I occasionally teach a new longarm owners class at Virginia Longarm, my local Innova dealer. The class has 2 goals. First is to get everyone over any apprehension by getting them on the machines quilting. The second goal is to get their mind-set right about what it takes to become proficient at longarming. Just because someone can quilt free-motion on a domestic machine doesn't mean that they will be able to immediately quilt beautiful feathers on the longarm. It's a very different technique and, like with anything new, it takes practice.
The analogy I like to use is driving a car. When we first learned to drive a car we didn't expect to race at NASCAR in the first week......or even the first year. So why do we get frustrated with quilting if we can't create a ribbon-worthy quilt in the first month? We get frustrated because we have set unreasonable expectations. It takes hundreds of hours of practice to be able to quilt a Best of Show quilt.
That brings me to my friend, Marcy. Marcy loves longarm quilting but doesn't get to do it all that often because she rents time to longarm. When I injured my arm I knew that longarming was out of the question for weeks so I asked Marcy if she might want some practice. We struck a deal. She could get practice if she would practice on some of the backlog of veterans quilts and then she could quilt a couple of her own quilts.
I picked Marcy because she's had the Innova renters class and has some experience under her belt. She needed a little help at the beginning but she's totally independent now. I simply didn't have time to teach a totally new longarmer so this worked out perfect.
As I mentioned, Marcy has some experience quilting but when you go months between quilts there's a big learning curve every time you start to quilt. This time she has access to the machine for about 4 weeks so she can get a lot of hours in. She wanted to focus on learning to quilt with pantographs which, luckily, are perfect for veterans quilts. Let's see how she did.
This photo is the first corner that she quilted using the Popcorn pantograph. Like any new quilter, she struggled with getting smooth curves.
But just after one quilt you can already see marked improvement! No more flat line curves and more even spacing.....just in one small quilt! We load 2 veterans quilts at once time so the first 2 were done with Popcorn.
eFor the second 2 quilts we switched to that Burning Bush pantograph and by the end of her 4th quilt she had the pantograph nailed! Also by this point she had everything else about longarming nailed: winding bobbins, threading the machine, tension, aligning the pantograph....everything. She didn't need any more help after that. She's now on her own and having a blast quilting.
Here are the first 4 quilts that she quilted.
The first 2 quilts were made by my blog friend, Patty.
The quilt on the left was made by our member who lives near Seattle and the one in the right was made by a local member. That one is going to give us another lesson! We discovered that it has a major tension issue in one area and we didn't see it until after the quilt was trimmed. DOH!
But we are going to get that fixed next week.
I'm really grateful to Marcy for helping me catch up on veterans quilts and she seems happy to have the practice time. She's proving that you can take dozens of classes but if you don't take the time to practice you will never get better.
I hope everyone had a great holiday (or weekend) as we did. We went to Chesapeake to surprise my brother at his Christmas Eve party. Almost all of my family was there and we had a great time. We finished off things with our annual prime rib dinner with friends last night. Now it's time to get back to some semblance of routine.
I wasn't totally unproductive last week though. I am on a mission to finish the binding on the pink mandala and quilt some veterans quilts before December 31. Here are 2 veterans quilts that I got done last week.
This is another of the quilts that was made with the "Ugly fabric challenge". Becky gave willing participants a yard of an ugly dark fabric. The person who made this quilt paired the ugly with the brightest fabrics she could find. I think the balance is perfect.
I quilted it with a wavy corsshatch and used a variegated thread in bright oranges and golds. It helped break up the expanses of dark.
This quilt was made by Becky. It may look like a lot of piecing but most of those gradient strips are just one piece. She got these at one of our trash-to-treasure sales. It was just a bundle of narrow strips and she worked magic with them.
I quilted this one very simply with black wavy lines. I think it was just the right amount of quilting.
I have to quilt a few more to meet my goals for the year so that's probably what you are going to see the rest of this week.
