April 16, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Busy is your friend!

I've been stretching my FMQ muscles a little...on a long-arm!


I finished one of my grandma's unfinished quilts on the long-arm of my friend Nancy who rents time on the machine locally. 

Quilting on a longarm is so different from my domestic machine. It's very smooth and I'd say it shaved a couple hours off the time needed to finish the quilt. But things that I have so much control over sitting down, like travel stitching and echoing, just look bonkers so far when I do them on the long-arm. 


And that's ok with me. My students are willing to step into that discomfort of trying something new even though at first the results will be awkward. I can do that too!

With this quilt I decided to stretch my approach to FMQ a little. Mostly I'm experimenting with how to get different patterns to play together. How do you think I did? 


That's a trick question! Because seriously, can you see anything more than a few inches of quilting here or there? It's next to impossible! My grandma's love for these busy, colorful Kaffe Fassett prints resulted in a lovely quilt and a perfect setting for stretching a little beyond my skills: because as Nancy said "you could be quilting swear words into that quilt and no one would know!"

If you're ready to try FMQ, or to experiment with something new like a more complicated quilting design, might I suggest that you do it on some busy prints, with matching thread? Let the quilt be all about the fabrics. You get all the benefits of practice, and a beautiful finished project. 


(side note: Do you see that part above with the one strip that's red with white dots instead of orange with yellow? I'm pretty sure she didn't have enough of the orange (because I checked for binding fabric) and I just love that little bit so much. )

Here's a little view of the back: that's Kaffe too, naturally. 


There are two more quilts of my grandma's waiting to be quilted and I can't wait to get to them. I've decided to do both of them on the long-arm. Not that I'm shopping for a long-arm! We don't have the space and I can't imagine spending that kind of money at this moment in our lives. But I like the idea of at least being long-arm capable and it's fun figuring out how to get the long-arm to do what I want it to do. Because every now and then it does...


See you next week...my new quilt (and the pattern, love that you guys seem to be as excited as I am!) is almost ready....



April 09, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Influences

I wanted to show you a little bit inside my brain today, to give a peek at how I created some of the designs in my new book, Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting.  These are a case of taking inspiration from the art of others and translating it into continuous line designs. 

Here is picture from Fancy Nancy, Stellar Stargazer, by Jane O'Conner and Robin Preiss Glasser. 


I loved the way the spirals in her hair touched some of the adjacent lines. I played with that (keeping the hair reference!) and came up with "Rapunzel":


Here's one that I'm not sure was conscious, because I don't think I recognized the similarity until after the book was submitted. This is a page from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond. See wavy lines and bubbles? 


What do you think? I think it might have resulted in this one, "Sylph": 


And finally, definitely deliberate, I love playing with pebbles and Lizzie House's "Pearl Bracelet" print looks like pebbles to me. 


So this is how I translated it into a continuous line design, "Bangle".


Does this inspire you to try creating your own FMQ designs?  I hope so!

April 03, 2015

In progress...

Now that my head is back on straight after my out of town trip, I'm getting back to a quilt that has been on my mind forever.

Here it is laid out for basting. I am a little stuck naming it but I got some great suggestions from my followers on Instagram!


Now I'm quilting it. A different design in each square. Each design is from my new book, Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting.


Some of my favorites:





This is definitely a bit of showing off, but I do love being able to show these designs in thread! It's taking a little longer than I planned, what with having to choose a new design for each square, but in the end it will show almost all the designs from the book, and I'm very happy about that.

I'm working on writing up a pattern too. Almost done with the illustrations and then on to some brave pattern testers!


I'll share it all here when it's done!

March 31, 2015

FMQ weekly: Watery meandering


When I started free-motion quilting I really didn't get meandering. I know some of you get it right off the bat but I did not and I say that to encourage those of you who struggle with it also. There is nothing wrong with you!

And also, there is hope for you and meandering. Here is my side door into meandering: watery meandering. Like meandering, it's curvy and it doesn't cross its own line but unlike meandering, this has a direction to it, which makes it a little different; different enough that you're not always asking yourself "Where do I go? Where do I go?" The pattern nudges you in the right direction while still letting you practice filling up your space randomly.  Once you're in a flow with this one, adjusting to directionless meandering feels easier. At least, that's how it worked for me and how I see it working with some of my students.


So with a watery meander you start with a sort of wavy line, then make a turn and come back up.
Then do that over and over, varying how long your lines are and which way you turn, filling in the space bit by bit, up and down, back and forth. You don't have to worry when there is an open space, you can fill it in when you go back by that area the next time.


Here is a video of me stitching it on my home machine. You should watch if you're not sure how to go about filling in the space.



What is great about the watery meander is that it is so adaptable. Put an occasional spiral in it and it looks like more turbulent water. Use points instead of curves where you change direction and it looks like fire. Make your wavy lines kind of bumpy and close and it looks like woodgrain. So taking the time to understand this pattern really unlocks several patterns for you. I call these patterns "Stretchy Meandering" and there is a whole section of them in the designs chapter of First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting if you want some ideas.



I'm sorry my FMQ weekly got lost for too long. I went back to shoot another class for Craftsy (!!) and then it was the end of March. I always think I'll do better with keeping everything else going when a big project comes along, but it never actually goes that way! In penance I made that cool graphic at the top of this tutorial. And I'll be back next week... probably!

