One of the cool things about getting into longarm quilting is that you are open to a whole new world of classes and tools to buy. I've been to Machine Quilter's Expo, Machine Quilter's Showcase (now defunct) and Birds of a Feather. I've bought dozens of quilting DVD's and watched hours of YouTube videos. I love the shows because there are so many classes to take in one weekend and so many kindred spirits to meet. But if you sign up for 3 full days of classes you can get very overwhelmed.
Be wary when you hear "this is the ONLY way to do this".
Listen to what the teachers have to say but remember that what they are teaching is what they figured out worked for them. That might or might not work for you but you have just learned another option to try.
Pick one thing from each class you take to practice.
Classes are only good if you practice what you learn. To get the most out of classes pick one thing from each class that you want to practice. WRITE IT DOWN at the class on a "NEXT PRACTICE" list. Then go home and load up some blankets and try them out.
I can't tell you how many classes I've taken that I never practiced. That's nothing but wasted money. Now I often prefer to buy one video, watch it a couple of times and then practice right away. I still go to shows because I love to network with other longarm quilters and I do take a few classes to learn specific things. I have even taken classes specifically to get the opportunity to try different brands of quilt machines. When you go to shows and classes set some goals for yourself ahead of time so you pick smart classes and set aside some practice time right after the show.
Find your own groove. You can't be great at everything.
As you go to quilt shows and study quilts online start paying attention to collections of quilts by different quilters. This is a photo of a quilt by Margaret Soloman Gunn that I took at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show in 2016. Margaret has a very distinctive style. Bethanne Nemesch has a very distinctive style. So does Marilyn Badger, Jamie Wallen and Judi Madsen. They all have individual and identifiable styles.
The problem is that we take classes from all of them and then expect that we should be able to quilt like all of them. That's impossible!
This came to a head for me over leaves. Jamie Wallen's leaves to be specific. I love Jamie. He's a great teacher and I have several of his DVD's. He appropriately calls his style of quilting "mystical" and that perfectly describes it. I have tried over and over and over to quilt his leaves and his style of quilting.
I can't do it. It's just now how I think. I'm a better quilter because of what I've learned from him but you can't really see his influence in my quilting. That's OK.
I can't do Jamie's leaf but I can do MY leaf. This is my leaf. All of my leaves look like this.
While I love the fantastical quilting of Jamie and Bethanne and the formal feathers of Margaret, my true love is ruler work and fills. That's the kind of quilting that is joyful for me so that's pretty much all I do on my "quilts". I still experiment on blankets and I'll occasionally add some feathers but I stay pretty well set in my groove.
Take classes from teachers with all kinds of expertise. You will pick up nuggets of helpful information from all of them. But if what they are doing seems torturous for you then that's not for you and you just learned something!.
It's also OK if your groove is wavy lines. You can quilt every quilt forever with wavy lines. I know a quilter who basically does that. Her quilts are about the color, value and pattern of her quilts. The quilting is utilitarian. She still has a longarm and it does for her exactly what she wants it to. Don't pressure yourself. It's a tool and you need to make it work for you.
8/25/2017 11:27:52 am
This post is very liberating! I want so badly to quilt "REAL" feathers, but succeed only in those organic looking feathers. They look really good and I have gotten great compliments. So maybe that is my style and I should work on it to make it even better. I still registered for classes in Houston to learn out to quilt those "REAL" feathers from two different teachers. I am looking forward to more insight into producing those develish feathers!
8/25/2017 03:30:58 pm
Thank you for this advice. It really breaks thru some murky areas of my approach to quilting. As Annick H. says, it is liberating.
8/26/2017 08:23:26 am
I would love to do the intensely quilted style that so many of those do, but that isn't how I quilt either.
8/26/2017 08:26:33 am
Thank you so much for this series! It's been wonderful.
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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.