My first quilt was a sampler of all of the blocks I had made during a class at my local quilt store. My mother, an experienced quilter, suggested I finish it and give it to my grandmother as a gift. I quilted diagonal, straight lines in gray thread (so it wouldn’t show!) across the whole thing. I can remember my mom sitting next to me, holding my hand through the whole scary process! This is the very first quilt I ever made and quilted.
I was feeling somewhat confident so I decided I was ready to make a project all by myself, that was all mine, start to finish. I fell in love with Eleanor Burns’ Jewel Box Quilt from Quilt in a Day. Jewel tones are right up my alley and I bought the complete kit.
Quilt top pieced and ready to quilt. I stuck with my trusty diagonal straight lines again for the blocks, although this time instead of gray thread, I used white to match the background. So far so good, although as I look back on the quilting now, I probably shouldn’t have used the variegated thread in the bobbin with the white thread on top. If you look closely, you can see little tiny dots of color where the stitching on the back shows through to the top. Every couple of inches you can see a new color peeking through! Oh well, live and learn.
The sample in the store had these wonderful loops in the piano key border. I loved how it looked and wanted mine to match.
I knew I had to freemotion quilt them and was pretty sure the only way I was going to be able to get mine to land in the right spot on the piano keys was to draw them onto the quilt and quilt on the lines. Out came my trusty white marking pencil and I marked one border. I chose variegated thread to blend with all of the colors in the border. Ready to go. It didn’t take long to realize that trying to trace a drawn line was not working well for me. It felt stiff and was really hard to do. The more I concentrated on following the line the more awkward my curves became. Not working. I ripped out the quilting I had done and decided I would just mark some guidelines and target points to aim for as I was looping around. I marked a line parallel to the inside border, about a 1/2″ away and another about an 1″ from the outside edge. These were the lines I wanted my loops to hit so they would be even. Then I marked a line down the center so I knew where to crossover to the next piano key.
For me, it was much easier to have a target to shoot for and to “draw” my quilting lines within the guidelines instead of trying to be so exact and match what I had already marked. That’s not to say it all went perfectly!
And some not so smooth curves and tiny stitches.
Overall I was pleased with the way my quilting turned out and I learned a few things too.
I named this quilt “Everyone has a first quilt” knowing that it wasn’t an award winner, but it was mine, all mine, and we all have to start somewhere. It has been well-loved over the years and that’s what counts.
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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 lessons, ideas and inspiration at quiltmaker.com/machinequilting.