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When a client mentioned he wanted a quilt with a horse theme for his wife, I practically yelled out yeehah!  Well, I was a little more professional than that but I had been designing a western style quilt in my mind’s eye for years and this was the opportunity to finally make it come to life. Oh, and what an opportunity to dive into my batik stash which is overflowing with every color imaginable. I jumped right in and pulled out stacks and stacks of batiks – OMG I had to tell myself to focus on only a few colorways… brown, blue and green. In the end, I sneaked in a few  more colors -purples, reds and oranges!

I had such a blast laying out strip after strip, starting with the blues down to the light browns and yellows, to create a western landscape with silhouettes of beautiful horses against a sunset. It felt like I was painting with fabric!

Throughout the layout process, I daydreamed about how I was going to machine quilt it. The design didn’t come until it was fully loaded on the Gammill, and I sat for about an hour debating on the complexity of the design. It definitely needed to be simple with lots of movement without  taking away from the beautiful batiks. I ended up quilting a simple overall swirl throughout the background and focused more on enhancing the horse blocks.

Batik horse quilt

I quilted with Superior Threads variegated King Tut, one of my all time favorite threads to use – nice sheen and great range of colors!

And here it is!

I had a little fun with the back too!

I thought I’d share some of the machine quilting books in my stash that I reference often when needing ideas for my next project. I would recommend them for beginners through experienced machine quilters – they are chockfull of ideas, patterns to utilize and tips to get you started!

Quilting Possibilities…Freehand Filler Patterns by Sue Patten  – In this book, Sue takes various blocks (@ 40) like 4-patch, 9-patch, Kansas Star, Pinwheels, Dresdens, borders, etc. and provides alternate designs to quilt the same block. She focuses on the primary or secondary pieces in the block to create dramatic variations in look and textures. There are many flower and feather designs I would say for a more intermediate/experience quilter but definitely will provide inspiration for any beginner!

Machine Freehand Patterns by Nan Moore – I highly recommend this book for all levels. Nan starts you with the basics by guiding you through an overall or continuous-line block design with the use of arrows all the way to elaborate feathers designs including  borders. The pages are full of patterns you can shrink or expand to fit any block you are working on.

Follow-the-line Quilting Designs Volume 3 by Mary M. Covey – I believe there are 3 volumes in this series with full-size patterns for blocks and borders which makes it simple to trace, transfer and stitch continuous-line quilted motifs. I like the variety of designs and the how-to instruction booklet that is included.

Creative Classics – 250 Playful Continuous-Line Quilting Designs by Laura Lee Fritz – Laura takes basic shapes like the clamshell, waves, serpentines, Baptist fan and feathers and fills the pages of this  book with endless variations of each to utilize as an overall designs, blocks or  borders.

 250 Continuous-Line Quilting Designs for Hand, Machine & Long-Arm Quilters by Laura Lee Fritz  – This book is filled with fun themed designs such as Home& Garden, Birds, Flora & Fauna, Domestic Animals, Woodland Animals, Under the Sea, and Textures. She includes some tips on planning and transferring the designs to help you get started.

Foolproof Machine Quilting by Mary Mashuta – For those of you struggling to get started or having trouble with free-motion quilting with a darning foot, Mary teaches you how to machine quilt using your walking foot and going beyond stitching in the ditch. She also utilizes paper templates to expand your design options.

As always, have fun with machine quilting and remember it takes practice! So keep  trying different techniques until you find one that works best!

Page 5 of Journal:  (for Pages 1-4 click here)

This journal page we will be filling in a defined space like a 1/2 square (or triangle) which is very commonly used in block designs.

Set up the sandwich with a vertical and horizontal line to create a 4-patch then in Square 1 & 4 add a second line to create an “X” in the square as in my sample below.

The following images can be printed then placed under a white sheet of paper to practice, I used a heavy black marker so it would show through.

Square 1 – Spiral Lines –Starting with the bottom left corner sew a line somewhat paralleling the seam line to just below the top point of the triangle then down paralleling the right seam line but not all the way into the corner and move back left continuing to spiral into the center finishing with a small triangle. The goal here is to create equal spacing as you spiral inward so you end up with the small triangle fairly centered. Use your seam lines as visual guides for spacing and line straightness.

You can use this technique in large 1-piece square blocks if your challenged with filling a large blocked space. (Beginners -try using this on a Yellow Brick Road pattern!)

Square 2Sunburst – Start at the right angle corner of the triangle here I started at the bottom right with a tear drop shape echoed multiple times (or clam shell design) same as in Page 3 Square 2 tutorial. Echo out about 5 times or however many times needed to produce the center of a sun. As you move outward start rounding the curves a bit so your sun center doesn’t get elongated in shape.