Even though I'm starting my 6th week of laryngitis I know that I'm recovered from that miserable cold because I made a to-do list Sunday with 15 items on it. As of this morning it's down to 6. I plan to get all 6 of those things done tomorrow so that I can enjoy 2 fun days of sewing with Country School Quilters Friday and Saturday. I finally get to work on my Maine quilt.
Yesterday afternoon was a play day with my friend, Marcy. She rents longarm time at Virginia Longarm so she's had training and experience on the Innova longarms at the shop. She wants more practice and she's willing to do it on the veterans quilts. That's a win-win for me!
This quilt is one that she made. Another member, Becky, had a lot of pieces of really dark and somber fabrics that were donated to us. She cut them into 1 yard lengths, handed them out to willing volunteers and challenged them to brighten them up with other fabrics. Marcy made this quilt with her dark brown challenge fabric. She improved that dark brown immensely!
I load 2 quilts on one wide quilt back (not side by side, but one after the other) and this was the second one for today. Marcy had never quilted a pantograph so that was the lesson/practice for today and she did great. I got my much neglected glass workbench cleared off while she quilted.
We used one of my favorite quick and easy pantographs, Looseleaf by Willow Leaf Studios. It's perfect for beginners but it's also just a wonderful all-over texture for just about any quilt.
We used a cone of Superior Lava thread that I had bought several years ago. It gave us fits and I found a couple of spots that I'm going to need to fix on my Juki machine tomorrow. That shouldn't take too long but I've never had to do this on a quilt before with my Innova so I think it was the thread....or maybe the needle. I'll experiment a little before I use it again.
I shared this with you yesterday. I still remember the first time this happened to me and the level of panic that ensued. Fortunately, at the time, I was a member of an online quilting board and someone walked me through the basic steps to fix a short backing....without having to remove the quilt from teh machine.
When it happened again earlier this week I decided to document the process and put together a tutorial so that anyone can find it whenever it's needed.
You can find the tutorial here.
I'm now done with veterans quilts for a while so I'm going to load a quilt of my own and work on some new postcards this weekend. What are your plans?
I'm on a roll! I have 2 more veterans quilts done and am almost caught up.
This one is the courthouse steps pattern. I considered doing an all-over pattern but those light colored squares told me that I needed to do something else. Now, my #1 rule on these quilts is that the quilting has to be edge-to-edge. I will not custom quilt these quilts. If I did that it would mean quilting 20 a year instead of 40.
Can you see what I did here? I had background rows and the rows with the light squares. I wanted a swirl in the square so I did deep waves through the pieced block and a swirl on the light patch. On the background rows I did giant swirls.
Now, looking at any of the motifs individually you wouldn't be particularly impressed but add the artistic concept of "repetition" and you've got yourself a pattern that looks pretty good!
Maybe you think you saw this quilt last week. You sort of did. Peg made 2 of these quilts.
I quilted both of these with a ribbon meander. I did one with a light thread and this one with a darker thread just to see how different they looked.
After Marcy quilted 2 veterans quilts last week I decided to stay in veterans mode and loaded these 2. This first one is one of 2 almost identical sampler quilts.
It's quilted with one of my favorite motifs for these quilts: ribbon meander. Ribbon meander is very fast and looks great on any quilt.
The second one was this pretty Hunter's Star. I spent a little more time on this one because I wanted to figure out a way to travel across and still do something a little special in the stars.
It took some cogitating but I figured it out! There are no starts or stops in the quilt except where I ran out of bobbin thread. If I can make myself sit down and do some drawing I'll do a post to show you how I did this.
You can see the quilting better from the back.
Both of these quilts have this pretty blue hand dyed backing. I love dyeing backs for these quilts.
Marcy and I had a great time yesterday while she did my work. She quilted 2 veterans quilts for me and I did all kinds of other things. It was like having a magic quilting fairy for a day.
