Rusty Longarm Quilting

What does rusty quilting look like?  For me, it looks like wavy lines, flat curves, terrible feathers, and lack of confidence in executing designs.

Recovering this summer from total hip replacement surgery in June, I was not able to stand at the longarm and quilt for many weeks.  As a result, my hand guided longarm quilting skills have gotten a rusty.  I first noticed this (rust) when doing a quilt show.  The longarm systems were all set up and someone wanted me to demonstrate how to use a template and make more of it than the shape.  Stitching around the template was no problem, but my free form feathers were awful.  Not being able to quilt on a regular basis really showed.  I had become a rusty quilter!

Recently a friend brought two quilts for me to work on.  To be honest, I was afraid of one ofwall quilt 20150913_135722 20150913_135745 20150913_135852 the quilts.  It is only 32 inches square, but has a lot of design opportunities.  Starting with a mariners compass in the middle, three small paper pieced blocks, and every border different, this little quilt from a round robin challenge presented me with quite a challenge for custom quilting.  Not only did I have to dream up different designs, but then I had to quilt them.  The rust had to go!

Getting rid of the quilting rust is the same as first learning longarm quilting skills.  Thankfully muscle memory helped, I just need practice.  I put a large practice piece on the frame and spent most of a day practicing arcs, loops, stars, curves and points, swirls, straight lines, combinations of designs and more.  I got out my resource books and looked for filler designs to practice, worked with templates, stitched feathers, and as the day wore on, I felt more confident and less intimidated by that little quilt.  When the practice piece was totally filled up I declared now or never.

I used a number of tricks from the longarm quilters bag, templates for defining shapes, continuous curves, and ditch stitching, free motion feathers, swirls and emphasizing the fabric pattern.  With all of the detail on this little quilt it took a long time, but it certainly was a very good project to help me get back into quilting again.  I am not sure what Norma will name this quilt, but to me it looks like a bowl of summer fruits – cool, luscious, and lovely.

I can’t say with any certainty, but am told that medically a person will loose 20% of their muscle ability in just one week if not able to move.  If you translate that to longarm quilting, the 10-12 weeks of no hand guided quilting put me in the negative numbers.

Regardless of whether you have gone that long without quilting or only a few weeks, more than likely your skills have diminished.  My recommendation would be to always keep a practice piece around that you can easily put on the frame to brush up on your skills.  And, if still unsure, before quilting a special quilt, spend time quilting a comfort or charity quilt.  They are a great way to productively work on your skills, build or refresh muscle memory, and try new techniques.

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Out Of The Box Quilting

When working on a quilt with blocks, borders, and sashing, custom quilting usually places designs in those spaces unless a panto is used for an edge-to-edge pattern.  Most strip quilts made from jelly rolls are quilted with a panto.  After completing a jelly roll quilt this summer I did something quilt different, “out of the box” quilting.

The jelly roll was purchased at a quilt shop near Springfield, OH last winter.  Most, if not all

joseph's new coat

Joseph’s New Coat

of the fabrics are Caryl Bryer Fallert fabrics which are quite colorful.  Even before assembling the quilt top I was already thinking about doing something different with the quilting.

After sketching several ideas on a pad I finally decided to use a combination of diagonal and perpendicular designs to make the quilt seem more like a whole cloth quilt.  Loading the quilt on the longarm with the long dimension horizontal, using Quiltmagine, Nolting’s computer guided system, I first quilted the two diagonal rows using .  I then quilted triangles to square out the diagonal rows and continuous line designs, triangle, and block designs to fill in the rest of the quilt.

josephs new coat closeup

Joseph’s New Coat closeup

The quilt was a lot of fun to make.  I just pulled each strip off the jelly roll and stitched to the last one.  There was no planning in making the top.  Although it did not take long to make the top, it did take nine hours using my Quiltmagine computer guided system to quilt the top.  This is much longer than it would have taken if using a panto, but there was a lot of planning and marking for precise layout of each block, triangle and continuous line design that I used.  Most of the patterns used came pre-loaded with my Quiltmagine system, the rest were purchased patterns.  What was really fun was entering it into a quilt show, winning a second place ribbon, and having “WOW” remarks from the judges.

Next time you are faced with an open canvas of a quilt top, think out of the box and see what you can dream up that will be unique.


Quilt Label Ideas

I have several antique quilts that date back to the the late 1890’s probably made by someone in my grandmother’s family.  I would love to know the history behind those quilts, who made them, what occasion they were made for, where the fabrics came from, and more.  When these were discovered last year in a cedar chest at my Dad’s home after his passing, and years after my grandmother passed away, it was way too late to find out anything about those quilts.

It is important to document the quilts we make.  Who knows where they will end up.  They may be loved until there is nothing left, but they may also be cherished and used with much appreciation and passed on to future generations.  Documenting these treasures will help those in the future know more about who made them, when they were made, the occasion, etc.

The video below offers a number of suggestions on making those important quilt labels.  Although I have been labeling my quilts for years, I learned a few new tips and ideas.

Safety with “Rotary Cutting Basics”

A quilt top that starts with square cut patches and strips will sew better and lay better once pieced. By knowing the basics of using your rotary cutter and ruler you can have accurately cut patches and strips for your quilts. Also, part of knowing how to use these tools involves safely using them.

A few years ago one of my quilting friends was not holding onto her cutting ruler in the best place and the rotary cutter slipped and cut off the side of her index finger. A trip to emergency, stitches, and her hand in a big bandage is how her day turned out. The injury took many weeks to heal enough so that she could resume her quilting along with other activities.

The video below from The Quilt Show will illustrate how to safely use your cutting tools and how to make accurate cuts. Remember, every time you pick up the rotary cutter, think about safety first and the best practices to protect yourself from injury.