Once your sun center is done, without stopping move right into the rays of the sun by sewing a wavy line outward away from the center toward the corner and the long side back to the opposite corner of the triangle. Depending on the size of the block you can adjust the number of sunrays. In this block I used 5 – an odd number of rays tends to look better. This design fills space quickly and is quite forgiving – have fun with it, I use it a lot!

Be daring and add a swirl at the end of some of the sunrays!

Square 3 – Ribbon Candy – The next pattern reminds me of Peppermint ribbon candy and can fill a triangle space very nicely or sashing around blocks. It definitely will take practice if used in a triangle because the length and width of the curves vary with each pass (or fold in the ribbon) and to determine which way is more comfortable moving thru the space -left to right/top to bottom. I started from the upper right corner and worked to the bottom left then flipped the sandwich over and repeated the other side.

If you have to stop to adjust your hands it is best to stop when you touch the previous line or in the seam area to avoid any bumps in the curves.

I used this design in the star block below in the pieces around the star to enhance and make it pop. I slightly opened up the spacing for a more casual relaxed feel. Since this was a small 6″ block if I would have quilted tighter and more densely it would have made the star pieces pucker too much – a very important tip to remember…make sure your quilting is always balanced across the block and quilt otherwise the non-quilted areas will look too puckered and wavy.

Square 4 – Not sure what to call this design but sort of reminds me of a section of an old wrought iron fence -check out this link for all the free-motion design possiblilites!

 For this design, start in the lower left corner and begin moving right slightly increasing the space from the seam line then create a loop at the center of the line then decreasing the space until you end in the corner of the triangle. Repeat this design in each of the other triangles.

The loops can be big like in the actual quilted page at the top or smaller like in the drawing below. Keeping the loops consistent size and in the centers of each leg of the triangle will create a pretty overall block design.

A few tips: 

1)       Practice doodle each design on paper first.
2)       Watch your tension and adjust as needed.
3)       You may find quilting gloves helpful with maneuvering the fabric.
4)       Strive for consistency in stitch length, spacing and loop sizes and you will find the overall quilting impact will be very satisfying!

We’re in the homestretch, one more page to go!

Since I have never quilted with metallic thread I tapped into our creative friend Vicki over at AccioFabrics and owner/designer of Bugglet Quilts.

Metallic thread is not as difficult as people generally say it is to work with if you follow these simple guidelines.

1) Use a needle designed for metallic thread. They are readily available at your local crafting stores.

2) Quilt slowly. I have to constantly remind myself to slow the foot and hands down w/metallic thread. If you go to fast, you will break it.

3) Adjust your tension. You will need to do a little practicing to find the right tension, it will most likely need to be lessened.

4) Use cotton in the bobbin. I use a 50wt Aurifil and it works well. I have tried the recommended rayon thread in the bobbin, but I could never get the tension to work correctly.

5) Put your metallic thread spool farther away from the tension disk, in a straight line, to give it more time to uncurl. I put mine on a pencil propped in the pocket of a bin on the table to the right of my machine.

Page 4 of Journal:  (for Pages 1-3 click here)

This journal page we will be filling in the space with slightly more challenging designs with a masculine feel for men and boy quilts.  A couple are also great on art quilts for landscape textures such as pond water, tree bark, or mountain ranges.

Set up the sandwich with a vertical and horizontal line to create a 4-patch as in my sample below.

The following images can be printed then placed under a white sheet of paper to practice, I used a heavy black marker so it would show through.

Square 1 – Starting with the top left square of the 4-patch meander around the space with a jagged / haphazard motion. Add variety by varying the length of the lines and angles. This is a great basic overall pattern to fill in small areas or on borders. I love using this on black fabric with black thread for lots of texture or variegated thread to add interest when the black area is too bold.

Square 2 – Start at any corner you are most comfortable I tend to work this pattern from top left to bottom right. Basically this is a swaying motion back and forth as you meander across the space. This pattern gives you the effect  of a water if you follow my lines you will see how that works. I have used this design on a landscape panel with a pond -the water came alive. It can also be used in a sky to create a eerie stratus type cloud perfect in those Halloween panels!

Square 3 – This pattern  is very similar to the water design above it has the same back and forth motion but instead of a soft curve as you change directions you create a sharp point. I found this pattern easier to quilt by going up and down rather than side to side.

 The design reminds me of flames or tree bark. You will create more interest by varying the length of the flame and width. I love the positive space the quilting lines create.

Square 4 – This pattern reminds me of mountain ranges and can be quilted fairly quickly. I started in the upper left corner and moved right then dropped down to the next line echoing the previous line as I moved back left. I didn’t mimic each line exactly to create more interest but if you do I would recommend varying the spacing between the echo -this will create a controlled modern feel. If you are having trouble seeing your previous line start from the bottom instead and work to the top.  

