May 14, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Should you Stitch in the Ditch before you FMQ?

I had the good fortune of learning FMQ from probably the best possible teacher there was. Her name was Kathy Sandbach. She quilted professionally for other quilters, not on a long arm, but on her domestic machine. Can you imagine? She also wrote books for C&T Publishing and I can't tell you how many times I checked out "Show Me How to Machine Quilt" from the library because I was in nursing school and had no money and wanted to remember what Kathy taught me. 

Anyway, I'm telling you this because as a person whose business depended on doing good and fast quilting on her domestic machine, Kathy had developed a very practical and sound approach to free-motion quilting. When she taught us, she showed us how to baste and then jump right in freehand, without even marking designs. Notably, she did not teach me to "stitch in the ditch" before doing the FMQ. Stitch in the ditch (SITD) is what you call quilting along the seams of patchwork, right against the seam, ("in the ditch"). Some quilting teachers teach their students they have to do this before they free-motion quilt. I am so happy I learned from Kathy. If I had learned from someone who told me I had to quilt my quilt twice (once SITD and then again with FMQ) I would never have started free-motion quilting. I would have two unfinished quilts still in my closet probably. I didn't have time for that. In fact, I still don't have time for that. Who has time for that? 

Someone asked in my Craftsy class about whether they need to SITD before they FMQ and I typed up such a long reply I thought it was basically a blog post, so I wanted to share it here too, because I while I bet some of you have never even heard of this "Stitch in the ditch before free-motion quilting" idea, some others of you think it absolutely has to be done, all the time, for "every stinking seam". So let me share my thoughts on this.

Stitch in the ditch (SITD) is an option, not a requirement. It has two effects. One is to stabilize your quilt so you have less shifting around as you quilt. That's certainly something we want, because it means our quilt isn't distorted and puckers are prevented. But, stabilizing the quilt is really the function of basting, which we are already doing anyway, so there's no reason we need SITD for stabilizing the quilt. 

The second function of stitching in the ditch is to hold down seam lines so they don't puff upwards when the quilt is quilted. You're most likely to see this with dense, shape-filling quilting. Since anything that's not quilted pops up a bit and the things that are quilted push back, the unquilted seam lines will pop forward a bit if you are quilting each shape in a block individually. Here is a block I quilted without stitching in the ditch. Can you see the seam lines popping forward a bit? 

If this would drive you crazy you should maybe stitch in the ditch. If you can't see what I'm talking about, or if you're thinking "the quilt is going to be more rumply than that after I wash it!" then there is no problem and you should probably not stitch in the ditch.

If you can kind of see what I'm talking about and don't love it, but would prefer not to stitch in the ditch, you might consider all-over quilting designs instead of shape-filling designs. Here is the same quilt block quilted with an all over pattern. Again, I didn't stitch in the ditch, but now you don't see the goofy seam thing happening. Cool, right?

Now, if you are sending your quilt to hang in a quilt show where you might win money or fame or free burgers or something, SITD may make the difference between getting a ribbon and not getting a ribbon. People spend so many hours quilting for show that a few extra hours stitching in the ditch may not be a big investment compared to the dismay it may save them. I find that it's almost always quilters who quilt for show that recommend SITD before free-motion quilting. 

I don't quilt for show. And every shred of time I get quilting is a hard won triumph after tending to the needs of my family, my job and my household. I really don't like to waste that time on 
unnecessary tasks. Also, I use a lot of all over designs, and I know my quilts are going to be washed, which is going to give them plenty of bumpiness anyway, and at that point a little puffiness at a seam line will be darn near unnoticeable  So it's the right choice for me to just dive into the FMQ. And I've been happy with the results. 

Based on your plans for your quilt and your quilting you can decide what you'd like to do. You could make a trial block and quilt it with your chosen batting and quilting design to help you determine if SITD is worthwhile for that particular quilt or not. If SITD makes you feel safer and more confident with your FMQ, then go for it, I definitely support whatever makes you feel ready and excited to quilt. If you prefer the way SITD looks and you want to do it you should!

I hope that was helpful to some of you quilters out there. I like to take the voodoo out of free-motion quilting so you feel good about what you're doing and why you're doing it. Happy stitching!

May 11, 2015

Free-Motion Quilting Essentials starts today at Craftsy!

This is the day I've been waiting for! My beginner's free-motion quilting class, Free-Motion Quilting Essentials, is now available on Craftsy! I got the chance to watch the lessons the other night and I am very happy with it.  This is a great way to bring my style of teaching to you wherever you are, so you can start your FMQ adventure with confidence. I've had a good time teaching with Craftsy so far, and I look forward to connecting with more of you over there! 

