April 25, 2017

Free-Motion Quilting practice from your stash

I bring a bunch of quilted swatches to my classes to demonstrate different ideas and students really love seeing this particular series. They're  bits of fabric straight out of my stash that work great for FMQ practice. When I was starting FMQ I knew I wanted to practice but I didn't know on what. Using fabric that's already in your stash as your base can get you out of the deciding mode and into stitching mode where you can improve your eye hand coordination and your stitch length. These are the things that you need "practice, practice, practice" to get better at!

Take a look at my examples and see if anything catches your eye.

You probably have some vines in your stash: what if you just quilted right on the edge of the pattern? Up one side and down the other: this gives you practice working both "forward" and "backward" which is helpful for improving your FMQ. Bonus: look how great the back looks!

Here I've got big circles that I just quilted like giant pebbles. If you're working with large circles like I do here, you'll get to practice making smooth sweeping movements and keeping your speed consistent as you go around a curve. 

I chose this fabric because it had so many lines, I thought it would be great for eye hand coordination.  With so many passes over the same area, you get a lot of FMQ practice in a small area! And what a great texture on the back!

Even simple wavy lines can be a source of practice: here the challenge is on keeping a consistent distance from the design you're following. This is great if you like to echo quilt (I'm looking at you, Appliqué Nation!). Now what if you made the wavy lines and then filled the empty space between them with pebbles or lazy eights? 

Some fabrics will give you practice filling in a space. Here I used some Pearl Bracelet fabric and filled each bracelet with a spiral. Remember to leave yourself some space to get out of your spirals! To get to the next bracelet I just snuck out between two pearls and into the next one the same way.

Anything with large blocky areas can be used to practice space filling as well. You could try different designs in each distinct area or just work on getting your stitches consistent. In this sample, whenever I ended in a place that wasn't adjacent to where I wanted to stitch next, I just stitched right along the edge between the ares over to where I wanted to be. This is good practice for travel stitching!

If you need a little FMQ practice, shop your stash, cut a piece (about 12-14'' square is ideal) and sit down and quilt it. Don't stop in the middle to decide if it's good or not, quilt the whole thing! It always looks better after it's finished, and repetition is the best way to learn a new skill. Happy stitching!

April 18, 2017

Free-motion quilting Hot Tip: Density is Everything

I came back from QuiltCon realizing there is a lot of things I talk about in my quilting classes that I've never blogged here. Outrageous! Let's fix that. Starting now.

This is one of my favorite things to show in my quilting class:

I wish I could hear your appreciative murmurs and "oh"s right now like I hear in class. These two blocks above were pieced exactly the same. See that? Pink in the middle, orange on the edges. But then I quilted them differently and they don't look the same anymore do they? The one on the left feels like it has more pink than the one on the right. And the one on the right has more orange now that it's quilted. Isn't that strange? This is how I teach the lesson: what you don't quilt is as important as what you do: anything you don't quilt lifts up and comes forward on the quilt and catches the eye. 

Here's another thing I like to show; two swatches quilted very similarly. But do you have a favorite? 

I sure do! The one on the left is so powerful, that center ribbon comes forward because the horizontal lines are quilted more densely. They smash down and become the background, allowing the wavy line to poof up and catch the light. In the swatch on the right the spacing between the straight horizontal lines and the vertical wavy lines is so similar, there is no foreground or background created so the piece ends up looking flat. What I want you to notice is I didn't do anything hard here: wavy lines and straight(ish) lines. I just made a choice with how to use those lines to play with the light and shadow effect of quilting. You can do this too!

Here's a sample from my Craftsy class Wild Quilting where I talk about this concept a fair amount. Just quilting densely around any motif pops it forward and creates a "wow" effect. When there's a big difference in density like above (look at the largest open space in the spiral design as opposed to the largest open space in the flowers and leaves) then you get a lot of drama. But it doesn't have to be dramatic. In the swatch below there's less difference in density. The open space in the feather and the wavy lines are not as far off. There is still a foreground/background created, but this one has a subtler effect. 

I hope this gets your quilting wheels turning! More hot tips coming soon (ish). 

