and I hope I landed on the best one. Stay tuned.

sundrops, moda fabrics, quilting, alphabitties

I like having a few different projects at hand–because sometimes I just don’t feel like sitting down in front of the sewing machine. Or the only way that I’m going to get my fifteen minutes in is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office–so I’m glad that I can pack a sock to knit. But one thing is sure, I’m always amazed at how quickly a project progresses when you actually work on it! Even for just fifteen minutes a day.

What’s for dinner?

Because thinking about what’s for dinner is never far from any woman’s mind, I thought I would share that we are having Jonah’s favorite: Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss. You should try it 🙂 What are you having?

echo plumes machine quilting

Interview on String & Story

quilt blogs

 The delightful HollyAnne of String and Story sent me a few questions to answer for her FriYAY Friends post. Pop on over to learn a bit more about my creative journey and where I find inspiration. You can read it here.

echo plumes machine quilting

Your precious handmades. Do you use them?

tea, tea pot, handmade coaster

It all started with this coaster. I was having coffee with my friend Minki the other day and as always, we talking about sewing and the things we love to make. Then she said the nicest thing to me.

“I learned from you to actually use the things I make. Not just take a picture of them and then put them on the shelf.” Aww. To think that I have had an influence on a talent like Minki’s was a nice moment for me. But then I had to confess.

“I’m kind of having trouble with that now. You know that hand embroidered coaster you gave me a couple of years ago? I do use it. And it’s a bit of a stained mess now and I feel bad about it.” I didn’t tell her that sometimes I actually tuck it away in a drawer when she is coming over, so that she won’t see what has become of her hard work.

Then she told me, “I actually think that stained linen is beautiful.”

hand made coaster, Minki Kim

And you know what, she’s right. (This coaster actually looks worse in real life, for some reason.)

That got me thinking about all the handmade, everyday use items I have around that house. Knitted dishcloths are my absolute favorite, but I am always a little sad when one starts to come unraveled. I actually usually merely move it to the rag drawer until it is nothing but a pile of string.

grandma's dishcloth

These are the coasters we use every, single day. They are about eight years old and I hope that I have learned to sew a gap together better than I did in those days. But this illustrates my point exactly. When you use things–you use them up. And sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes its hard–like not saving your fancy china for that dinner party you’ll never actually have.

quilted coasters

I’ve spent countless hours embroidering these tea towels, and they are stained and faded and have holes in them. I will never be able to bring myself to throw them away–so I’m already starting to think about what I can do with them when their useful lives as tea towels is over. Any ideas? What I need to do is start planning for that day now and simply make some more. That’s what we makers do, right? It’s just an excuse to make some more.

dish towels, handmade dish towels

My favorite table runner has definitely seen better days

quilting, linen, patchwork

And so has my favorite tea cozy. Okay, maybe a trip through the wash might help this one.

high tea fabrics, lecien

And even my first quilt, only eight years old, is already looking like this. But this is the most loved quilt in the house. It is exactly the right weight for our warm southern California weather and is the first thing that every family member grabs from the quilt basket each morning. It gets washed because I pick it up from the floor a dozen times a day and it comforts the child with the flu. And over Christmas it cradled my dying cat. So, I’m looking at those frayed edges a little differently now.

French General quilt

So, what to do? I think the only thing to do here is to embrace the beauty of the well-loved and worn. There is a story behind every handmade item. A story about the person who made it and what was happening in their life as they sewed each stitch. There are the stories of the everyday life of the people who are blessed to use it daily. To wash the dishes after a regular, weeknight dinner. To wrap the child reading a book. To set the morning coffee cup on, before dawn everyday.

And if they are not as perfect and pristine as they once were–it’s because they bear the marks of an everyday life well-lived. And I can live with that.