February 15, 2015

Sacred Heart

My minor victory this month is having finished the binding on this quilt. Very pleased that it is complete and I can show it to you. I named it "Sacred Heart" and it measures 59" x 59".


That square in the center was pieced by my late grandmother, Mary Ann Cameli. She made it during a little sewing date we had during a visit I made home. I found it (and two others from that day) on her design wall when I returned home for her funeral. I took those blocks home and I built the rest of this quilt around my favorite.

My grandma had a fascination with Catholic folk art. The inspiration for this quilt is taken from the many "sacred heart" pieces she had purchased from artisans over the years and displayed on her walls. Up close I think that comes through the clearest.


The quilting within each wedge is very regular, geometric, giving way at the transition to the background to less orderly, more organic forms. Lots of my new designs in this quilt, spilling against each other in all that open space.






The whole quilt brings in me a sense of contentment. I worked on it in a state of uncommon grace, without getting stuck in ambivalence or self-consciousness. Often artists talk about feeling like the work comes through them, that they are the conduit rather than the source. That is how I felt. That's for me the feeling that distinguishes art from design for me. Design begins and ends with me. But when the work is bigger than me, when my part is letting it come out, that's art.


Side note: if you are an artist and haven't seen Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on creative genius, give yourself a 20 minute vacation and check it out.

So that's my great work of late. I know my grandma would have loved it. I want to enter it into a quilt show, which will be a first for me. And a first for my grandma too. Isn't life always full of surprises?

February 06, 2015

Color story

I'm so deliciously close to finishing this quilt. I just need to get the binding on which will require my children to sleep at night instead of coughing themselves awake over and over. And then I'm going to take a billion pictures of it and give it a post all it's own...


I'm also putting together a quilt to show off my new quilting designs, a different one in each square is what I'm thinking. I'll make the pattern available one way or another, probably in April because March is already staring me down something fierce.


With the leftovers from that quilt I played around with 45 degree diamonds. I just love angles. 


Dabbling with lots of challenges and flitting between them is how I work best. I know some quilters just focus on one project at a time. How do you work best?

February 04, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Basic Pebbling for free-motion beginners

I love pebbling!



It's a great design for a new quilter to try. I get all my students trying pebbling in their first class. 

Pebbling introduces you to a couple of important concepts: the idea that you can travel along a line you've already stitched to get somewhere else, and how to go about filling in an open space. And the payoff for that is a texture that delights both eye and hand. I pet my pebbling a lot when I stitch some. It just feels soooooo fabulous. 

So the secret about pebbling is: it is just circles. All you have to do is quilt a roundish shape and then do that over and over, with a little bit of traveling along what you've already stitched to let that happen. 


Specifically: 

a. Make a circle. 
b. Continue your motion to make another circle. 
c. Now you are trapped between two circles. To get out, travel around the circle you just made until you have enough space to start a new pebble. 
d. Keep doing step C

If you have never done pebbling before, here is a video of me stitching it. There are some things I want you to notice if you watch it. 



  • My pebbles alternate in the direction I stitch them. One goes clockwise, the next counterclockwise, then clockwise again. This allows me to keep stitching in a smooth flow, almost a figure 8 feel to the motion. I never have to stop and switch directions. It's very fluid once you get the feel for it. 
  • I vary the size of my pebbles. I can't keep my pebbles all the same size, and I don't try to. 
  • When 3 or 4 pebbles come together there are little spaces between them. I leave those unfilled as long as they are smaller than my smallest pebble. I get to decide what my smallest pebble will be. And so do you!
  • To fill the space I let my pebbles "flow" around the perimeter I've already quilted. I am slowly building up layers as I go, moving back and forth as I wish. That's not how you have to do it, but for some quilters that guidance helps them know where to go next. 
  • You're never stuck with pebbling. You can always sneak through the area you've quilted to get somewhere else. 
After you've seen me stitching it I suggest you try sketching it. Work out some of the kinks on paper and when it starts to feel a little familiar then move to your practice quilt sandwich.


Now here are some things I sometimes see in class. If you're doing them it's no big deal. I always say, if you do what you're doing consistently then you'll get a nice consistent texture. But if you're wondering why your pebbling doesn't look like other people's pebbling see if you're doing one of these sort-of-pebbling versions: 


Not completing the circle (above): Your pebbles are touching other pebbles. That's good! Touching another pebble is not where you stop your pebble though. Make sure you are completing the circle all the way back to where you started it before going on to the next pebble. 



Chains (above): You are completing your circle and then starting a new circle in the opposite direction, that's great! Now let yourself flow around the outside of the area you've already stitched, rather than extending a long path of pebbles into space. That means sometimes you will travel farther around a completed pebble to get to the other side of it before you start your next pebble. Flowing around your quilted area keeps you from having big empty pockets that didn't get quilted. 



Blobs (above): You're completing your pebbles and they are touching other pebbles. Great job filling in the space!  They are a little smooshed together instead of round, they share long sides instead of just touching at a point. That's totally fine and you can keep doing it just this way if you want, it still looks great! If you're not satisfied with how it looks though, and want it to look more like my sample, pay attention to keeping your pebbles round. Once you start your pebble just let it be its own shape. New pebbles and old pebbles just need to touch at a point, no more than that.

I hope this is helpful to some of you! I love seeing pebbling "click" for people in my classes. It's definitely worth spending time with this design until it clicks for you.