April 11, 2017

Making wedge quilts without a wedge ruler

I have some wedge rulers and I really like them. But quilting tools are expensive and one thing that I love about quilters is that we are generally pretty resourceful people. I know some of you are thinking, sure I'd love to make a wedge quilt but there's no way I'm spending $20+ on a new quilting tool. Wise people you are, that means more money for fabric!! Can't argue with reason.

This method allows you to use your regular quilting ruler with your paper template to get the nice sturdy straight edge of the ruler without needing to buy a specially shaped one. If you liked the block I shared in my last post, print out the template and use this method to cut your wedge shapes! It works for cutting wedge shapes from strips of fabric.

To use this method you need two copies of your template. Tape them to your quilting ruler so that the edge of the template is aligned with the edge of the ruler. Make sure you align one template so the left side of the template is on the edge and the other template so the right side of the template is on the edge of the ruler.

You'll use these templates alternating between them for each cut as you work down your fabric strip. In the pictures below you'll see I first cut along the right edge of the template.

And then I slide my ruler down and align the other paper template with the edge I just cut, to cut my next wedge shape. After this I switch back to the original template, and so on, down the whole strip.

The only thing that's at all tricky about this is making the first angled cut. I didn't get a picture of that but all you need to do is use the top and bottom (the wide and narrow ends) of the template and align them with the edges of the fabric strip to make that first cut.

Now one of the things that I love about wedges is that you can make pretty big quilts with them. I'm talking about rounds that measure 50" across!

If you're using a big template like this, you won't be able to get two template on one ruler like above. In that case, hopefully you have two quilting rulers. (Or a realllllly good friend who'll let you borrow theirs!) Tape one template to one ruler and the other template to the other, and enjoy! Hope that helps you practical wedge quilt lovers!

April 05, 2017

The Magic Triangle Block tutorial

I'm thrilled to show you a versatile block that you can make with wedge shapes! No paper piecing! There are so many ways to use this little block, the picture above is one of my favorites, see more possibilities at the bottom of this post.

I demonstrated how to make this block on Fresh Quilting recently, and if you haven't seen the episode yet, here is my segment!

You may also want this link to these instructions in a printable format, provided by the Fresh Quilting show, including a printable template for making this block. In the episode I use the 10 degree wedge ruler from Phillips Fiber Art.

For those who are curious, if you follow these instructions you end up with a block that finishes at 10'' from point to edge, and 11 5/8'' along any side.

Fabric for wedges:  various colors, 1/4 yards or fat quarters
Fabric for triangle points: one 4 1/2’’ square for each block
 10-degree ruler or printable template (see attached)

Cut wedge fabrics into 9’’ strips
Subcut strips into wedges, aligning the wide end of the wedge template (OR the 11 3/4’’ mark on your 10 degree wedge ruler) for each cut. You will need 6 wedges per block.

Join the wedges in sets of two. Match wide ends and sew from the wide end to the narrow end. Use a shorter stitch length because we will be cutting across these seams later.

After wedges are joined into pairs, Create wedge sets by joining three pairs together, for a total of 6 wedges per set. Again, align wide ends and sew from wide to narrow end. Press seams open.

Now this is the chance to square up your piece for accuracy. You can do this if you have a cutting mat with a 60-degree mark on it, or a 60-degree triangle ruler.

Lay the wedge set down, aligning it with the cutting mat’s angled 60-degree line on one raw edge and a horizontal line (or vertical line, depending on your mat) on the other raw edge of the wedge set.

Align the wedge set so the fabric comes completely to the lines with as little over the lines as possible. Then, use your quilting ruler and rotary cutter to trim any fabric that extends over the lines.

Trim the wide end of the piece to a straight line by cutting from corner to corner. Align the center seam of the wedge set with a line on your cutting ruler to make sure your cut is perpendicular to the center seam of the wedge set.

Measure 7 1/4” from the previous cut and make a straight cut across the narrow end of the wedge set. Again, align the center seam with the marks on your ruler, to make sure your cut is perpendicular.

Join a 4 1/2’’ square of fabric to the narrow end of the wedge set. Press.

Use the edges of your piece as your guide to trim the triangle tip.

And you’re all done! Have fun playing with layouts!