One Machine Quilter’s Story

This is Quiltmaker’s
Year of Machine Quilting!

YOMQ button 450 One Machine Quilters Story

Our goal is to help you become a confident machine quilter on your home sewing machine. If you’re not already following the lessons in Machine Quilting 101, reading the articles in print, practicing with your sewing machine, and taking encouragement from the blog posts, I would invite you to do so.

In February, I went on a quilt retreat with friends, and sat next to Cindy Boos from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Cindy was quilting away and seemed to be enjoying it.

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Cindy Boos machine quilts and enjoys it!

And to top it off, her quilting looked amazing. So I started asking some questions—and knew right away that I wanted to share Cindy’s machine quilting story with Quilty Pleasures readers.

“I took a machine quilting class about 20 years ago and I hated it,” she said. “There were a couple of reasons. I drove 70 miles to the class, then I drove the sewing machine all day.  By the time I got home I felt like all I had done was ferociously drive.

“At the time I was a hand quilter. Machine quilting was anything but peaceful and relaxing the way hand work was. We had to mark the quilting lines with fine nylon mesh or plastic templates. It was hard to sew on the lines and make the stitches even and perfect.

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Cindy’s first machine quilting class was based on this book by Harriet Hargrave.

“Even  and perfect stitches were the goal with hand quilting, so it was hard to get past that. Machine quilting was also very controversial at the time. It was sort of considered ‘cheating’ and not valued nearly as much as hand quilting.

“Machine quilting was intense and stressful, so I put it away for 20 years.”

About five years ago, Cindy once again tried her hand at machine quilting. She says she practiced sporadically and that “some of it was horrible.” But this time she kept at it, practicing and practicing some more. She always used thread that matched the fabric because she didn’t want the quilting to show.

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Cindy’s quilting journal

Cindy said it took about six months for her to be “not awful.” And then she started to see improvement. She began to notice beautiful quilting designs and she wanted to remember them, so she grabbed an inexpensive notebook and started a quilting journal.

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Cindy’s first sketches were like her first quilting: a little rough.

“I didn’t care if I made a mistake in it because it wasn’t a fancy book,” she said.

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Cindy’s sketches improved over time, as did her machine quilting.

She continued to sketch quilting ideas into the notebook and the sketches improved.

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Compare the feathers Cindy drew here to the feathers she drew earlier. They are prettier and they flow nicely—much better!

Now the notebook is a go-to source for quilting ideas whenever Cindy needs them.

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Great quilting ideas fill page after page in Cindy’s notebook.

She continues to practice. She’s been working on the whole-cloth blocks below, putting her ideas right onto fabric. The contrasting thread is a testament to her increased confidence.

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Cindy is still practicing, using her ideas to play around and see what works.

You can see that even with considerable experience, it still takes some practice before a design is fluid and beautiful.

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Each new design takes practice.

Cindy shared her thoughts about what has changed. “Now machine quilting is accepted and valued in the quilting world and you don’t have to draw lines to make it super perfect.” She’s thinking about connecting these practice blocks into a quilt. Wouldn’t that be smashing?

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The variegated thread adds another dimension to this quilting design on Cindy’s practice block.

The takeaway lesson here is that you won’t be a great machine quilter overnight. Everyone who does this kind of work has practiced and practiced, sometimes for years.

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You won’t quilt like this overnight, but you can do it with plenty of persistent practice.

The good news is that you can do it! If you’re willing to practice, to do the hard work of learning a new skill—it is possible to become a confident machine quilter. Just ask Cindy!

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If Cindy can do it, you can do it, too!

About Diane Harris

I'm Interactive Editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I've been writing pattern instructions and product reviews, and doing a host of other tasks necessary to help produce a national pattern magazine. Now I work remotely from rural Nebraska to generate some of our online content. I manage the QM Scrap Squad, our blog tours and our Quilt-Alongs. I have one of the best jobs in the world.
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4 Responses to One Machine Quilter’s Story

  1. Sandi Ippolito says:

    I have tried quilting with my embroidery machine and just ordered a mid arm Baby Lock Tiara… I’m nervous and this gives me inspiration! can’t wait for my quilter to arrive!

  2. Donna Hollingsworth says:

    Very inspirational! I am going to dig out my doodling notebook and start practicing!

  3. Jennie basel says:

    That was an awesome story I can relate to. I have just started machine quilting after taking a beginner class. It was like ok, this is what you need to do, then you’re on your own. I’ve since machine quilted two baby quilts and saw a big improvement on the second one. It does take time to get to know your machine and to learn how to RELAX while machine quilting. Thank you!

  4. Peg Spradlin says:

    Very nice! I love how Cindy doodles in a notebook. I need to do more of that! I’ve gotten braver about using thread that shows and it’s fun. Good job, Cindy!

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