Machine quilting was definitely not in my vocabulary when it started gaining popularity, nor was it on my to-do list. I was a traditionalist, after all. Why would I “ruin” a quilt by machine quilting it?
Hand quilting was the way to go—that’s the way I learned, and that’s what I was going to do. And then life started getting in the way, and kids and a move…you get it. I was accumulating a lot of tops and not finding any time to hand quilt them.
So I took the plunge, but only quilted in the ditch—that was the easiest way to machine quilt, right? How was I ever going to do something like meander—without any lines to follow? I actually asked a friend to meander a border on a small quilt for me because I was too intimidated to do it myself.
She was demonstrating machine quilting for a local quilt store, and I was mesmerized. She was quilting all sorts of fun shapes—ferns, loops, meander, stars—easily (and without any lines to follow) on a domestic machine.
So I watched her, and watched some more, and thought that maybe it wasn’t so hard after all! I asked her about machine quilting and discovered that she taught classes. That’s all I needed to hear. I rounded up a couple of friends and drove to Suzanne’s house and took a lesson from her.
I think the biggest lesson I learned was that she doodles and doodles and doodles all sorts of quilting designs. She practices on paper before actually stitching on her sewing machine. She always has pen and paper handy to try out new designs and practice them. So I started keeping notebooks of quilting designs, and still do. Once I decide on a design, I practice, practice, practice on paper first.
Sometimes I just sketch out ideas to see if I like them. When I’m comfortable with the motion, I turn to a small quilt sandwich that I use to practice on the machine, and then I start quilting my quilt. Here are some closeups of a few of the quilts that I machine quilted.
All my machine quilting now is free-motion.
I have never marked a design and then machine quilted it.
To be honest, I don’t think I ever will.
That’s still too intimidating for me, but I do enjoy the freedom and flexibility that free-motion quilting allows. And it’s easy to improvise if I find myself quilted into a corner. My quilting still needs work, but I’m hoping to improve with the lessons that Natalia Bonner is providing for us throughout the year.
Do you practice your machine quilting on paper first? Please share how you get started with us.
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As part of Quiltmaker’s Year of Machine Quilting in 2014, staff members will share some of their early machine quilting experiences. Read more Year of Machine Quilting blog posts. Find more lessons, ideas and inspiration at quiltmaker.com/machinequilting.