Generally I do not do anything to the quilt tops that I receive. They must come to me pressed and ready for quilting. This one had all of that border fabric on one edge. You know I'm a person who needs symmetry in my life so I did take 10 minutes to cut half of that slab off and sew it to the other side. I think it looks a little more planned now.
I taught Marcy the wavy crosshatch with this one. It's my go-to design for for quilts with blocks smaller than 6". When the block is bigger I usually want a denser motif.
Marcy said that she sometimes struggles with making the switch to moving left and right on the longarm (as opposed to how she quilts on a domestic machine). So to help her get in the left-right groove I had her quilt simple wavy lines back and forth across the quilt.
I don't know who made this quilt but I really like it. The block is really simple but putting it together alternating direction makes the quilt look complex.
At the end of the day we both called the session successful. Marcy quilted both of these in about 3 hours and I can already tell that she is more comfortable with using the longarm. We have her next session already scheduled.
Today's post is for the longarmers, especially the new longarmers starting to use zippered leaders. I posted last month about how I use a stapler to load my quilts to the longarm leaders.
When I teach at Virginia Longarm I have to bring practice quilt sandwiches. At the end of class I take the practice pieces off the zippers for the students to take home. Removing staples takes a bit of time but, more importantly, they aren't particularly thrilled to have staples loose in the showroom. There's a risk that one finds it's way in the middle of a customer quilt.
I needed to come up with a better way. I remembered that my serger has a chain stitch and that would be perfect. Today I posted a little tutorial for how I use the serger (or a regular sewing machine) to stitch a quilt back to leaders. Press the button to read the tutorial if you are interested.
I've gotten 2 more veterans quilts do and that brings my total to 23 for the year. This one was made by Peg. She trying to work through a bin of charm squares from an exchange she participated in years ago.
I quilted this in an arrow cross-hatch. This is usually a very fast quilt motif but FloMo "broke" right in the middle of the quilt. I'm lucky that I leave so close to Virginia Longarm so Greg was able to come out the next day and fix it. It was simple. The needle bar was gunked up and now I know how to fix it myself the next time.
I immediately got the top quilt finished and then quilted this one with all-over swirls. Mom cut out this quilt when she was here in June for her cataract surgery that went haywire. She was back again 2 weeks ago for a follow up surgery on the same eye to insert a stent. No surprise that surgery also went a bit haywire so she stayed with me a little over a week. Once she felt a little better I put her to work and she put the binding on this one. I really love this quilt.
Here's a close up of the quilting.
Both quilts have this blue-purple hand dyed fabric for the backing.
As a general rule I don't make any of the veterans quilts that Country School donates, I just quilt them. But occasionally I have just the right amount of leftovers to put one together and that's the case with this one. Some of you may remember my Crossing The Drunkard's Path quilt-along that I hosted in 2015. I made a few DP quilts and one of them was in every shade of brown hand dyed that I had in my stash. You can see the original quilt top on the old blog. I had spent a lot of time making all of these DP blocks and I wasn't going to waste them. There weren't enough by themselves for a veteran's size quilt so I dyed a gradient for a border and even had a 4-patch for the top corner. I really love how this one turned out. I love the big one too and will quilt it soon.
My rule is that veterans quilts get simple quilting and that's what I wanted with this. But I also wanted something that would at least reference the curves in the block. Baptist Fans came immediately to mind but that is not a fast quilting motif. Then I remembered a filler design that I learned from Leah Day's book. She calls it Echo Shortcut. I use it a lot in tiny fill quilting but is there any reason it can't be done big?
Any fill pattern can be done big and I know I'll use this one again and again.
Here's a photo of it on the frame. The only thing the least bit fiddly about this is that I worked each row left to right. I quilted the whole thing in about an hour and a half.
The back of this one is a nice bit of serendipity. I custom dyed a back for a customer and, once done, realized that I had mixed one color wrong. I made another for her and got the nice one to keep for myself. It worked out perfect for this quilt.
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.
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