My three favorite things about this new class are: 
  1. I lead you through a bunch of free-motion exercises on screen. You can watch me do them, then you can do them yourself, getting hours of practice one step at a time.  
  2. In the course materials there is a "Free-Motion Quilting Cheat Sheet" to take with you to your machine to remind you of the steps to take as you get started. 
  3. You get to see me quilting on an actual quilt in the final lesson. And...I do that on my grandma's old Singer Featherweight!

And here's my treat for you, blog readers: a special link to get the Free-Motion Quilting Essentials class for $20 off, which makes it less than half price! I hope that makes you smile. Thanks for being so supportive of me and my teaching, telling me where you get stuck and what you find helpful. It really keeps me going. The discount has expired on Craftsy.

Want a preview? Here's a little video to watch. 

Well that's my big news, what a great way to start the week. If you take the class I'd love to know what you think! Happy stitching everyone. 

May 07, 2015

The FMQ Challenge

Darlene at QuiltShopGal is having a Free-Motion Quilting Challenge and it's going on for the rest of 2015 with monthly challenges. If you're learning FMQ this is a great way to give yourself exposure to lots of different teachers and styles and also keep yourself motivated to regularly exercise your FMQ skills. She has really gathered the top resources out there and points you to both free and paid options for participating in challenges, each of which is inspired by a different free-motion quilting teacher. There are even prize drawings open to people who post photos of their finishes!

QuiltShopGal featured me as her free-motion quilting expert for April. What an honor! I feel quite grateful to Darlene. She's been so supportive of my FMQ teaching since I started sharing tutorials on my blog years ago, and she even suggested long ago that I teach for Craftsy, which helped me gather the courage to make a proposal to them, bless her!

Anyway, you might enjoy a peek at the beautiful work the participants in the April challenge did. I feel so inspired looking at these beautiful entries.

Oh and a quick mention, if any of you are podcast listeners, tune in to hear me on Pat Sloan's American Patchwork and Quilting on Monday May 11, I'll be on sometime between 1 and 2pm Pacific time. Here is the link to listen: 

Finally, there's still time to enter the giveaway at Craftsy for my upcoming class FMQ Essentials! The giveaway will stay open through Sunday May 10. Good luck!

May 04, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Planks Free-Motion Quilting Design

I have a super beginner friendly design to share with you today! Meet Planks.

This design is one of my favorite kinds, going from one edge of the piece to the other, and pleasantly geometric for those times that curves won't do.

You only need sort-of straight lines to make it work. Don't stress about straight lines. Mine are wobbly too and it still works. Here is how you do it:

a. Start with a short line up, then take your line off to the side.
b. Then another short line up and off to the other side.
c. Keep going up like this, back and forth. Make the length of the lines variable as you go.

When you get to the other edge of the piece it will look something like this: 

Now you make another column the same way, right next to it, making sure you only leave a small space between columns. You can see how the columns fit together below. The more variety you have in the length of your horizontal lines, the less obvious it will be that you quilted this in columns. 

Cover the whole space with your columns...and then you can't even tell how the pattern was done! Magic.

I have a little video of this design in action right here.

Of course it doesn't have to go side to side; up and down works fine too. 

And you may be wondering, does this have to be straight lines? No way! How about curves?

Doesn't that look like stretchy meandering? So if you like the look of the stretchy meander but don't like how all over it is, you could do it this (easier) way instead.

I hope you get some use out of the Planks design. I know I will!  Now I also want to share that I'm in this all-star line up of teachers who will be teaching at QuiltCon in 2016. You know how excited this makes me? Unbelievably excited! Can't wait to be a part of the QuiltCon magic. I hope I'll meet some of you there!

May 01, 2015

My FMQ Essentials class is coming! Want to win it?

You know how sometimes I disappear for a while? Sometimes that's because my refrigerator died and someone hit my car and all my typical work time is going to getting things fixed. But sometimes it's because I'm working on something big and organized and fabulous. Like this! Free-Motion Quilting Essentials is my new class with Craftsy that will be launching soon. I'm so thrilled to have these photos to share with you, and to give you a chance to be one of the first people in the class, free!

My last class with Craftsy was all about quilting designs; understanding, adapting and recreating them. It didn't cover the basics. THIS class is the prequel to that class, so if you're just starting your free-motion adventure you have someone to take you through it one step at a time, as well as specific exercises to try as you get your feel for it.

In the class I take you though all the basic designs and skills.

 We build on what you've learned...

And build some more...

Until you're combining designs like a FMQ Wizard.

So are you excited? I am! I really hope this helps launch some of you hopers in to doers! If you would like a chance to win the class, please enter at Craftsy (it's quick!). I'll share more about the class when it launches.

Oh and I guess it's giveaway time here, the winner of the Magic Carpet Quilt pattern is "Tink's mom" who blogs at Selina Quilts. Congratulations!