I love teaching the new Innova owners at The Longarm Network every other month. I get to introduce them to their new machines and my #1 goal is to make sure they leave excited, not scared, to go home and start quilting. On the first day it's all about learning the machine. We practice threading the machine, adjusting the tension, winding bobbins, all about needles and how to load and baste a quilt.
On the second day we get to quilt and I spend a lot of time managing their expectations. I remind them that they didn't learn to drive on the Interstate or at night on curvy roads. Most of us first started driving on vacant parking lots or in large fields. When we first start quilting we have to create that vacant parking lot so that we can learn the machine and build some muscle memory. You can't quilt like Margaret Gunn in your first 30 quilts. She didn't quilt like Margaret Gunn on her first 30 quilts either!
I give them a lot of simple quilting ideas and show them how they can build skills by quilting real quilts with simple motifs. Many of them you can see in my Easy Longarm section of the blog or in the Longarm Tutorials.
I practice these motifs on the veterans quilts that I quilt for my quilt club and I practice my teaching method on Mom because she's a good sport. She doesn't quilt on FloMo often and she's not interested in entering shows. She just wants her quilts quilted. When I got the Innova it was so much easier to control that I started teaching her free motion techniques to get her away from pantographs and the boring quilting from the back of the machine.
One of the motifs is this really simple zig zag quilted on straight lines. It looks like an EKG. Mom is here quilting and her first quilt is pieced in rows and we decided to use that as the guildelines. She quilted straight lines across the quilt and added some zig zags.
This is a great one to practice controlling your speed, quilting diagonally and making sharp points. My Mom quilts fast, like she thinks FloMo will expire on her. To keep her EKG from flat-lining she had to slow down a bit.
Now, as you look at this we can all agree that it's not the nicest quilting motif in the world.
But you start repeating any motif and now you've got something. Anything repeated looks good repeated.
The only way that you learned to drive was to drive. The only way you will learn to quilt is to quilt. Anything.
Every quilt does not have to be perfect. Sometimes they just need to be done.
Don't have a quilt ready to be quilted? Buy some pretty fabric and thread, pick a motif, quilt it and make some placemats or a table runner. The spaghetti that you spill on it will hide any mistakes.
Buy some panels and make some baby quilts for your local hospital or Project Linus. You get practice on real fabric and you are doing good at the same time. With every quilt you load pick a motif that will teach you a new skill and, if you want, you will eventually start making show quilts.
If you pick a motif and quilt it all over a quilt you will see how much better you get from the first stitch to the last.
When I wanted to learn feathers I quilted 2 quilts covered in feathers. The first one was a scrappy quilt with a busy back. I picked a blending thread and started quilting. The feathers started as a total mess but they got better by the time I quilted them for a several hours. I got a UFO done, my brother got a quilt for his sofa and I learned how to quilt feathers.
Then I wanted to practice a lot of different feather designs so I loaded this quilt, used red thread and quilted as many different feather designs as I could think up in a large meandering design. You can see some of them on the quilt page. Seriously, the quilting on this is as tacky as it gets but this quilt is on my bed in the winter and I can't see it in the dark. The point is that I am a better quilter for spending the time quilting this quilt.
From the time I bought my machine until this quilt 7 years elapsed. I didn't have as much time to quilt them as I do now so I could have made that leap in a much shorter time. But it shows that you only get better with practice. I believe that practice isn't fun on muslin so load a quilt, start easy and build you way up.
Tina in NJ
9/13/2016 12:50:36 pm
I have neither the room nor the money for a long-arm or even a mid-arm machine. But, oh, you tempt me, Vicki! I'm not sure my current machine is very well suited to machine quilting, either. We'll see where I am in 7-8 years or so. Just not today.
9/13/2016 01:43:31 pm
I think it sounds like because you enjoy the machine you are enjoying teaching others how to use it. I hope they all appreciated that. Love the EKG sewing! great idea for some quilts.
9/14/2016 01:44:53 am
Thanks for your sage advice, Vicki. Like anything else, quilting takes practice, whether done on a long arm or a domestic machine. I will say that doodling quilting designs has been a huge help to me. I think it helps me develop a better eye for spacing and motif size.
9/14/2016 07:15:20 am
Thanks for your encouragement. I recently bought a used Innova and am trying to get the hang of it. Can you address some things like how to keep the thread vomit off the back of the quilt? I am so surprised to see that when I roll it up. I am trying so hard to prevent it. How about regulated vs unregulated?
9/14/2016 07:48:13 am
I like your simple designs. sometimes we quilters try too hard to make every quilt special, when all it really needs is a good, simple design. i have used several of your designs and love them all.
9/14/2016 08:18:28 am
I am proof positive that lots of practice makes you get better at quilting. My quilting went from "hot mess" to pretty good. When someone tells me "I wish I could quilt like you do" - I smile and say, "you can! it just takes lots of practice"
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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.