A few tips: 

1)       Practice doodle each design on paper first.
2)       Watch your tension and adjust as needed.
3)       You may find quilting gloves helpful with maneuvering the fabric.
4)       As you fill a space with any of these designs and find yourself in an awkward location with no way out – stop, you can always take out some of the stitches back to a point where you can easily start up again like a point, where one line crosses another or where a change in direction occurs. If you are near a seam just bury your stitches in the seam and start over at another area where you can start up your pattern again.

My goal here is to help you get over the fear of quilting and tackle all those wonderful tops you made that are sitting lonely and folded in your closet for no one to enjoy! Your quilting does not have to be perfect once you quilt everything you will see the overall consistency in your quilting not each individual imperfection. Keep practicing!

Page 3 of Journal:  (for Pages 1 & 2 click here)

On this page we will be filling in the space with some basic and fun designs to use as large overall patterns or background fillers.  Set up the sandwich with a vertical and horizontal line to create a 4-patch as in my sample below.

The following images can be printed then placed under a white sheet of paper to practice doodle before quilting, I used a heavy black marker so it would show through.

Square 1 – Starting with the top left square of the 4-patch meander around the space with loops. Add variety by vary the size of the loops. This is a great basic overall pattern to fill in small areas or over an entire quilt.

Square 2 – Start at any corner you are most comfortable I tend to work this pattern from top left to bottom right or vice versa. This pattern is a tear drop shape echoed multiple times. As you can see in the enlarged example you can echo back over one to move to another area. If you follow my lines you will see how that works. I have used this design as a large overall on a single panel baby quilt it can also fill in particular block pieces of a block to enhance other pieces or design within the block.

Square 3 – This pattern is a repeating swirl or wave pattern and looks best when you vary the size of the swirl. I like to start my swirls in a clockwise motion…forgive my unsmooth swirls Kitty insisted on helping this morning by showing me where the next swirl should go while giving me head-butts…in cat terms that truly means a head and a butt in your face!

This is a great design to use on borders though make sure it balances your quilting in the center if you make really small swirls and dense spacing your borders will tighten up. To avoid this visualize the size of your hand when you make a fist then keep your swirls larger. You will be pleasantly surprised how fast you can quilt a border with this design.

Square 4 – This is one of my favorite alternatives to straight parallel lines and can be quilted on the 45 degree angle for more interest if you like. Your spacing can be tight or generous depending on the area you are filling like space around appliqué or to create texture in a basket block. If you noticed I filled the entire area with one continuous line – to illustrate this my lines don’t touch the outer square seam but when you actually quilt it be sure to get as close to the seam to keep it neat looking. Tip: Use the lines created by your seams as a guideline to help keep your line straight and spacing consistent. Visualize how many lines you want to fill the space and keep it in mind as you move from one side to the other and adjust spacing on the next line as needed.

A few tips: 

1)       Practice doodle each design on paper first.
2)       Watch your tension and adjust as needed.
3)       You may find quilting gloves helpful with maneuvering the fabric.

A couple years ago I designed this quilt journal for a machine quilting class I taught at Quilt in Joy and thought I’d share it with you as your next free motion quilting challenge. It is a great project to document the quilting doodles you’ve learn thus far in my tutorials and to learn a few more filler designs.

You will need the following supplies:

  • Sewing machine in good working order with attachable table and ability to drop feed dogs.
  • (6) @12”-14″ square quilt sandwiches
    -For the first page/sandwich choose a large print
    -For the remaining choose a solid, marble, or subtle monochromatic patterned fabrics with a cohesiveness will work nicely.
    *I used a variety of batiks and majority of the sandwiches I used the same batik on the front and back.
  • Cotton Batting
    *I chose Warm & Natural batting.
  • 40-50wt Cotton or Cotton/Poly contrasting top thread and 50wt matching bobbin thread.
    *I used Superior King Tut Variegated for more fun and impact and Master Piece in the bobbin! My machine likes this combo.
  • Topstitch or machine quilting needles (extras in case one breaks). I use 90/14 size with the King Tut thread.
  • 2-3 bobbins
  • Darning or free-motion foot
  • Blue washout quilting marker and/or chalk marker
  • Safety pins for basting – you will only need to use 4-6 pins per sandwich
  • Scissors & Pinking Shears
  • Notebook and pen/pencil for doodling practice
  • Optional: Quilting Gloves, rubber finger tips

Today’s post we will work on Pages 1 & 2 which are using the techniques you learned in Parts 1-5. Don’t worry about finishing off the edges of the sandwiches yet like in my pictures we will address that step in the last post in this series.

Page 1:

Begin with your large print basted sandwich and free motion quilt around the design similar to the project we did in Part 5: Doodling with a Purpose.  Have fun and let loose. Fill in the pattern to enhance the design – here I added tiny loops in the center of the sunflowers which provide a distinct texture from the petals.

