Friday, May 28, 2010

Musings of a TOTALLY Self-taught Machine Quilter



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!

24 comments:

Kayla coo said...

Wow amazing colours in your quilt!
Very beautiful.x

Béa said...

LOVE this post. You are so right.I will paste it on my quilting table & read every day...I CAN DO IT !
Many thanks.

Lesly said...

Wonderful post! Very confidence inspiring! I do my own quilting but I don't like it much because it isn't perfect. But it is better than it used to be. You have reminded me to hold on to the long view!

MichelleB said...

Hooray! A great post. Here, here for quilting your own quilts.

Sujata Shah said...

Well said! I was one of those who was afraid of machine quilting the quilts! So I tried to hand quilt as much as possible until my fingers were about to fall off!
The next step was to send them out to the long arm quilter. After getting some quilted, I realized that the stack of tops was getting taller by the day and if I wanted to see them all around me, loved and appreciated like those dirty muddy faces, I better start quilting them myself!
I am so glad I did! Very inspiring post!

Kath said...

Thankyou for your encouragement. I just finished my first FMQ effort. It isnt perfect by any means, but people seem to like it and (from a distance) it looks very colourful! Good tip about the underwear :D
best wishes from England

Joanna said...

Such wise advice, and you are so right on every point! Quilts undone on a shelf are indeed a waste:) I love your quilt by the way :)

Mary on Lake Pulaski said...

Thank you so much for the words I needed to hear. I did finish machine quilting my third ever quilt today and have the next one pin basted and ready to go! Your quilts and quilting are great Shelly.

Mary Keasler said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have brought tears of joy to my eyes. What a wonderful post from an obviously wonderful person.

Alice R. said...

Thanks. I needed this.

Marie said...

I needed this advice. I've been putting off machine quilting (other than echo or straight line quilting) for over a year. I think you just 'kicked' me into gear. Thank you.

(And thank you Victoria for sending me to this site. It was marvelous.)

Hugs to both - Marie

Marit said...

Very good advice! Thank you for sharing!

Sarah said...

Thanks for the tips Shelly! I really enjoyed reading your post.

mjb said...

I may need to print this out and leave it by my machine. I've actually considered hand quilting one top that I have ready just to have more control and not be stressed out by the machine quilting.

Vivian said...

You have said it all!!! I have been in the process of catching up on machine quilting all the tops (that have been sitting basted) from last year. And you are right - push the fears and perfectionist tendencies aside and just DO IT!

Oh and when you start worrying about how the less-than-best parts will look in the end, remember the "galloping horse rule" (if it can't be seen by a man on a....) and know it'll be O.K.

P. said...

This is just what I needed to read, thank you!

Tonya said...

Thank you! I really needed that inspiration. I have taught myself every other part of quilting, but I am so nervous to free motion quilt. But, after reading this I feel inspired to get that quilt top out that I made last summer and have been saving until I was "good enough" to quilt it. But, now I know what is the work that could possibly happen?

Sew It Up Baby! said...

Thank you for the pep talk because I needed it! Now on to quilting :o)

Deborah said...

These colors are gorgeous!

ktquilts said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I have been discouraged the last couple of days thinking that the quilt that I am quilting now is not good enough! My husband wants me to enter it in a show, he's proud because he wants me to run the whole race by myself!
Your tips are wonderful, and I really have been encouraged. You are welcome to the soap box!!!

Blessings,

KT

amandajean said...

i loved reading your thoughts on this subject. machine quilting did not come easy to me...but once i got over the hump, wheee!!!! now I'm SO GLAD I DID IT! I perservered. and now i love quilting. it's a great stress reliever!!!

Doris said...

This is such an awesome post, Shelly! Well said...

Toni said...

If you open your door and I'm standing there with sewing machine, fabric, and a few clothes - don't be alarmed. I'm moving in until I've learned to quilt as good as you. Scared yet? ;-)

Trisha said...

Great post! I am so glad I chose to stop paying someone else to quilt my quilts for me. I still have a long way to go but I can proudly say that each quilt was all me start to finish. Great tips, thanks!