Recently I have read a lot of commentary by quilters that are hesitant to quilt their quilts (for a number of reasons), and as a TOTALLY self-taught machine quilter I felt the compulsion to comment myself. Here are a few things I've learned in 10 years of machine quilting.
1. The ONLY way to get good at machine quilting is to quilt your quilts, both big and small.
2. Forget the notion that you will screw up the top by quilting it. If your top is folded on a shelf, it is not a quilt and you are not enjoying it.
3. Machine quilting is a process. You have to start somewhere. The first quilts you quilt will be just as important in your journey as the most recent. Ask a mountain climber which steps are the most important in climbing a mountain. The answer is it takes all the steps to get to the top.
4. Pin baste very close (every 3-4") and do your stitch in the ditch. Now you can take alot of the pins out and do your free-motion. After taking the pins out you quilt will be lighter and easier to maneuver.
5. Stitch in the ditch is the underwear of your quilt. It simply a foundation for you to come back and do the curvey, pretty stuff.
6. The middle of a big quilt is a bitch to quilt. (I can't lie you you.) However, once the middle is done and you move over just a little bit it gets a lot easier!
7. Ripping out stitches is just another part of the process. I have ripped stitches out of every top I've ever pieced and every quilt I have ever quilted. Sometimes it feels like you are ripping more stitches than you have sewn.
8. Managing your bulk is half the battle. Make sure you have a surface to the left of your machine that can hold all of you quilt. (A portable table is excellent for this.)
9. Tell that little voice in your head that tells you "you're not good enough" to GO AWAY!
10. Perfection is overrated. Good quality work is not.
11. Don't hunch your shoulders and BREATHE. Stick the girls out, you can't hunch your shoulders if the girls are out!
You can do this. Machine quilting is not rocket science but it is a skill that is learned. And it is not always easy but you CAN do this. It certainly isn't as hard as being up with a sick baby in the middle of the night when you have the flu yourself.
I have quilts on every wall and bed in my house and not all the quilting is great but I can appreciate each one for what it is. (Do you love that dirty faced, stinky little kid any less than the the sweet faced, scrubbed clean one you let run outside for "just a minute" right before you were leaving the house to go see relatives?) Okay, it is not exactly the same thing but you get my drift. So quilt your tops and do something amazing for yourself. And I guarantee after you quilt a king-sized quilt you will be doing the Rocky dance cause you will have accomplished something hard and wonderful! Now, I'm stepping off my soap box to go sew my brains out! So, happy quilting!