This is Quiltmaker’s
Year of Machine Quilting!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“I didn’t care if I made a mistake in it because it wasn’t a fancy book,” she said.
She continued to sketch quilting ideas into the notebook and the sketches improved.
Now the notebook is a go-to source for quilting ideas whenever Cindy needs them.
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.
You can see that even with considerable experience, it still takes some practice before a design is fluid and beautiful.
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?
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.
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!