As a quilter, one of the best ways to spend a weekend is on a quilting retreat, and did I ever have a terrific weekend recently! There were seven of us who gathered at The Creative Place retreat center in Spring Hill, KS. We had plenty of room to sew and a wonderfully quiet room in which to sleep. We spent all our waking time in a large studio, chatting, sewing and eating, everyone having her own projects and goals. Some of us arrived bright and early Friday morning while others arrived throughout the day and then we spent our time sewing like madwomen until late Sunday afternoon. What a pleasure to simply concentrate on quilting, having the time to sew without the interruption of laundry, vacuuming, cooking, or dishes.
I will admit to being a frustrated machine quilter. Well, I can’t even call myself a machine quilter, just frustrated. I can’t recall how many machine quilting workshops I’ve taken, trying to master this technique, but it has been many. I feel like I know the mechanics very well and I have even been known to machine quilt a project or two using my BERNINA #50 Walking Foot, but I have never felt like I could call myself a Machine Quilter.
While most quiltmaking techniques and hand appliqué are what I teach, I admit that machine quilting leaves me frustrated. I think I know the mechanics well. It is the rhythm and artistry that escape me.
Armed with Lori Kennedy’s new book Free-Motion Machine Quilting 1-2-3: 61 Designs to Finish Your Quilts With Flair (Martingale), a basket of thread, batting scraps, muslin, and my BERNINA 740 I set out to get a handle on machine quilting and I was hoping to finally begin to master the techniques. My plan was to go through the book and try to stitch each of the designs to gain control of the machine. The step by step photos and excellent descriptions in Lori’s book guided me through each design. Lori encourages quilters to begin by doodling, by drawing a design over and over on paper to get the feel for it. I must admit to being amazed by how much this step helps. I drew the design, going over and over it until I was comfortable with it, then off to the machine I went with my quilt sandwich. Again, using a technique Lori uses, I drew parallel lines on the quilt, giving me a defined space in which to stitch, just as quilt blocks or the space between appliqué motifs might.
I began my endeavors using the BERNINA Stitch Regulator, eventually switching to the #29C Quilting Foot, the transparent sole allowing me to see in all directions. While the BERNINA Stitch Regulator comes with a clear foot, I thought the smaller #29C might be of benefit while I was learning.
I began by stitching loops and then added more and more and then I shifted to scallops.
At times I seemed to have the control I was seeking, but then it would seem to slip away, showing me that the “Practice, practice, practice!” heard from every machine quilting teacher will indeed make all the difference. My excellent machine quilting friend (and first teacher) says I have to pay my dues – that’s what the practice is all about. While I dislike practicing I continued with my exercises:
Lori’s designs taught me how to look at the designs and quilt them, giving me confidence to try the designs in my imagination. So playing around with those became the next goal. I thought I might work with a design that I actually want to put in a quilt. Maybe if I could learn how to stitch that design, I could move on to an actual quilt someday soon. I began by drawing out my own design and worked on that. My friend also said I would learn a lot of control if I tried quilting my name. So I doodled, played with my design, wrote my name and tried embellishing my design. I have a lot of work to do to get to the point my parallel lines are actually parallel!
So I practiced some more.
By the time I was finished on the third day, I was finally seeing some progress and realized that, with consistent practice, I might just become a Machine Quilter! Thank you, Lori!
I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am a national teacher and a BERNINA Ambassador, happy to travel the country, teaching quiltmaking techniques – except for machine quilting! – for quilt guilds, quilt shops and BERNINA dealerships. You can find out a lot about me on my website at www.kathydelaney.com.
Along with other BERNINA Ambassadors, I am participating in a Blog tour. You won’t want to miss the blogs offered by the following Ambassadors on the dates noted below.
I hope you’ll leave some comments. Tell me how YOU learned to machine quilt. Any advice for me? Any hints? I look forward to hearing from you!