Wednesday, October 18, 2017

...Meanwhile, Longarm Quilting Practice Continues

Getting Better, But Not There Yet
So I've been working on that cheater cloth practice quilt some more.  It's definitely more challenging than just practicing different quilting motifs on solid fabric.  I've been experimenting with different thread types and colors, and changing up the way I quilt each printed 54-40 or Fight and Dresden Plate block.  The quilting really does change the way each one looks, so it's nice to be able to just try out different things from block to block without worrying about having to rip anything out so all the blocks can be the same in the finished quilt.  For instance, I was surprised by how much I liked those loopy squiggles in the blue star points of the block above.

Stitching In the Ditch, Without the Ditch
The first thing I did each time I advanced this practice quilt was to practice precision straight line quilting with the help of a ruler.  If this was a real pieced quilt top instead of a printed "cheater cloth" panel, I would be stitching right along the seamlines between patches.  As you can see in the photo above, this isn't as easy as you might imagine -- even with a ruler! -- but I am definitely getting better at it.  And stitching along those fake seamlines really makes the cheater cloth look more like a real pieced quilt, don't you think?

HandiQuilter Mini Ruler, 2 x 6
Here's why it's tricky.  You can't put your ruler right along the stitching line, because the presser foot is in the way.  The outside edge of the presser foot that rides alongside the edge of your ruler is 1/4" away from the needle, so the ruler needs to be lined up 1/4" away from where you want your line to stitch.  I quickly learned that I needed to stitch SLOWLY and keep my eye on the needle in order to stay on that printed seam line.  That's why it's so time consuming to do SID (Stitch In the Ditch) on a real quilt.

Once I had the "ditches" stitched down, I practiced some freehand fills, feathers, pebbles, and straight line fills using the ruler.  When I started this piece, I thought I was going to want a matte, all-white thread, and I did like the white on white for the stippling around the Dresden plate.  However, I was surprised to discover that I really preferred the light blue Glide thread over most of the fabrics, just a shade or two lighter than the solid blue patches.  

Feathers are still really challenging.  I'm getting better at backtracking, but still working on controlling the machine on diagonal curves.  That's why my quilted feathers aren't shaped as nicely as the ones I doodle on my iPad with my Apple Pencil.  But I think they're looking less and less like ogre toes every day.

Behold, Sub Par Feathers
More Feather Practice on a Dresden Plate
See the straight line quilting on the blue triangle, lower left corner of the above block?  Used the ruler for that.  Nice, straight lines, but again, had to go pretty slowly to keep the ruler from slipping.  I did ALL of the triangles in that "fabric" this way, even though it doesn't show up well, because practicing straight lines with the ruler was one of my primary objectives with this piece.  I tried spacing the quilting lines 1/4" apart using the lines on my 2" x 6" HandiQuilter Mini Ruler, but I think on a real quilt I would at least need little dots marking where each line ends and begins to get spacing that I was happy with.

Wretched Attempts at Pebbles
Yeah, those pebbles were intended to be ROUND...  Not!  But isn't it interesting the difference that the thread color makes?  Those quilted rocks I made in white thread caused the blue triangles to virtually disappear and blend into the adjacent blue and white print.  If you scroll back up to the picture where I was using light blue thread on the dark blue triangle, you'll see what I mean.  

Ah, well -- that's the whole point of practice, isn't it?  The only reason I'm posting these pictures is so I can look back on them at some point in the (hopefully not too far off) future and say:

I can tell you that I now understand why professional longarm quilters charge so much more for custom quilting.  All this fiddling around with outlining blocks and SID and special fills in each little patch is taking me forever!  But I'm very much looking forward to taking it off the frame and comparing the quilting at the top of the practice quilt to the quilting at the bottom.  Happy Stitching. 


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I think it looks really good

Ramona said...

You are making great progress! What a great idea to use the cheater cloth as your practice "quilt". Keep practicing and you will be working on real quilts before you know it!

Janice Holton said...

You are going to be quilting like a pro in no time, Rebecca! For just starting out, I think this looks pretty darn good! It's a lot of fun to see your progress and makes me want to get started on quilting my daughter's quilt! This will only be my second one and it's been a while since I've practiced on anything so I think I'm going to have to put together a practice sandwich first. I want to use a lot of different motifs similar to what you have done here. Thanks for sharing! You're motivating me! :)