Page 2:

On this page you will set up the sandwich with horizontal lines same as in Part 3: Doodle Sandwiches and quilt it with the doodles practiced in Part 4: Doodling on Fabric. Use the layout in the image below for a guide you are welcome to fill the space with your favorite fillers… this journal will be a great reference tool when you are quilting an actual quilt!

Happy doodling!

The last month has been stressful finding out my uncle Bobby (and godfather) had pancreatic cancer and now with his passing last Sunday our family has gotten really small. When someone close passes you realize you never spent enough time with that person and how short and precious life is. Be sure to slow down and find time for the people in your life that really matter!

By the way, he was a huge Packer fan so I wasn’t too crushed they beat the Bears today…I think they had a little help from above! :) 

So, since I didn’t have time to pull together a machine quilting tutorial I pulled together some quilts I quilted. Enjoy.

This is my first run at McTavishing!

I saved this dresden top from a resale shop and practiced echo quilting and feather circles – I luv this quilt!

These hand sewn basket squares were set in a 1″ bright green sashing and tied with green polyester yarn. I had to save the quilt, the blocks had so much potential. I found the perfect green fabric and used various colored fabrics around each block. Then used a thin black border to provide impact and to distract the eye from the different sized baskets -there was a 2″ difference between the smallest and largest blocks. I’m pleased with how it turned out. This was the first quilt I quilted on the Gammill almost 4 years ago.

Sun rays are fun to free motion quilt…

This was a giant queen size quilt. I used a tracing of a template in the light areas and free motion waves in the star. Wool batting which has a higher loft gave the quilting a more dramatic impact.

Rest in peace Bobby…and go Packers!

I just finished machine quilting this on the Gammill for Kelly  (supercool Kelly as Lorrie puts it!). Her quilts inspire me so much the creativity just flows so easily. She designed this quilt from the center out until it reached the dimensions she wanted @ 96×101! I believe most or all the fabrics are Wonderland by Momo for Moda Fabrics. Here are a few of my favorite pictures…

Isn’t this design perfect for flying geese?

The back of the quilt turned out just as interesting lots of texture.

Check out my Flickr site for more pictures!

Hi all and welcome to the new year! I’m so excited for you to move on to the next practice sample. This technique will introduce you to working with a larger quilt sandwich and to doodle with some guidance. Some of you found it a little challenging to doodle on a blank sheet of paper so in this step you will utilize the fabric design to create shapes not only by tracing around the designs but to embellish and fill in the space.  Try continuous sewing no need to be perfect here…let yourself be free and incorporate the shapes you practiced in Part 4 like loops, stars, vines/leaves. But don’t worry if you find yourself in a pickle with nowhere to go stop, secure the thread and start fresh in another location.

Hopefully you found a nice large print and basted your sandwich. Below I used safety pins roughly 6-8 inches apart.  I choose this fun flower pattern which has several different flowers some solid some just outer lines. If you are just joining us click here for the supply list.

It is best to begin quilting from the center outward this will help keep you organized and to help avoid stretches, folds and bubbles in the top fabric. In the beginning it’s inevitable these will happen but as you practice more and more you will begin to use counter maneuvers to prevent them from occurring.  By starting from the center and moving outward the top fabric moves with you if you decide to wonder off one direction then come back another you risk ending up with an un-quilted area surrounded by quilted areas. The un-quilted fabric is now secured all around and has nowhere to move as you quilt it…a fold or bubble is likely.

As you can see this fabric design provided a great palate to embellish. I quilted around the green petals and then added a design within them. The white line flowers I used as a background only and created my own flower design over them. Definitely have fun with this!

A few tips:

1) In free motion quilting your thread tension will need to be adjusted so be sure to test before you begin quilting.

Remember the following:

*If your top thread looks like a solid line on the top and you see bobbin thread poking thru – loosen your top thread tension.
*If the bobbin thread looks like a solid line on the back and you see the top thread poking thru – tighten your top thread tension.

2) If you are still having tension issues check your thread weight every sewing machine is different but using a 40wt thread on the top and a 50wt in the bobbin can help – preferably the same brand. I find bobbins like thinner threads. Try this combination unless you are experienced at adjusting the bobbin tension…this is a topic for a future post!

3) Make sure you workspace is clean and free of obstructions. You won’t be happy if your sandwich hits something as you are in the middle of a nice smooth loop.

4) Quilting gloves can help eliminate hand and arm fatigue.

5) Be sure to remove the safety pins as you quilt an area.

6) Don’t rush though finding the right rhythm will increase stitch length consistency and provide a more fluid motion.

For those of you who successfully quilt your entire sandwich leave a comment here letting me know how this project went. Include your email address and I will email you a bag pattern to make out of your newly quilted sandwich!

Definitely have fun with this!


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